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Sunday, November 21, 2010

People who ALWAYS wanted to write a novel and should actually, maybe, do so.

So, I am challenging my beloved husband (Hi, Lee) and another friend to finish the novels they have never started. I'm giving them the following questions which I want them to fill out and save without showing them to me... these are sort of a compilation of the best elements of all the creative writing class sheets I've made, the ones I've gotten from writers at conferences, etc.

Things to think about when planning a novel
What is your story in two or three sentences?

What makes this story fresh/unique?

Character Questions I’m using he generically. 
What does your character want? (goal)
What is keeping him from getting it? (conflict)
What is driving him to keep going for that goal? (motivation)

What is the internal conflict?
What is the external conflict?

If they don’t already work together, (I envision the different types of conflict as clockwork cog thingies) how can you make the internal and external conflict work together against your protagonist to make the goal harder to achieve, to force him to change and ultimately to force him to become stronger in the way that will save the day/resolve the conflict?

What makes your character get out of bed in the morning?

What does he love more than anything that could alternate as a strength or a weakness?

How will your character change throughout the story?
Use these questions on protagonist/antagonist/secondary characters when you are ready to do so.

My next assignment to these two deep thinking non writers (both are well read and both are well versed in variety of story-telling venues, movies, television, short stories, novels of all types) is to simply write 3-5 pages. Don't stress about them. Don't worry at this point over voice, imagery, vocabulary, etc. Just get something on paper and we'll see what we can do with it.

This is an interesting project. I'll let you know how it works out.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Creative Writing in High School

I (and maybe my students, if I can be so immodest as to say so) are fortunate to have a high school creative writing class. In fact, it's one of the great things about a block schedule that our students have a wide range of electives.

In regular English class we just don't have time for much creative writing. Our jobs as English teachers are to improve student reading/communication skills and to get them ready for whatever college or the world will throw at them. Even as an English major in college the only creative writing I did was in creative writing elective. So, let's face it, while I would love to have time to do short stories and poetry with every simply isn't important enough in a world where our electives/block scheduling also make the classes a bit shorter than they would otherwise be.

Because the English department has limited electives (I am teaching English half the time and Young Adult Lit, Paranormal Lit, or Creative Writing the other half of the time) I will not allow Creative Writing to become a bunny class. I'm determined that students will learn something in there.

On the other hand, I don't want it to be a class that a student can't take for fun. It's a little hard to balance the two. Sigh. It's hard. The other thing is that while many creative writing classes do workshopping type activities, I find these and random weird writing activities somewhat useless. Workshopping is only as good as the collective skill of the class. And in a class with Freshmen through seniors, the skill level is very mixed.

This is the first creative writing class I've had in some time that doesn't want to use any in class work time. I try to build in class work time for students to work on whatever they need to do. Only, they won't use it. So do I do activities/lecture/minilessons/talk for the entire period? I'm unsure. Very unsure.

Tomorrow they are turning in updates on their progress with their independent projects. I am a little afraid of what I am going to learn...who hasn't done anything, etc. A little afraid.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Self Worth

You know, teenagers use a lot of weird things to find value for themselves. And sometimes their values are incredibly illogical. Unlike adults who place value on the proper things...(or maybe I'm being sarcastic). Yeah, okay...this post is really supposed to compare writers to teens and to say that we are all CRAZY.

For teens it's the incrowd, or the crush or the person they most want to admire them. For writers it's the agent, and the editor...or the beta reader, or the critique partner. And once you get past that part, it's the general public...(or the reading public we should say) much like the general population of the public high school they can be harsh with their opinions.

And as writers we keep coming back to these things for validation. Criticism throws us into despair (am I exaggerating? AM I?)

Think about what you'd bargain away to the devil for your first book deal, or for a big book deal, or for a chance at the NYT Bestseller list, or to be prom queen (oh wait, how did that last one get in there?).


