ELEMENTS OF A MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL


ELEMENTS OF A MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL

Natalie Bright

The following list of elements for middle grade novels was a handout from a writing conference. The name or origin of the information is not on the handout, so apologies that I cannot give credit. It’s a helpful list as you are crafting your story for middle grades, defined as a core audience of 8 to 12 year olds or 3rd through 6th grades.

 

  1. Drama!
  2. Imagination.
  3. Use humor.
  4. Write to the age level.
  5. Make place a character.
  6. Make each word resonate.
  7. Bring history alive.
  8. Mix genres.
  9. Craft prose carefully.
  10. Let joy spill out!
Advertisements

River Valley Writer’s Workshop, Canadian, Texas


River Valley Writer’s Workshop, Canadian, Texas

Natalie Bright

Sponsored by the Canadian Arts Alliance and Texas High Plains Writers, we had a good mix of brand-new newbie writers to multi-published hybrid authors in April. In addition to local writers, I met people from Lubbock, Shamrock, Abilene, and San Antonio. This was the first ever workshop sponsored by the Canadian Arts Alliance.

One of the most interesting talks that really made an impression on me, was by young adult fantasy author, Kathleen Baldwin. She talked about the differences between two writing methods: pantsers vs. plotters.

Pantsers vs. Plotters

If you’ve been writing for a while, these terms are probably familiar to you. In case these terms are new to you, I will clarify the difference.

Plotters plot.Plotters work in a more controlled creative process than pantsers. Some begin with an outline, scene diagram, timeline, or even a lengthy book bible with character profiles and meticulous setting details. Some have visual storyboards with a guideline for which chapters they will work on that day, or a chapter-by-chapter or scene-by-scene outline posted on a wall. They usually know the ending and take their characters on a journey to that point.

Pantsers Wing It.They are in the zone, writing and creating and following their characters where ever they go.  They might begin with a great character or no more than a seed of an idea for a first sentence, or descriptive imagery for a unique setting, and then they’re off. The story takes over and they don’t stop to research or question why, they just keep going to the end with a complete book.

The Secret Life of Pantsers

The session in Canadian was nothing like I had ever heard before regarding the pantser vs. plotter method. Kathleen introduced us to our creative brain. We took an interesting quiz to determine if we lean more towards being a pantser or a plotter. Our personalities have a lot to do with influencing our creative process.

Pantserslove adventure and not knowing where their characters will take them. If they know the ending, they are bored. A pantser plots on the fly, relies on their subconscious creative mind or even on their dreams.

Plotters are brilliant planners who like working from outlines. They rely on the power of conscious creation, and usually like structure and order in their lives.

Studies have shown that there are just as many bestselling authors who are pantsers as plotters.

The main point of her talk is to know your brain. How can you maintain balance in your life? How do you minimize stress? One way is to write at the same time every day because we are wired to respond to habit/repetitive behaviors. When are you the most creative? Your creative mind blossoms when you reward it for brilliance. Give yourself emotional strokes for your creative accomplishments.

Try these Magic tricks for your brain: aim for ten ideas, state the most obvious and then state the opposite of that. For example, If Buffy the Vampire Slayer is walking through a graveyard at midnight she might see: a vampire jumping out and attacking her. The opposite of that might be; a happy clown pops out of the headstone. The second idea is very different, but too weird and doesn’t work for the story. List five or more opposite ideas, but less obvious. What works best? 1) An old lady sits in a rocker, knitting. 2) Buffy’s dead mother floats up singing a ghostly warning. 3)Buffy finds a baby sleeping. 4) Maybe the baby is a toddler, and it looks like Spike. 5) Little vampire Spike is trapped in a time warp, and is crying, lost, alone, hungry. Does this idea make sense for your story, characters and theme?

I have several friends who are pantsers and their stories are amazing. I felt very frustrated when trying to understand their writing method and put it to practice. My day job involves numbers and deadlines, and now I understand that my brain likes that sort of structure. I like having an outline for my story and realized that I don’t feel ready to write until the story has come together in my brain. I usually know the ending. It’s at that point that inspiration strikes and I am able to put words on a page, which is the exact opposite from the pantser method. After taking Kathleen’s quiz I discovered that I exhibit qualities of both processes, which might explain my hyper, squirrel-chasing work habits. I can never settle on one project. There are too many things going on in my head at once.

