- Help Others
- Get an agent
- HAVE FUN!
What goals did you accomplish this year? And what goals do you hope to accomplish next year?
Based on my increasingly grown-up (that is, unreliable) perception of time, it seems like Thanksgiving here in the United States was sometime last week and the calendar switched over to December, like, yesterday, maybe? Of course, when I actually look at that calendar with the eyeballs connected to my nervous system as opposed to the ones my imagination prefers to use (you know, the internal ones that “see” things like flying glitter donkeys and armies of paper-clip soldiers controlled by vengeful wizards), I realize that we’re already 12 days into the last month of 2014.
In other words, the dread holidays are upon us. And the holidays? Well, they’re not exactly the most active time of the year for traditional publishing.
That’s not to say that everything related to making and publishing books comes to a screeching, unmovable halt. But when an industry already known for its glacial pace hits a stretch of weeks designated for awkward family gatherings and the sometimes regrettable office party, key decisions tend to get put off until we reach the New Year.
Luckily, as a middle grade writer, there are a few ways to take advantage of this temporary lull without losing your mind. Well, or any more of it.
There are probably a million constructive ways to deal with the temporary lull in publishing that comes every holiday season. So if you find yourself frustrated and wondering how you’re ever going to make it to Jan. 2nd with even a pinch of your sanity intact, quit fretting, drop everything, and go have some fun instead.
Because at the end of the day, there’s probably no better time to get more in touch with the personality a middle grade writer needs to bring into their work than during this festive, fun, joyous few weeks of the year. Why not take advantage of it?
Title: Golden Boy
Author: Tara Sullivan
Genre: MG Contemporary
Publication date: 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
My rating: 4.5 spitwads / 5
|Dan Gemeinhart is an author and teacher-librarian who lives smack dab in the middle of Washington State with his wife and three daughters. What passes for his website can be found at www.dangemeinhart.com, and he can more frequently be found on Twitter. His contemporary adventure MG novel, THE HONEST TRUTH, will be out from Scholastic Press in January 2015.|
We (authors) try to market our books to our target audience (middle graders), but that's where we go wrong with middle grade fiction. It's unlikely that our target audience is trolling blogs, tweeting about their new favorite book, or checking Goodreads to see the next great book. And even if they are, they aren't holding the purse strings to buy books without a parent's involvement.
Middle-grade readers get information about books from four different places: friends, parents, teachers, and librarians.
That's who you have to reach online.
I woke up last Saturday morning to the dire buzz of alarms sounding.
I’m not kidding. It was, literally, like, 6:30 AM on the morning after Halloween, and I had two kids to get to a soccer game in 35 degree weather. Even worse, no matter how much I begged, Siri wouldn’t let me go back to sleep and take the edge off the Snickers hangover I’d shamefully backed my way into after a few hours of trudging behind four Trick-Or-Treaters the night before.
It’s safe to say that Siri and I haven’t been on the best of terms this week.
The morning alarm wasn’t the only one going off, though. In my head, I could almost feel the thunderous peal of bells clanging, warning that, at the tone, the date will be November 1st.
To novelist types like me, it’s a date that looms large every year in the subconscious, demanding focus on one thing and one thing only: the firing of the Starter’s pistol on another NaNoWriMo.
You might remember that I mentioned NaNo before. If you didn’t, and aren’t familiar with it, you could be thinking to yourself, “Nana? NeNe? Nanoo? Is this someone’s delightfully spunky grandmother? No, wait, it’s a dance routine, right? Or some kind of alien greeting?”
If you’re thinking any of the above, let me help you out a little here.
NaNoWriMo is a word-whammed abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. It’s this wonderful exercise in masochism where someone (say, like me…or you) gets an idea for a novel and pushes aside all the nagging, gnawing voices of uncertainty and self-doubt in an effort to coax 50,000 words of that book into actually existence over the span of one (1) 30-day month. The month of November, to be precise.
Lots of people swear by NaNoWriMo. For others, the pressure and stress of having a mere 30 days to usher forth a story takes too much of a toll, hampering their creativity. Especially with a major US holiday standing in the way like a 10-foot hurdle in front of an Olympic runner.
If you’re a MG writer, though, and a little extra pressure tends to brighten the fire under your backside as if Bugs Bunny himself was manning the bellows of your dinner cauldron, NaNo can be a great way to go from ‘aspiring to write a MG novel’ to ‘actually being a MG author’.
The most obvious aspect of the whole crazy endeavor that makes it perfect for MG-ers is, of course, word count. No matter what lies you might tell yourself in the dark hours spent huddled over your manuscript, or how much flattery you might attempt in that candle-lit bathroom mirror, 50,000 words does not a novel make. At least, not for adult works of either the standard or “Young” variants.
For a Middle Grade draft, though, 50,000 words is more often than not right at the sweet and tender center of the total word count bulls eye.
But word count is far from the only thing that makes NaNo helpful for producing a MG draft. The compressed timeframe, too, can be quite an asset. Sure, it might make you feel a little bit like Alice’s White Rabbit—always late, always late for a very important, um, daily goal—but it also lends itself to the right “feel” for a Middle Grade story. As the life and circumstances of the MG set are, very often, largely out of their control, channeling a sense of “rushing headlong towards adventure in a big, unexplored world with nothing but the soles of one’s Keds to use for brakes” into a story can be vital.
When it comes time for letters to hit the page, few things can help an author with deliver that tone as much as bearing the press of the steady march towards November 30th, knowing there’s nothing anyone can do to stall the month out for day or three, just to catch one’s breath.
And then, there are the revisions. NaNo has even more benefit for the MG writer there. Since the initial process is a chaoticc 30-day sprint to get something down on paper, the steaming pile of word leavings you’re stuck with at the end…well, let’s just say it’s not always quite ready for immediate release to the Newbery Committee. But learning how to accomplish things though trial and error is something that most Middle Grade readers are very, very familiar with. For instance, while you’d think I would remember that while writing based on the number of times in my childhood I had to remake my bed due to the large, suspicious lump under the comforter, or the multitude of second-tries necessary to get my room clean to my mother’s Exacting Standards, it’s still a lesson that bears repeating even for me.
The point is, your NaNo novel is going to be a long way from perfect on November 30th, and you’re going to have to work at making it just right. Your characters, just like real kids, are likewise not going to be perfect. They’re going to make all kinds of mistakes, sometimes for reasons they don’t even understand (aka, the highly acclaimed “I don’t know why I did it” defense). The more often you’re reminded of that, the better the chance your MG characters stand to maybe become real to the kids you hope will one day experience you work.
Is NaNo easy? Having survived it twice now, I can say with certainty that it’s not. Is NaNo for everyone? Definitely not. Not anymore than purple socks and lime green shoes are for everyone.
But for some Middle Grade authors, purple and green go together just like peanut butter and chocolate.
And that just might make NaNoWriMo 2014 a good bet for you.