Just Write: Here's How!

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After writing more than one hundred books, it still amazes me that I have been lucky enough to spend most of my life doing what I truly love: writing.

What makes a writer? The desire to tell a story, a love of language, an eye for detail, practice, practice, practice. How well should you know your characters? Do you need to outline before you write? How important is length? Now Walter Dean Myers, the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and New York Times bestselling and award-winning author, walks you through the writing process.


  • Examples from his writing and reading experiences
  • Walter's six-box and four-box outlines for writing fiction and nonfiction
  • Excerpted pages from Walter's own notebooks
  • An afterword by Ross Workman, Walter's teen coauthor of kick
  • Writing tips from both Walter and Ross

Anyone can be a writer, with a little help from Walter Dean Myers!

Curriculet Details
43 Questions
35 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 6th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining tips for writing and distinguishing primary and secondary sources. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about figurative language, flat, round, dynamic, and static characters, as well as showing vs. telling. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of the creative writing process and nonfiction writing. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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PROLOGUE: Why I’m a Writer

This is Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, who once said, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." (This annotation contains an image)
Harlem is a large neighborhood in Manhattan, New York that is predominantly African American. Since the 1920's, Harlem has reflected African American culture and business.  
When you write as a student about nonfiction or informational text, you refer to the author by his or her last name. So throughout this book, I will refer to the author, Walter Dean Myers, as Myers. 
Myers explains that he became a writer mainly because of  
What Myers is explaining here is why mankind--since the earliest civilizations existed, before he could even write-- has told stories. Of course, the first stories were told orally and not written down. But humans have a deep inner need to create and tell stories as a necessary part of developing a culture. 
List three hardships of Myers' childhood. 
How did Myers' strong reading and writing skills help him financially before he started getting books published? 
According to Myers, he writes for young people because why? 
For Myers as a teenager, reading was a(n)  

CHAPTER 1: Roll Up Your Sleeves

This is a figure of speech. The "nuts and bolts" of something mean the fine details and the parts that make it up. 
Myers claims he has a "structure" that helps him as he writes. Reread this paragraph and then, in your own words, explain the "structure" that he uses. 
Myers tests out an idea by creating what first? 
Here Myers uses a metaphor of a life jacket to show that his outline keeps him afloat. A metaphor is a type of figurative language. Figurative language is found in all types of writing. It helps readers understand things, events, and people in unique ways. It's important to be able to recognize the different types of figurative language. Watch this video for a review and see how many you already know.  (This annotation contains a video)
Myers' purpose over the last several paragraphs is to show the importance of ______________ in writing. 
Use the Define feature on the word reservations. Based on the definition and the context, what word below could replace "reservations" and still keep the same meaning? 
What is one thing that Myers insists on if he is going to write with someone else? 

CHAPTER 2: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Think about what Myers just noted: It is a different world from when he grew up. List two important things that are different in a teenager's life today than a teenager's life back in 1970. 
Why do you think so many kids who are in juvenile correction centers have never been anywhere outside of their communities? 
Myers novel Monster is the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy who makes a wrong decision to be a lookout for a robbery so he won't look weak, and finds himself on trial for murder. The novel is written from Steve's point of view and it takes the form of a screenplay. The novel, Monster, won Myers several book awards.  (This annotation contains an image)
The Red Badge of Courage is a classic novel about a young man fighting in the Civil War. The young man worried that he was a coward because he was afraid. He felt being injured in war was like wearing a red badge of courage.  (This annotation contains an image)
The Old Man and the Sea is a classic novel by Ernest Hemingway. In the novel, the main character, Santiago, an old fisherman who hasn't caught a fish in several months, goes out by himself and captures a huge marlin. The "journey" he makes on this day is his struggle with the fish and how he realizes it is his destiny. This is a beautiful, symbolic story that you should definitely put on your reading list.  (This annotation contains an image)
Use the Define feature on the word hone.You will find that the definitions provided do not fit the way the word is used here.Which of the following words do you feel best replaces the word "hone." 
According to Myers which of the following is essential in writing a good novel? 

