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Walter Dean Myers: An Outline Plus Family Advice

Walter Dean Myers has written more than 85 children's books. Monster, about a 16-year-old standing trial for murder, won the first Michael L. Printz Award, given to a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature, and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2000. Myers was also a finalist in 2005, for his novel, Autobiography of My Dead Brother. He lives in Jersey City, N.J., with his wife, Constance, and his cat, Askia Home Boy Brown.

How He Writes: "After so many books and so many years of writing I have a good idea of my strengths and weaknesses. I love the process of writing and, if I allowed myself, I would write far too much every day. One weakness which I've struggled to overcome is my tendency to having my characters ruminate for pages. To avoid these internal monologues, I work from a carefully constructed outline to make sure that some physical things are happening. By restricting myself to five pages [a day], I almost force myself to pay more attention to detail. I begin work by 7 a.m., sometimes earlier, and usually complete my five pages by 10 a.m. I work straight through for the first draft, taking notes as I go along."

Yet another weakness is my failure to describe scenes and people. So when I finish my first draft, I have either my artist-wife or my artist-illustrator son, Christopher Myers, look at the manuscript with a special eye for where I need to describe a scene.

I do original work in the morning and revisions in the afternoon. That way I can work on more than one project at a time.

I live intimately with my characters before starting a book. I cut out pictures of them for my wall. I do time lines for each major character and a time line for the entire novel: What is going on in the world as my characters struggle with their problems?"

Writer's Block Remedy: The time I spend in this prewriting stage, often as much as six months, eliminates writer's block."

A Favorite Sentence: "'The guards search me, tossing my confidence into the brown plastic bag with my keys, reminding me that I am Black, that I am lesser.'

I like this sentence that I gave my heroine because it came from my own experience going through security at Greenhaven Prison, where I first got the idea for my novel Street Love."

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Melody Joy Kramer
Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.