Write Like a Shark
It’s Summer 2020. Sorry, just a plain and simple statement that it is indeed the summer of 2020. None of the traditional exclamation points to celebrate this time of the year. The COVID-19 pandemic, the problem of ingrained and institutional racism, and lives that have been completely turned on edge are just a few of the problems we deal with every day. Besides community involvement, raising our voices, and giving of our time, talent, and treasure, another good way to navigate good or bad times is through writing.
Writing provides an outlet. Whether you are a middle-grade student on summer break trying to make sense of the world or a seasoned adult trying to make sense of the world, writing can help navigate life. Writing can be personal and kept under lock and key or it can be shared. Writing is yours. Every word is yours. As the words are placed on paper or screen one after the other, your thoughts and ideas become more real and tangible.
The two things at the core of the From the Mixed-Files…of Middle-Grade Authors blog are reading and writing. For the STEM Tuesday group, those two core activities also hold true except we adjust the focus to STEM nonfiction. Today, I suggest a STEM nonfiction slant to assist you as you embark on your 2020 writing adventures?
Want to write but don’t exactly know how to take the first steps? First and foremost, just write. Begin the physical process with one word and keep adding another word until you give the thoughts in your head a life. Next, take a few pointers from the star of STEM Tuesday, June 2020, the magnificent shark!!! (Now there’s a sentence deserving of exclamation points.)
Writing advice from a shark?
I know a shark can’t actually write. A shark can’t hold a pencil. A shark’s journal would merely become a soggy mess in the ocean. A shark may have plenty of bite, but none of that bite leans toward the literary. Allow me to explain how the fabulous members of the Selachii superorder can get you circling the waters to write like a shark.
The basic biological design of a shark has been relatively unchanged since it originally appeared 350-400 million years ago during the Devonian Period. When something works in nature, it usually sticks around and is passed on to the next generation. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In simpler terms, the structure and basic plan of a shark work well. In writer terms, we could learn a lot from the shark’s basic evolutionary outline.
The shark has a plan. A built-in plan that has withstood the test of time and shifting conditions. As a writer, follow the shark’s example and develop a design plan that works for you. Find structures and experiment with them. A few basics to think about are:
- Time dedicated to writing.
- Materials (journals, notebooks, pens, pencils, or electronics.)
- Space (both physical space and headspace.) to work in.
- Ideas and capturing them.
Design your physical writing life and hone it until you are as effective as our favorite ocean predator has been for millennia. Piece together a plan in your head and use either a simple or a complex—or something in-between—outline to give your writing good bones (maybe that should be cartilage?) to build upon.
2. The Blank Page
Unfortunately, one of the biggest mountains to climb with writing lies at the very beginning of the process. The blank page. The idea. The “AAARRGGHHHH I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO WRITE DOWN WITH THIS TWENTY DOLLAR PEN I JUST BOUGHT MY WRITER-SELF” problem. Every writer ever has felt the dread of the blank page at one time or another.
Ideas. Are. Hard.
When the blank page spreads fear down your spine, remember how a shark hunts. It’s always on the lookout for a meal and when it finds one, it attacks. Value story ideas and attack them with the same frenzy as the shark attacks its prey. Be prepared to circle the waters to sustain the enthusiasm while being willing to keep working hard after enthusiasm wanes.
There’s no such thing as a bad idea if that idea gets the writing process started. How selective is a shark come feeding time? If it’s food, it’s good enough. This is where I’m a firm believer in the power of nonfiction, especially STEM nonfiction, to help the writer juices flow. The curiosity about how the world works is always a great tool for writing. How do the things that surround us work, why they work, and how they affect us or make us feel?
No matter what life throws at you, write your way through it. Whether with difficulties, joys, failures, and/or accomplishments, use writing to help make sense of your world. Now, arm yourself with your favorite pen and notebook and then write. Remember to design a writing plan that works for you and always be on the hunt for ideas, just like a shark.
Best of luck in Summer 2020.
Write like a shark.
Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.com. Two of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.
The O.O.L.F Files
This month on the Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files we’re talking sharks. Everyone’s favorite marine predator. The world of sharks is fascinating. Enjoy the links below, hopefully, learn a thing or two, and have a great STEM Tuesday Shark Month!
Shark Cam at The Monterey Bay Aquarium
Shark Week @ The Discovery Channel
Sharkfest 2020 from The National Geographic Channel
- The single greatest movie about marine predators ever made. It even scared the bejeezus out of a kid from Kansas when he first saw it at the theatre back in the 1970s.
- As we all know too well from the first half of 2020…nobody EVER listens to the scientists & the experts!
- Giant dino-sharks! Count me in!
No shark list is complete with a mention of this SYFY network gem. Complete ridiculousness that somehow becomes entertaining by taking an unapologetic stab at the nature-apocalyptic film genre. Where does one even begin?