CHAPTER 3: Hello, Voices in My Head

C.S.Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia series, once said, "We read to know we are not alone." Think about this quote and how it relates to what Myers is explaining here. 
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers is a novel about a fourteen year-old boy named Reese who must survive in a juvenile facility and prove to others and himself that he is a good person.  (This annotation contains an image)
The two things that give Myers inspiration for writing are reading books and 

CHAPTER 4: Map It Out

When you are reading informational text and a sentence begins with "First," you know you are getting ready to read about a process or a sequence. We know by the word "first" that the order must be important. Watch this video on the text structure of "Sequence." Think about when you might use this structure in the writing that you do for school.  (This annotation contains a video)
According to Myers, who does he run his idea for a novel by first? 
Below is the cover for the novel Game by Walter Dean Myers.  (This annotation contains an image)
The title of this chapter is "Map it Out." Which of the following is Myers "map" for his books? 
What does it mean for Myers if he has trouble filling out the six-block model? 

CHAPTER 5: Lights, Camera, Action!

Movies are often laid out in what we call storyboards. Here's a picture of a storyboard.  (This annotation contains an image)
The main character of this novel, All the Right Stuff by Walter Dean Myers, thinks about some tough issues.  (This annotation contains an image)
Myers mentions earlier in the book how he keeps his characters consistent. What does he do? 
Myers likes a lot of  ______________ in his scenes. 
According to Myers, what's the most important part of the writing process? 

CHAPTER 6: Nice to Meet You

Fully developed characters in fiction are three-dimensional like Myers mentions. They are also called "round characters." One dimensional characters are called "flat characters." Flat characters only have one predominant character trait, say like selfish or afraid. Watch the first **three minutes** of this video for an explanation on flat and round characters. Then think of a novel you read recently. Who were the round characters? Which characters were flat?  (This annotation contains a video)
Quiz #1 

CHAPTER 7: What’s Going On?

In a story we call the problem the conflict. What Myers is saying here is that a story requires a good conflict for the reader to be interested. So that conflict or problem should be introduced fairly soon in a story or a reader will become bored. 

CHAPTER 8: Where’s the Fire?

What is Myers' suggestion for the conflict or problem in a novel? 
This expression means a disastrous course that once you're on, it's almost impossible to get off.  

CHAPTER 9: What’s It to You?

What point that Myers makes in an earlier chapter does this statement support? 
Characters who change in a story, or grow through experience and learning, are called "dynamic characters." Characters who remain the same are called "static characters." What Myers is talking about here shows that his main character is going to be a dynamic character. Watch this video on dynamic vs. static characters. Which character in most stories will be dynamic?  (This annotation contains a video)
The novel Dope Sick is about a boy in Brooklyn who is trying to turn his life around. He decides to do one more deal to help out a friend, but something goes terribly wrong and an undercover cop ends up dead. This novel is fast paced and exciting--definitely one by Myers that you may want to read!  (This annotation contains an image)
What is the most important point Myers makes in this chapter about his main character in books? 

CHAPTER 10: Get It Together

In fiction, what do we call a character who changes in the course of a story? 
What is one reason Myers creates characters who overcome a difficult past and a difficult problem? 

CHAPTER 12: Then What Happened?

Myers is discussing the typical sequence of events or "plot" line that most stories follow. The "loose ends" he mentions make up the falling action of a story. The "big moment" for the character is the climax. Watch this video for a review of the parts of plot. Remember learning about a plot line? Can you visualize it and mentally label the parts?  (This annotation contains a video)

CHAPTER 13: For Real?

