Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published four novels: Head Case, Beyond Lucky, Believe and her latest, a young MG series about the worst fairy godmother ever, The Wish List (Scholastic, 2017). Titles forthcoming include her first nonfiction picture book, Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books) Sarah loves working with other writers in one of her classes at Writers on the Net (www.writers.com ) or the Highlights Foundation.

I am thinking about the importance of taking risks in real life.

Emotional risks. The kind of risk it took to send me–a stranger–a story. Quitting a bad job. Taking a new one. The risk you take doing something that makes you uncomfortable. (My son is doing this on a daily basis. He’s applying for jobs. Signing up for volunteer experiences. Making calls for good causes. Every first has been tough. But even the no’s are starting to pay off. He is getting more daring. He is going to get something…soon.)

When was the last time you did something that made you feel uncomfortable? When was the last time you  took a risk or risked making a mistake? When you saw what you wanted and WENT FOR IT??

Going for greatness–for what you want–might sound sort of egotistical. But it isn’t. It’s how we change. And grow. And find more to care about.

And of course, it is the essential matter of story.

The inner struggle–and inevitable change–is what makes story unputdownable. I LOVE when a character surprises me…by doing something risky or uncomfortable…or even by saying something unexpected. When that happens, I have to keep reading.

When I risk something in my story…I HAVE to keep writing! I love when my characters do that!

I never worry about GETTING IT WRONG. Instead, I see what happens. Getting it wrong is no risk at all. We can always revise.

What we have to risk: our true hearts. By taking chances, we let our characters be authentic. Yes, we may reveal things about our own hearts in the process. But this is the way to connect with a reader.

Do you risk alienating a reader?
Of course! But if we are truly here for the reader, we must write spontaneously. We must be wild. We must access our hearts.

If we don’t, our stories fizzle. If we do, our characters are alive.

Several months ago, in the New York Times, Arthur Brooks wrote about how the modern world is making cowards out of us. This makes me nervous! Without risk takers, where is art? Won’t story become BORING???

This fear must have been in the air, because I also read articles about the benefits of sleep, boredom, and unstructured time for creative people. I met a teacher who gives students tools, but no directions. I spoke to writers about what they think is my risky move–the BIG delete.

(It really isn’t. Just words!!!)

What I’m putting together: when we have space…when we have time…we are more willing to take creative risks. We seek new experiences. When we don’t carve out enough space for creativity, we always take the easy route. We think at the top of our brains. Easy answers only. No risks needed. Those answers and choices are usually the least satisfying. They don’t challenge us. They don’t make us squirm. Ultimately, they don’t make anyone want to turn the page.

Are you ready to stretch? Are you ready to take a risk? Maybe even break a rule???

Find a turning point in your manuscript.

Your character has choices. One will feel safe. Expected. In your wheelhouse. You can anticipate the destination.

The other is scary. You may not be sure what the next step will look like.

Today, open a new page and take the scary route. Take the risk. Challenge your character, your story, and yourself. Write to surprise yourself–to push the boundaries. Make yourself a bit queasy. Don’t limit your language. Instead of thinking with your head, listen to your heart and see where that takes you.

Have a great writing month!

xo sarah