Finally I am getting back into my middle grade work-in-progress. This was one of those times that putting my butt in the chair and getting to work just wasn’t leading to progress. I was flailing around and just couldn’t figure out why.
Fortunately, I did the right thing and reached out, discussing the book with my son. Sometimes reaching out can solve your writing problems.
Finding the Right Beginning
Beginnings can be especially difficult to create. Start the story in the wrong spot and it can be hard to get things moving. It isn’t working and you power your way through only to show it to someone else and have them point out the problem. “Your story really starts on page 55.”
As horrible as it is to realize that you’ve typed up 54 pages of back matter, it is great to have someone else point out what is wrong with your beginning. Often we writers start our stories way too early but it takes someone else to point out why the beginning fails to hook the reader. But this wasn’t my problem, at least not this time.
Something about my plot just wasn’t working. I’m pretty sure I started the book in the right place. People have responded really well to my opening chapter. But when I try to get into the plot . . . everything comes to a halt.
When I discussed it with my son, I realized that he is very like both my main character and her older brother. Like my main character, my son is all about science. Like the brother, he’s an athlete and a scout. My son looked my characters over and shook his head. “You reversed their motivations. No wonder it isn’t working.”
No wonder indeed but this wasn’t the only time I needed someone’s help today.
Knowledge and Experience
Tonight I attended a workshop on chapter books and early readers. The speaker was Saadia Faruqi who writes picture books through middle grade.
As she discussed chapter books, she pointed out that they tend to be fun. The plots aren’t life or death or divorce.
Well, snot. That’s probably one reason that I can’t interest anyone in my chapter book. Not only are they notoriously hard to sell, it is to serious for a chapter book. Now I know I should rework it as an early middle grade book. Stand alones and serious topics are okay for middle graders.
Last but not least, another reason to reach out to your fellow writers is for support. They may not be able to help you find the right beginning, sort out a character problem, or point out why your story hasn’t sold.
But they can still be the support system that you need to keep writing until, instead of a no, thank you, an editor responds with a YES.