Begin with gratitude. Walk in gratitude. Write with gratitude. That’ll fix any attitude.
I have found a much needed shot in writing arm through 12 Days for Writers.
On this third day of Christmas Julie challenges us to consider the successes we enjoyed in 2018. It’s so much easier to think about the places we fall short. Isn’t it? With permission to brag . . .
In the spring the very kind local school librarian agreed to organize a group of beta readers for my current work-in-progress. (First tip: volunteer at your local public library or school library to build relationships with librarians and keep your finger on the pulse of your reader.) My story is a middle grade novel-in-verse that features a largely female cast with some typical coming-of-age issues. For that reason I requested to have girls only for my beta readers. Two girls from each grade 4-6 were asked to read my story and meet with me and the librarian to discuss it. (Bonus: the librarian was going to read it too!)
The set up:
How it worked:
These girls are real girls with real lives which include school work, sports, family, and here I am asking them to read something else on top of it all. It took time. We met three times during their lunch periods and discussed the story as far as they had read.
This was absolutely wonderful to sit and talk with readers about a story I wrote! And they didn’t hold back. There was no feelings of intimidation on their part to talk to the author. I loved that.
If they didn’t understand something, they were forthcoming. If they didn’t like a character, an energized conversation ensued. It was interesting that a character that I thought was lovable in his own way, the beta readers were angry with. Not all characters need to be likeable. It’s actually good if characters have both likeable qualities and pitfall in their personalities.
I quickly found out which parts didn’t work and the parts that made them keep turning the pages. Settings that were unclear. Phrases that were confusing. The insight I received was beyond worth. It was incredibly rewarding when they “got it.” The things I hoped the reader would pick up on, the set-ups, subtext, duplicity, the pay-outs.
I love my critique group and wouldn’t change them, but there’s something special about having beta readers. No better litmus test than honest readers who hold no stake in the story. Can’t wait ’til I have another story to do this again!
It would be interesting to have beta readers from the schools I once upon a time taught at read this. How would kids with different world views and experiences take to this story? I guess I will find out when this WIP gets published!
Thank the readers and especially the librarian in a generous way. They gave up their time and provided feedback that clarified, sharpened, and deepened the story.
Bonus: I loved listening to the banter between the girls. Perhaps they are inspiring some future characters!
BIG CHANGES in small steps. Like the man who bargained from a red paper clip to a house. From big debt to big savings. Shedding 20, 50, 100 pounds. Finishing that novel. Defending your dissertation. Buying a home. Traveling the world. Changing the world. It happens in small consistent faithful steps.
In honor of the first Snow Day of the winter . . .
Snow and ice they say
Will soon be on their way.
Adults grump and gruff
Burdened by the white stuff.
Children watch the skies
With thoughts of sleds that fly
Down the hill,
But better still,
“Snow Day” the anchor cries.
On September 12, 2001 I stood before before my class of confused and scared third graders and lied. You are safe here. No one wants to hurt school children. Columbine was two years past. Sandy Hook was yet to come. Little children get hurt everyday at school. I may not have a voice with the power to change the world. But I can help change someone's world. When our president redirects the dialogue and politicians point their finger, cast your pebble. When a kid is bullied or neglected don't turn a blind eye, cast your pebble. When you pray and get inspired into action, cast your pebble. Cast your pebble into the waters where you stand. Make a ripple. We change the world by changing someone's world. Cast your pebble. In memory of Gayle Dubowski. On the tenth anniversary of her death, alongside four classmates at NIU, 17 more lives were taken and countless changed forever. We now live in a world where most people know someone effected by school shootings and violence. We must do better.
Brown pleading eyes
I can hear her thoughts,
Just give me the sign!
I won’t let you down.
I pick up my pen.
She lays by my feet
waiting for the inevitable writer’s block.
She knows I’ll need her then.
This is the face of satisfaction:
But it’s really like this:
258 free verse poems roughed
it’s an ugly baby right now
but it’s complete!
And it doesn’t take long to feel like this:
Reading Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
while revising older stories
and researching people and places to submit to.
Marinating on the two ideas
I’m contemplating for my next projects
the research I need to complete
to round out the rough draft
before going through the
MANIA OF REVISION!
OOH! Now I can get that haircut I told myself had to wait until rough was done.
Rough is done!
I have a confession to make.
I broke the cardinal rule of writing a rough draft.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I had to do it.
I read my entire MS.
I know, I know.
Full steam ahead.
No looking back.
But I had to do it.
I haven’t written in a week.
Yes, I gasped too.
So, you see,
I had to read it.
I’d lost the flow,
was loosing my MC,
ran out of steam,
while my daughter was sick.
So, you see,
I had to read it.
And I’m glad I did.
It was pretty good,
I’m on the right track.
And I’ve found the fuel
to keep writing.
You write about what you already know, right? But, you also write about things you want learn more about. Admittedly, after researching this topic I may be more confused than when I started. Let me see if I can work it out!
The easy part: Historical Fiction
Goodreads has a list of 653 of the Best Children’s Historical Fiction.
The hiccup: (and something I learned in my research!)
In order for a story to be historical fiction, it must be historical to the author. If I were writing a novel set in London 2013 about a girl who desperately wanted to become a nanny for the future king, it would be contemporary fiction right? In twenty years it would still be contemporary fiction from a different time. So the argument then is books like those written by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Laura Ingalls Wilder would not be historical fiction because at the time they were written they were contemporary fiction.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree?
Onto documentary novel – the waters get a little more muddy for me here.
I have seen three different definitions for documentary novel.
1. True event + real people told in a narrative format. (plot, dialogue, characterization)
until . . .
2. A historical fiction novel that includes articles of history within the pages. These may include quotes, advertisements, and the like.
3. A historical fiction novel in which the format appears like non-fiction articles.
What kind are you writing? Historical fiction or documentary novel? How do you know?