February 2016 Update

Usually time passes at a reasonable rate for me, but this past month felt like a year! So far, I’ve managed to finish one long and two short projects, and I have a slew of other ideas I’m planning to tackle in the coming weeks. My self-imposed challenge of 2000 words (70,115 in January), 15 minutes of reading, and 15 minutes of editing a day is coming along with gusto (as for reading, I’ve already accomplished 1881/5490 minutes, and that’s just January!). 

My familiarity with short stories extends pretty much to the few that I wrote last year and this year. For years, I had always considered myself a novel writer who dabbled in short stories to kill a plot bunny here and there (or, at least, pen it up for a while). Now, however, I’m finding the appeal of the short story compelling, and several of my plot bunnies are gearing themselves to fit a shorter span.

So far this year, the most trying aspect of my wordsmithing has been my editing. I was clocking speeds like a Bugatti (if it wasn’t turned on and you pushed it from behind), with several solid chapters and more on the way. I even wrote in a previous post I had rectified the primary issue of my story—defining my audience.

The problem: I didn’t.

Yes, I told myself that I was lowering the age level to middle grade. I even tweaked the writing on the chapters to accommodate the change. What I failed to do, however, was to define middle grade. While clicking a few days ago through Writer’s Digest emails concerning their tutorials, I discovered a preview for a course about writing MG fiction. It was only a three-minute glimpse of the class as a whole, but the information it presented gave me the semi-objective realization that I was missing the point entirely.

The problem was still there. I had not focused the story on an audience, not as a whole. All I had done was hide the real problem beneath a layer of icing. I tweaked a few words, lowered the age of the characters, and even elected to leave out or add plot elements as appropriate. Even then, however, it lacked the elements that make up successful (and by successful I mean enjoyed, not necessarily bestselling) MG fantasy. There was little adventure. There was some slapstick silliness, but the humor was generally of a wittier form (not that kids can’t grasp this, but I feel like it needs to be interwoven with less subtle forms of humor), and the plot still relied on politics. It hugely relied on politics, and I mean more the country-to-country and not necessarily the person-to-person kind. My thematic approach was still at too mature a level.

So I had a “talk” with myself (essentially I wrote myself a long letter) detailing the reasons why my current expression of the idea will not work and laying out my alternatives. I’m still trying to decide which of the two I prefer: middle grade or young adult. The story, properly developed, could work for either.

Now I’m working on “outlining”—it’s really an idea cloud—both versions. The young adult version of the story is more compelling to me, but then I’m closer to that age and always enjoy a rollicking dramedy crammed with complications like traffic on LA’s freeway. The mid-grade version of the story, however, could be dashing and fun, and wouldn’t involve nearly the same amount of work when it comes to juggling plot and subplots (its very simplicity, however, might make it more difficult to write).

Congratulations if you read through what just amounted to thinking out loud, but this is representative of what haunts my mind o’nights and days. You might have already guessed that I’m a perfectionist, though I know that at some point I must relinquish my imperfect work to the review of other eyes. Still, I strive to make it the best it can be before sharing it.

I hope everyone else is tapping along well at their keyboards!

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