Saturday, August 31, 2013

To Middle Grade Or Not To Middle Grade

I am really, really excited to be doing National Novel Writing Month with my 7th grade students this November.

For those of you who don't know, NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a program devoted to getting people to write. The challenge is to write a 50,000 page novel in one month (30,000 for "young" writers). There have even been a few novels that have been published, both by authors already under contract, and un-knowns.

I have tried to complete the challenge in previous years and have failed semi-miserably (I can't say it was a complete failure, because I was able to start two novel length stories...I just never finished them.) So as a budding writer, this program is something that really excites me and, by giving me a goal, structures my writing in a way that makes finishing a novel do able (plus, it takes 21 days to form a habit, so if I'm actually writing every day, yay established writing habit!)

When I decided to take on this project as part of my curriculum, I have always planned to write along with my students and attempt actually finish a novel this year. Last night I had a brilliant idea that, not only should I write along with them, but I should display what I'm writing on the projector screen as I write! Awesome idea, right? Well, this brings up a few challenges for me:

1.  I'm not so much insecure about my writing, rather, when I write I put part of myself on the page and that's very scary. 
I had a really great creative writing professor as an undergrad who took a very professional stance on critique. He taught us (and in turn we learned to harden ourselves) to others' opinions on what we wrote. Being that most of the things that I write truly do come from a very deep place in my mind (which is why I write, to get those things out), my writing is inherently, personal. I'm sure that this is the same for many writers, and thus, is a wide spread issue. I have had to train myself to understand that when someone doesn't like what I've written it isn't that they don't like me. Let's be honest, middle-schoolers can be rough when it comes to their comments. Now, the comments of a middle-schooler isn't going to make me burst into tears, however, by reading what I write my students are going to get to see a rather personal side that I'm not sure I'm 100% okay with.

Which leads me to my main issue:

2. I'm going to have to write at a Middle-Grade appropriate level, and that is going to be a little hard for me. 
Now, I hope those reading this don't take this as my writing usually has really dark, and mentally disturbing ideas in it that should probably land me in the loony bin (at least, I hope it doesn't.) If I had to name some authors whose writing I think mine is close to I'd say Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah J. Maas, Melissa Marr, Laini Taylor, Brenna Yovanoff, and Dia Reeves (these are also authors whom are some of my go tos when describing why modern YA is amazing.) If you're familiar with any of these ladies, you'll know that sometimes they have content that, while isn't anything risque, sometimes younger audiences aren't ready for.


I'm going to challenge myself to write middle-grade, do it well, and enjoy it while I'm writing. I can definitely think of a list at least 25 books long of middle-grade level books that I have loved over the years. The trick is finding a story that lends itself to depth while still being appropriate enough that my students won't look at me like I just yelled out profanity when they read it on the screen.  The idea of having to curb my wants when it comes to my writing is something I think I could definitely practice. Just because you really enjoy something in your story doesn't necessarily mean that it should stay in the story. Sometimes we have to kill our darlings in order to benefit the rest (a great creative writing professor taught me this.)

So. Wish me luck in going for middle-grade. I'm really excited to start this and some of my students are also already asking when we're going to start NanoWriMo. It makes me giddy to hear that.

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