Judy’s Writing Process - Part 1

Judy Blume

Lesson time 10:31 min

For Judy, early drafts require leaning on her notebooks as well as “letting the mess come out” and looking at potential problems later.

Judy Blume
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So my process, it's really fairly simple-- I think. It's in my head and then, it transfers down into my notebook. And my notebook gives me the security that I need for that first day that I decide to start writing the story. And I will never stop making notes in my notebook. Not until it's too late. Not until the book is in and I know it's set. In a first draft, I'm just trying to get down everything that I can get down so that, again, I'll have something. I won't have to face a blank screen or a blank page because I'll have something. I have my security. I really need those security blankets that I have. I definitely couldn't write without them. Could not go forward without them. So get it all down. Get down anything. Don't worry about it-- that's the whole point. You don't have to think maybe this isn't working. You don't have to think that now. You're in a first draft. You're just getting everything down that you can get down. And then, you'll have plenty of time-- more time than you want to give to it-- you'll have plenty of time to come back and reassess, and see what there is, and see what you can make happen. [MUSIC PLAYING] I'm a person who has to print out all the time. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm using a lot of paper. I try to use both sides. I print out every day. And everything that I write all around it and over it and under it, that's very, very important for the next day. My most creative moments come with a pencil in my hand. There's something that connects the brain and the hand, and I don't know where those ideas come from, but they seem to come with a pencil. There's a little detail that I love and I don't know where it came from, but in the book, Here's To You, Rachel Robinson, Rachel's father is a schoolteacher, and I know I didn't know this in the beginning, but somewhere with the pencil, it came that she's so nervous before school starts every year that he's always swigging Pepto Bismol. And I like that. That's one of those details that you don't know where it came from. It wasn't in my head when I was thinking about Rachel's father and who is he, but it came-- it came during a draft. [MUSIC PLAYING] I have that terrible time in the middle. I don't know anybody who doesn't have that terrible time of the middle. What's going to happen? How am I going to fill up all these pages? Suppose nothing happens. Suppose I don't get an idea for what's going to happen to them. And again, that having something there, the security of the notebook, the security of notes all over your printouts, that helps me. And the middle of a book is hard. It's probably the hardest part, actually. The beginning can be fun. You're just getting into it. And the ending is exciting because you're wrapping up. You're coming to the end and that's reason for celebration. But the middle...

Write timeless stories

Judy Blume broke the rules. Her refreshingly honest children’s books were banned by hundreds of libraries and loved by generations of readers, who bought 85 million copies of classics like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Superfudge. In her first online writing class, the award-winning author teaches you how to invent vivid characters, write realistic dialogue, and turn your experiences into stories people will treasure.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

A truly inspirational instructor. Judy gives an honest and heartwarming account of her highs and lows in writing that only fuels my own creative passions.

Great advice. Writing for children can be a discouraging business.

I grew up reading Judy Blume - I came to hear how to be a writer or craft a story but I got so much more. Judy actually shared herself, the raw real journey, and process - I learnt that where I was second guessing myself Judy does and did and it's normal my process and that alone was incredibly refreshing - a very human way to deliver very important life lessons.

Thank you Judy for all of your helpful advice during these lessons. They have really helped me open my mind to different ideas I can pursue when it comes to writing. I will definitely be putting your tips into practice once I start writing a new story. Thank you for your openness during the class and inspirational words of encouragement!


Judy B.

I have a technical/legal question. Judy mentions that in one of her books she writes someone "swigs down Peto Bismal at the beginning of each school year" My question is can you use brand names of products, or the name of a hospital? Do you have to get some form of legal authorization to do this?

Craig R.

Taking Judy's advice of not self-editing so much in the first draft, I already feel way more productive than I've felt in a long time!

Rachel M.

This is really helpful. I watch these before going for my daily attempt at writing to give me the push I need. Time to write!

April C.