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pets In YA (and Life)

Okay, so I just regaled my husband with the tales of all my childhood pets. He's heard them before, but I was just thinking about...dogs. So I talked about Pippin and Brinkly and all the insane German Shepherds in between.

Something I've been thinking about, as my son approaches the age of 8, is the importance of pets for children. And if children have pets, then teens also (unless there has been some sort of tragedy) still have pets.

But, and maybe this is indicative of the books I'm reading rather than what's out there, it seems like it's as likely to find PARENTS in YA as it is to find a pet.

Off the top of my head, I can think of the dog in Skin Deep by E. M. Crane. A great book that everyone should read. And the wonderful Manchee in The Knife of Never Letting Go. And now I'm scanning though the 65 books I've read this year. No pets. Unless werewolves are pets. No? I didn't think so.

It's a weird thing, because I am a cat lover, but I can't really imagine writing a book about a teen with a strong bond to their cat without int sounding...LAME. Still, there's always a cat on my lap when I'm writing.

So, that's something to ponder. As well as, does my kid need a dog? Do my 7 cats need a dog? Probably not. But that doesn't stop me from checking out the dogs at Petsmart and the crying over the stories they post on the crates.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Books I Haven't Read Yet, But Want to Read

So, there are a LOT of books I haven't read. This post isn't about them. It's about books I want to read, but somehow haven't. Books I'm looking at right now, on my heaping to be read stack. And at the same time that I'm staring at that stack, there's a bag of books in the car waiting to be brought in, and an Amazon order waiting for a click...

I've read a few books this year. I don't think I'm going to reach the 100 book goal, but I'm well over halfway there...and considering the amount or writing and parenting and teaching I've been doing with my time, well I'm okay with that.

But there are certain books I just never get around to.

1. The House of The Scorpion- this has been on my shelf for YEARS. I started it this summer and put it down and never got back to it. I know I'll like it, but somehow (maybe reading The Ear, The Arm, and the...Whatever years ago put me off Nancy Farmer forever?) Still, I want to read it, so it's a keeper.

2. Un Lun Dun. Ordered this, want to read it. Never got past the first pages. The Rat King is on my book order list. It's also a keeper, but I suspect it's a summer read?

3. Identical- Signed copy! Actually I think that's why I haven't read it, it isn't in the to be read stack, but on the big shelf. Not to self- read Identical.

4. Shade- I bought this because it seemed pretty dark. I like dark. So far it hasn't grabbed me. Might try again in a few weeks.

5. High Fidelity- I read About A Boy last summer. I LOVE the movie (my husband runs a used music store) so I'm a little afraid I won't like it as much as I want to like it.

6. The Gargoyle- (first book on the list that isn't YA or MG!) This seemed like an awesome premise, but somehow I didn't connect with the main character. I don't know. I should read a little further.

7. Never Let Me Go- I don't think I'll finish this one. I don't know.

Now there are a ton of new books that I want to read, but these guys stay on the shelf, because I know eventually they could be worth the wait.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Things that are the Opposite of what they Should Be.

Well by things that are the Opposite of what they should be, I might mean, paradoxes? Or something like that. I guess what this comes down to, is that I have a kid's illness. I'm miserable, dying, barely out of bed. And I have an ear infection. How can I feel so bad?

Another thing...parents are supposed to be filled with patience and love. I am not filled with patience right now. I am tired and impatient and possibly a little bit cranky.

And another...teens are supposed to be rebellious and avoid all stereotypes and that sort of thing, but the ones I'm working with right now seem perfectly happy to put themselves into neat little categorized boxes.

I have been using my sickly time to catch up on some reading. I'm over halfway through the 100 book challenge (I know, only 2 months left this year) but still, I've read lots of good books, and written one as well!

So, it's November. Election day is over and we are fast approaching Thanksgiving...and after that, the end of the year! I have to put this week of antibiotics and flo-nase behind me, and get some stuff done. (and that really would be surprising, even if it isn't exactly a paradox!)

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