Tag Archives: middle grade novel

Some & Soon & Specificity

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Let me give you the truth. (And yes, you can handle the truth.) I am frustrated by the lack of progress with my Work In Progress (WIP). Perhaps calling it a SIP–Snail In Progress is more accurate. I suspect one (of the many) reasons for my slogginess is the overwhelmingness of it all. Novels are so stinkin’ big and messy and apt to misbehave at every page turn. You know? I think maybe you do, my ginger snap.

So, I’ve been on high alert for a simple way to progressively make more progress, and I think I may have landed on something–specificity.  Lemme explain.

Last week, I was at this training for my day job and one of the speakers (Dr. Don Berwick) used a catchy phrase that sent up a flare in my brain:

“Some is not a number. Soon is not a time.”

Say, that’s, why, that’s true. The doc had something there.

Then! I read this quote by the brilliant and darling Kathryn Erskine recipient of the 2010 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She said, “I don’t like the word soon because you don’t know when it’s going to sneak up on you and turn into NOW. Or maybe it’ll be the kind of soon that never happens.”

 

But wait, there’s more.

Then! I listened to this guy I “met” on Facebook. Comedian Tim Minchin addressed a graduating class at the University of Western Australia. (You should listen to the whole thing, ahem, after you finish reading my post, si vous plait. It’s really kind of brilliant.) Anyway, among his many glinty shards of wisdom, Minchin imparted this gem–“I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious.”

Is it just me, or is there a theme emerging?

You see it too? Oh, good.

adams-pumpkin-2So, let’s say you (and by you, I mean, I) want to write a middle grade novel. You need at least a good solid 30,000 words. That’s daunting. But instead of diddling (or in my case, doodling), why not passionately dedicate to the pursuit of a short-term goal?

Let’s do the math and get very specific. (I cannot believe I’m going to do math in front of you. The terror.)

You are going to write 30,000 in 6 months.

That equates to 5,000 words a month.

And that means you’d need to pump out about 210 words a day (six days a week).

That’s less than one page of writing a day. It’s specific. It’s possible. (I want to see nodding here.)

It’s not easy, but it’s a lot less scary than staring down the whole 30K.

Am I right? Yes, yes, of course. (Again with some nodding please.)

Instead of being macro-lethargic, I can be micro-ambitious–and reach my goal. I will be declared dauntless! Okay, okay, so it’s not sexy, but a declaration of dauntlessness ain’t nothin’ poo-poo.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

While I say “no” to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November (sorry, my little pumpkin muffins), I am sure the momentum it creates can be intoxicating. If that kind of specificity works for you, I say huzzah! Ever forward!

Remember, my chicken dumplings, some is not a number.  Soon is not a time. Specificity is the ticket to getting things done.

Now that you (and I) know this, let’s become micro-ambitious sometime soon, mm-kay?

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring

 

Trick or Treat – Repeat

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Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2016

My little cinnamon sugar cider donuts, do I have a treat for you . . .

WILLIAM AND THE WITCH’S RIDDLE written by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Lee Wildish.

From the jacket flap . . .

“William and his little brother, Pinch, have been left alone at their home atop a mountain. When a witch named Morga shows up, William is forced to embark upon a terrifying journey, but he is also offered the possibility to save his family.

“The worst part of the journey is Morga herself. She has three riddles for William to solve, with only the help of an odd fellow who wakes up a different size every day and a tiny yellow dragon who can dream storms into reality.

“Three riddles. Three chances to lift an ancient curse. Three chances to save his family.”

This is a beautifully written middle grade fantasy. You’ll want to gobble it up like trick-or-treat sack of snack size Snickers! But you don’t have to take my word for it . . .

From Kirkus Reviews:

“There is humor, heart-stopping action, magic of many sorts, and tender emotions of sacrifice, love, and loss. Crum draws readers into this evidently white fairy-tale world with detailed, descriptive language and inventive syntax. An exciting, neatly crafted adventure.”

Doesn’t this sound irresistible? A copy of this spellbinding can be yours!

How?

