Friday, October 23, 2015

On Your Marks, Get Set…

I looked at my calendar today and got a little excited.

Well, no, actually, first I picked my lower teeth up off the floor, because that’s where my jaw shot when I accepted the horrifying truth that it’s somehow October 23rd, 2015 even though January 1st, 2015 was, like, two weeks ago (I’m pretty sure).

For real, where did my year go?

Anyway, after that, I got excited.  Not quite night-before-Christmas excited, but more about-to-get-on-a-rollercoaster excited. IT was that sense of nervous butterflies tickling the belly even as the heart picks up speed in the anticipation of something possibly, maybe awesome about to happen.

That is, something awesome is about to happen. First, Halloween. And if you don’t see the potential for a million and one delightfully creepy, crawly, sinister and scary MG stories being born of holiday that revolves around the dead walking the earth at the same time 90% of a community’s children are out begging for candy in masks and makeup, well, that makes me a little sad for you. You probably never love Goosebumps, either, did you?

But I digress. It’s after Halloween, see, that the real fun begins. Because on November 1st, millions of writers – pro and amateur alike – will slam down the gas pedal and surge out of the gate on another insane National Novel Writing Month. That’s NaNoWriMo to you and me, Russ. And, yes, I’ve gone on and on about this before – including why I think NaNo is extremely well-suited for Middle Grade writing – so I’ll spare you the recap*.

Today’s point is this: as writers considering NaNoWriMo, we find ourselves standing at the edge of a cliff dive down into the gully of 50,000 words worth of novel-drafting. Which begs the question: are you bungee jumping or throwing caution (and some would say sense) to the wind by going for it damn-the-torpedoes, full speed ahead? That is, do you plan and scheme, plot and outline ahead of time, using October to draw up character profiles and imagine scenes with the care of a model-maker sketching out a diorama before gathering up a shoe box, glue, and a set of pipe cleaners and setting to work?

Or do you just…jump off?

Myself? This year? I’m a jumper. I will, at some during this last week of October, settle on a basic idea for the book I intend to NaNoTackle™.  After that, I might even go so far as to name the protagonist, if I’m feeling, you know, frisky. But that’s it. No plotting. No outlining. Just November 1st, an opening sentence, and a drive to see where this manuscript takes me.

Sounds crazy?

Yeah, it kind of is.

Fact is, NaNoWriMo is the one time in the previous or future 12 months that I’ll approach writing this way. The rest of time I’ll drafting with sense and caution, by making sure I have a good idea of where I want to go before I put the keys into the ignition.

But it seems to me that if we always do the same things the same ways, we’re likely to usually get the same kind of results.  And that’s fine if you’re making cars on an assembly line. But that’s not what we’re doing. We write stories for middle graders, a group that’s mostly defined by constantly trying new ways in the interest of learning more about themselves and the world they live in.

So maybe join me this year? Put down your color-coded outline cards and set aside your character sheets. Take off your parachute and/or that bungee cord, step up the edge of the cliff, and take the headfirst plunge with me into the Great Word Void this November. Sure, it might not work for you. Might not work for me, either. But there’s a always fantastic rush in finding out.  And at the end of the month, “win” or “lose”, we’ll have some words written that we didn’t have before, and hopefully we’ll have learned a little something new about ourselves.

And isn’t that kind of the whole point of middle grade?


*Click that link. Click it! Cliiiiiiick it!

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