Just Write: Here’s How! by the late Walter Dean Myers is a writing book I happened to pick up from my library. I’d never heard of Walter Dean Myers before, and I thought, “Well, I feel like I need to return to the basics, so why don’t I pick up this more general book on writing to brush things up?”
Just Write is mainly geared toward teens and young adults that want to write but don’t know where to start. The short chapters provide clear (and somewhat repetitive) principles on the grit and passion it takes to write.
But the thing is, I felt like I learned more about Walter Dean Myers as an individual than I learned about writing. Don’t get me wrong. It felt good to read some parts. But overall, I could tell that Myers was a prolific writer who enjoyed his craft and enjoyed telling the stories of troubled youth, war veterans, and even historical figures.
I just wish that in this book, he imparted clearer instructions on how to craft a story.
The way he writes stories has a six-box, six-question model. In the first box, you need an interesting character and problem serious and interesting enough for the reader to keep reading. In the second box, you show why the problem can’t be solved with easy means. The third box establishes why the particular character you came up with in box one does what they do and why they are the ones to solve this particular problem. Box 4 is where the character has to make a decision to change or not. Box 5 has the character gaining insight and some kind of growth as a result of this change. Box 6 ties up all the loose ends.
Now, in some of those boxes, Myers provides clear examples on what each box does. But in other points, he doesn’t, which makes things inconsistent and hard to follow. I understand the gist of what he was getting at in those boxes, but if I were ten years younger and a teenager again, I would have wanted a little more direct instruction. I felt like Myers didn’t want to talk down to his teenage audience and, consequently, held back how much he would explain in terms of craft.
This, coupled with how he explains the necessary quality of a writer, makes me rate this 3 stars. It’s good, but it’s not spectacular.