Leave a comment–describe your favorite childhood Halloween costume–at the end of this post by Noon on Monday, October 24, and you will be entered into a drawing for a copy of your very own. No trick – just treat!

dsc04887October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace! ~ Rainbow Rowell

blog hop tour hops to frog on dime

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Blog Hop is a blog tour showcasing authors and their writing process. I was honored to be tagged by Kristin Lenz, writer of YA and New Adult novels, and all around super fly, groovy chick. (Thank you, Kristin for inviting me!) I tagged another YA writer extraordinaire, Ann Finkelstein, for the next leg of the Blog Hop. You can learn more about Ann at the close of this post.

So, here we go with the Q & A portion of our program.
I hope you are grading on a curve. (And remember, I was promised there would be NO math problems.)

What am I working on now?
I just finished my second contemporary middle grade novel, SHORT CHANGED, at the end of May. Thankfully, as I was wrapping up novel two, ideas for middle grade number three began to percolate. Did I mention Ray, the main character of this novel, is forcing me to learn to knit because he likes to knit? He takes his protagonist role very seriously. I don’t want to disappoint him.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
It has my voice. What would be the point of imitating anyone else? We already have a Jerry Spinelli and Sharon Creech. I like to blend humor with tenderness (tempered with enough references to boogers or puke to make it believable and boy-friendly).

Why do I write what I do?
Writing middle grade is a sweet spot for me–readers are still young enough to appreciate my dorky sense of humor, but sophisticated enough to handle more complex plot lines, language and themes. But I don’t have to write any “content.” (blushing) I know. I know. I’m such a ninny.

How does my writing process work?
First off, you should know, I never ever intended to write a novel, much less two, going on three. I remember showing my grandpa one of my published magazine stories. He said, “That’s good, Vick. Now, where’s your novel?” I told him flat-out, “I’m not a novelist. There’s no novel in me.” (See? Such a ninny I am.) It wasn’t until a friend asked me to collaborate on a novel with him that I ever thought to attempt such a crazy thing. I mean, novel writing was for, sheesh, I don’t know–novelists. But I reasoned that before I co-wrote a novel, maybe I’d better see if I’m capable of creating a one on my own. And so it began.

My first middle grade novel, SHRINK, germinated from a short scene based on a childhood memory. The story took on a life of its own as I began to ask why–why did the main character say that? Why does he feel this way? Why did he make that decision? To whom is he telling his story? And why? Because I was neon green at novel hatching, I pretty much let the characters run the show, which meant I had a lot of clean up to do on the back side. (Kids are not known for their logic or consistency you know.) I still love the characters in that first novel and even miss them when I see a real-world kid who looks like one of them. I must have done something right.

My second novel was inspired by a stupid idea. I thought it would be clever and ironic to write a novel with the title SHORT STORY. But that, I was wisely advised, would get way too confusing. So, I changed the title to SHORT CHANGED, but kept the basic story. I tried writing this novel on my own, like the first one, while trying to avoid the rookie pitfalls. But eventually, I opted to enroll in a novel-writing course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. The individualized instruction and the built-in deadlines helped me progress. I’d recommend taking an ICL class. If you want to know more, just let me know via my contact page and I’ll get right back to you.

My third novel is unfolding very differently. I want to plot and plan and outline before fully immersing myself in this novel. I am gathering articles and ideas too. And, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve got to take those knitting lessons. I’m also going to “interview” each of my characters in order to create character sketches. I treat characters like they are already fully-formed people. It’s my job to get to know them and create a world for them to live in and circumstances to respond to. (And how “simple” is that?)

Based on what I’ve experienced so far, I love the entire novel-writing process–the first niggling from a new idea, meeting my characters, creating that first draft, revising (ad nauseam), receiving critiques, revising again . . . I love it all. Except when I don’t.

(I hope I got the answers right.)

The next stop on the Blog Hop tour will be hosted by my talented friend and Sock Sister Ann Finkelstein. Ann writes young adult novels in Michigan. She enjoys biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and photographing the great outdoors. Read more about her. You can read Ann’s brilliant answers about her writing process on Friday, June 20. Don’t miss it!

Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. ~ James Joyce