Myers is switching topics now and talking about writing nonfiction. In his previous chapters, he discusses writing fiction. The prefix "non" means not. So nonfiction is NOT FICTION. It is writing about real facts, real people, real events. 
According to Myers what must nonfiction also be for the reader? 
Complete this analogy:Problem:Fiction:: __________ : Nonfiction 
Primary sources are direct. Like Myers' examples, primary sources can be letters or conversations with people or newspaper articles. Using a secondary source would be reading an encyclopedia entry on a topic or consulting a website on a topic. Understanding the difference between these two types of information will become more and more important as you move through school. Watch this video to learn more about primary vs. secondary sources. Think of research you did last year in school. Which kind of sources did you use most often?  (This annotation contains a video)
Ida Wells was an African American journalist who fought for civil rights as well as for women's right to vote. Clearly, she inspired Myers if he chose to write her life story.  (This annotation contains an image)
We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart is written in free verse (poetry that has no set rhyme or rhythm) and is illustrated in paintings by Christopher Myers.  (This annotation contains an image)
All of these documents that Myers consulted for his book are examples of  
Quiz #2 

CHAPTER 14: Check It Out

Use the Define feature on the word authentic. Which of the following words is an antonym (opposite in meaning) of authentic? 
When writing fiction why would you have to do research? 
In the book Brown Angels by Walter Dean Myers, childhood and the African American experience is celebrated with verse and old photographs.  (This annotation contains an image)
Here is a picture of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a West African princess who is the subject of Myers' book, At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England.  (This annotation contains an image)
The Journal of Joshua Loper: A Black Cowboy:The Chisholm Trail, 1871 is one of the Dear America series.  (This annotation contains an image)
Fallen Angels is one of Walter Dean Myers' most famous and widely read books. If you are interested in the Vietnam War and what it was truly like, you will enjoy this novel.  (This annotation contains an image)
"Check it Out" is a good title for this chapter since it is mostly about what? 
According to Myers, his research often leads to what? 

CHAPTER 15: Discipline

Read this paragraph again to make sure you understand what Myers is referring to as "the genius theory." Then try to explain it in your own words. 
Why does Myers commit to such a rigid writing schedule? 

CHAPTER 16: Leave Your Ego at the Door

In your own words, explain why it is important to get someone else to read your writing, someone you trust. 
Myers admits that a writer's initial reaction to criticism or questions about his writing is  

CHAPTER 17: Hey, Get Back Here

Description is important in writing because readers like to be able to visualize scenes and people and places. We need the descriptive words in order to do that. 

CHAPTER 18: There’s Room on This Page for the Both of Us

Myers calls Ross "highly coachable" because  

CHAPTER 19: Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off

Showing vs. telling in writing is very important. As a reader, it is much more rewarding to infer that a character is jealous by his actions or dialogue rather than the author just telling us that the character is jealous. Watch this video on showing vs. telling in writing. The next time you read a novel or short story, try to identify when the writer is "showing" and when he is "telling."  (This annotation contains a video)
What is Myers' advice if a writer feels like he wants to hurry up and just "tell" the story instead of allowing it to unfold? 
Myers' tone really comes through in these last few sentences. Which of the following best describes his tone? 

CHAPTER 20: Writing Is Good for You

Myers uses repetition effectively here. When he repeats, "Did I tell you.." at the beginning of these sentences, it shows how heartfelt those statements are and how much they mean to him. It also reinforces his purpose in this book: To pass on his love of writing to others. The repetition adds a lot of voice and style here. 
Myers uses two metaphors in this paragraph, comparing writing to what two things? 
In your own words, explain the scene Myers describes that made him feel so good about writing. 

CHAPTER 21: Who Are You?

Use the Define feature on the word permeate. Which of the following words could replace permeate in the sentence without changing the meaning? 
Quiz #3 

AFTERWORD: Now You’re a Writer by Ross Workman

Scorpions is one of Myers earlier novels about a violent gang in Harlem, and how one boy gets caught up with them.  (This annotation contains an image)
In other words, a writer doesn't have to research EVERYTHING about a topic--only what he/she needs to know for the book. 
This comment by Myers probably made Ross feel really good because he finds out that a professional writer has the same problem he does!