Weekend Writing: What I Learned from Judy Blume

Judy Blume is an author every preteen girl should know. Her books, Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, Blubber, Deenie, and more, cover topics adolescents need to read. She was one of the first authors to write about puberty and the many changes in a young girl's body. We needed her books.

Judy Blume's books (photo/Madam J-Mo).

Because I have always admired Judy Blume's writing, when I heard she was offering an online class through MasterClass, titled Judy Blume Teaches Writing, I was immediately intrigued. In 25 short lessons, I would listen to Judy Blume and learn from her experiences in writing and publishing. I wanted to learn from her--because I think every writer wishes they could be like Judy Blume.

The class covered a wide range of topics, including:

  • How your childhood can influence your writing
  • How to find ideas for stories
  • How to write for young adults 
  • How to create memorable characters 
  • How to write strong dialogue
  • How to create strong plot structure 
  • The writing process (drafting, revising, etc.) 
  • Getting ready to submit your work
  • Working with editors
  • Dealing with rejection 
  • How to market your work 
Judy Blume (photo/Judy Blume)
As a creative writing graduate, I studied these discussion topics in my writing courses. I knew how to write an effective plot and how to create lovable characters. But, did I still learn something in this class? Of course! As my grandfather, who lived to be 102 years old, always said, "You never stop learning." I'll always be able to learn something new about writing. 

I loved listening to Judy Blume talk about her experience as a bestselling author. It wasn't always easy for her. As she shared, she had her fair share of rejections, bad reviews, censorships, etc. But, did she ever give up? No, and we must never give up, too. 

I took notes during the class because I knew I would write about the experience in a blog post. Right now, I'm going to share the most memorable pieces of knowledge I learned from Judy Blume. 
(photo/Teachers Pay Teachers)
  • Stories are your company. Create characters who can be your personal friends
  • Remember the imagination you had as a child. Use that as an adult with your writing. 
  • The best stories come from deep inside you. They bubble up and you must allow them to burst out of you. 
  • Observe everything around you. Be a people-watcher. Be tuned in to your surroundings. You never know where ideas will come from. 
  • Energize your writing. The voice is important. The right pace is essential. You must hook your readers right away. 
  • See what else is being published right now and read those works. Reading makes you a better writer
  • Use research as a security blanket. 
  • Take anything out of the story that doesn't need to be there. If it doesn't advance the story, leave it out. The story should always move forward
  • Make your characters real, not perfect. Work with conflicting emotions. 
  • Convey emotion by showing, not telling.
  • Capture a realistic voice in dialogue--the way people really talk. Remove dialogue that doesn't advance the story. 
  • What your characters aren't saying says a lot, too. It's interesting to know what the characters are thinking versus what they actually say out loud. 
  • Write one scene at a time
  • Establish your characters before a major plot twist
  • Use flashbacks and backstories to reveal more about your characters. 
  • Create an ending that is satisfying, but it can be open-ended
  • Get everything down in the first draft. Worry about fixing things as you revise. 
  • Work through the "murky middle." Move the story forward. Surprise your readers. 
  • In your second draft, put the puzzle pieces together. Add more details. Let more mess come out and then clean it all up
  • Go deeper into your characters. Who are they? In what ways will they help move the story forward?
  • Make lists to track your characters, their characteristics, and events in the story. Consistency is so important
  • Dealing with "writer's block"? Judy Blume says it doesn't exist. There are good and bad writing days, but you never, ever lose the ability to write. 
  • Read your manuscript out loud to look for any mistakes. 
  • Find an agent to represent your book. Sell the book and yourself. See who is representing the books you love and approach them. 
  • As you work with editors, be open and willing to revise your book. Always listen to what they say. 
  • You will receive rejections. Learn to deal with it. Let those rejections fuel determination
  • Don't be ruled by fear. Face the reviews. Look for the positive in the negative
  • Know how to market yourself. Know exactly who you are as a writer. 
  • Be bold and take chances in your writing. 
  • But most importantly, celebrate your milestones and cherish every moment
As you can see, I learned a lot from Judy Blume. It was amazing to listen to her stories and learn from her experiences. She had a difficult journey as a writer. There were many times where she was going to give up writing--throw the typewriter away and forget about writing. But, as she explained, that would have been foolish. Of course, she had to write. She's a writer. You can't ignore the stories inside you. They need to be written. 
Judy Blume (photo/masterclass.com)

If you're a writer, I strongly recommend taking this class. You can work at your own pace and you share comments with other writers who are also taking the class. It's a community of writers who want to learn from the best, and Judy Blume is definitely one of the best. 

Towards the end of the class, Judy was explaining that she now owns a bookstore with her husband. She loves new writers who want to be published--because she knows exactly how we feel. She knows what it's like to have a big dream to see your name in print. She knows what it's like to plead to bookstores, "Please, sell my book!" She knows what that is like, so she loves to feature new writers. 

She told us that she will love our books someday...and that she loves us. She really loves us. With a tear in her eye, she nodded her head and told us to keep writing. Keep dreaming and never lose our imagination. 

We won't, Judy. We won't. 

Write on. 



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