It's funny - as a teacher I tell my students all the time, "just write it all down, whatever comes to mind, you can edit and change things in the second draft." Meanwhile, I sit staring at my screen forever because I can't get one paragraph done that I need to lead to the great part that's floating in my head waiting to burst onto the page! I need to take my own advice and Judy's and just write what comes when and as it comes - fix it later.

Millie L.

NANOWRIMO.org is a nonprofit organization. The full name is National Novel Writing Month, and it's in November, although they have a "CAMP NANO" in the summer. For Nanowrimo, you pledge to write a 50k novel in the month of November, which is 1666 words a day. Nano is a wonderful way to force yourself to get the first draft on paper. It will need a dozen re-writes, but you will finish that first draft along with a half million people around the world and an onliine community. Some places have local write-ins. I'm the Municipal Liaison on the ground for my town. We start with a "Night of Writing Dangerously" at IHOP in costume where we write from 7-midnight. Then I'm at the public library two hours a day to support Wrimos, and on Wednesdays, at a local artsy coffee house. When you make a public commitment to get the 50K written, you make it happen. Then you can begin on the revisions because you have something to revise.


Yes! That's it! I'm getting bogged down with the details in the first draft. Yikes... now I know better. I'm writing an autobiographical piece, so it's hard to just let the imagination run wild. But now, I think, I suspect, I might be able to take artistic licence with my own story and let it run loose. Will no doubt make for a better read for sure. Thanks Judy, I'm going to just write and come back and clean it up later. Like the dishes after a satisfying meal!


Somehow my style of writing completely matches with judy, and i can connect to each word what she says, finding your own formula is the best lesson, I learned. Thoroughly loving it, absolute bliss, she is poring her heart literally

Kai T.

A question for Judy - if your best ideas come when using a pencil, why type at all? Thank you so much for doing this masterclass, I've gotten so much from it already!

Mia S.

"When I talk about revision, for me, revision is not the little edits - this word instead of this word, this word is spelled wrong - it's nothing like that. It's big. It's the whole picture. It's the whole story that's evolving. Some people are able to do all of this in their heads before they start. I had a friend who, it was all in her head, and every day she sat down and wrote 10 pages. At the end of 30 days, she had a 300-page book that she would send to her editor. She had that kind of mind. I have a messy mind. My writing is a process of cleaning up the mess, but letting the mess come out - letting the mess be there, all over the floor if it has to be, and then slowly cleaning it up, making it work, making a story, the characters. I could never figure out a whole book in my head. The second draft is finding out more, being surprised along the way. Getting to the end of the second draft, I always say: 'If I died during a second draft, would anyone be able to make sense of this?' My answer is, again, probably not - but it's growing. It's getting better. I'm more excited about it every day, I hope. Because if I'm not, then it's not working, I'm going to have to do it again. I'm going to have to continue to think through it. It just means I haven't solved the problems and is just going to take a lot more solving."

Mia S.

"When it comes time for the second draft, then I'm excited. Maybe I've taken a week off after the first draft or maybe it's the next day, but I'm excited now because I'm starting again. I've got these big pieces of the puzzle and I'm going to put this puzzle together. There may still be pieces that don't fit and have to be recut, but I'm starting again from day one and trying to write it now more as a story with detail, trying to really get to know the characters - I probably don't know them well yet (I would guarantee; I know I don't know them yet). But I'm trying to find out more about them, and more about this story and how it's going along. And that will be a longer process, maybe, than a first draft - and I will stay longer at work, I'll come back after lunch, read what I have and work another hour or two on it. Then, I do like to leave it at a place knowing that when I come back the next day, there's something good. I won't try to finish that - whatever it was that seemed to be working. I'll come back so I can do it the next day. I don't mean don't get down everything - you don't want to forget it; at least scribble it. But I like to leave myself in that good place. I know of writers who come back and type over the last 10 pages that they wrote the day before. These are exercises, these are finding your way, and I can't stress this enough: finding your way it what this is all about. And you can listen to everyone who has a personal way of doing it and get good ideas from each one of them and try them out until you find your way."