What about you? What process makes you feel the most creative?

It was a great weekend of inspiration to learn story craft, eat some great food, and meet some awesome creatives. If you ever have the chance to visit the beautiful town of Canadian in the Texas Panhandle, stop in at the Stumbling Goat Saloon for a burger and a beer, or The Cattle Exchange for a steak. So many other great places to dine along with unique boutiques for shopping. A must is The Citadelle Foundation which houses an amazing art collection.

 

Route 66 Factoids


Route 66 Factoids

Natalie Bright 

Our group’s Route 66 Anthology is in the final stages of edits and formatting. I hope you enjoy our stories which are set in different time periods, but have one common location: the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock.

Here are a few Route 66 Factoids that might be of interest.

In February 1927, Cyrus Avery from Tulsa, created the US66 Highway Association and in an extensive marketing campaign the Route was tagged, “Main Street of America.”

A goal of the newly formed US66 Highway Association was to make Route 66 the first fully paved highway in the new U.S. highway system.

The First Annual International-Trans-Continental Foot Race was held to promote Route 66. Beginning in Los Angeles on March 4, 1928, runners followed the 2,500 mile route to Chicago, and then continued on to New York.

The winner of the grueling First Annual International-Trans-Continental Foot Race was 19-year-old Andy Payne, a Cherokee from Foyil, Oklahoma. The 2,500 mile race began March 4, 1928, with Payne crossing the finish line May 26, 1928 and claiming the grand prize of $25,000.

In 1939 John Steinbeck portrayed Route 66 as an escape for desperate people, a road of tragedy and sorrow, in his book THE GRAPES OF WRATH, and coined the phrase “mother road.”

Billboards, colorful magazine advertisements, newspaper articles, travel brochures, and picture postcards promoting businesses and landscapes urged people to vacation on America’s Main Street during the 1940s. The notion of traveling on the highway Route 66 became an adventure and quest.

 

Granting Rights to Your Work


Granting Rights to Your Work

Natalie Bright

One of my nonfiction books gained the attention of a small press, and a standard publishing contract arrived in my inbox. “Excited” hardly describes the feeling of realizing that somebody wants your work. You dare to dream about all of the possibilities for your book and your writing career. And then I read the Rights Granted section.

Keep in mind that each and every one of these rights listed below can be negotiated separately. This is exact verbatim from the contract with some of the legal ease edited out for easier reading.

1. Rights Granted. The author hereby grants, transfers, and assigns to the Publisher for the full term of copyright the exclusive right to publish the Work in hardback and paperback editions and to sell throughout the world in all languages. …all electronic rights to the Work, with exclusive authority to license said rights throughout the world in all languages. …subsidiary rights as specified in paragraph 9.

Paragraph 9. The Author hereby grants, transfers and assigns to the Publisher for the full term of copyright the exclusive right to license, sell, or otherwise dispose of the following rights in the Work in all languages and throughout the world: publication or sale by book clubs; reprint rights; foreign rights; translation rights…; publication in anthologies, compilations, digests, condensations; serial rights … ; dramatic, motion picture, multimedia and televisions rights;  broadcast for radio; recordings; electronic rights …e-books, Kindle, Nook and other … ; audio, mechanical, and visual reproduction; computer programs; microprint, microfiche, and microfilm editions; syndication rights; permission rights (quotations, excerpts, illustrations, etc.); merchandising rights and in any media now known or hereafter created; and otherwise utilize the Work and material based on the Work.

I’m giving up all of this in return for Royalties of Ten Percent of sales. The smarter author works with a trusted literary agent or intellectual property attorney to help with negotiations

There is another option. Keep ALL of your rights, be your own boss, set your own deadlines, and publish as an Indie Author. If you like control of your career and you’re not afraid of learning new things and steering your own ship, self-publishing might be for you. It’s easier now than ever before.

If you live in or near the Amarillo, Texas Panhandle area, I’d like to invite you to an Indie Author Workshop in July. SAVE THE DATE: July 21, 2018. I’ll be moderating a panel of Indie Authors and small press owners to discuss the step-by-step process of self-publishing. Let’s get real. We’ll include the bad and the good, and answer all your questions. Rory C. Keel, one my WordsmithSix critique partners will be on the panel too. Sponsored by Texas High Plains Writers, meeting starts at 10:00 AM, Amarillo (Chase) Tower, 600 South Tyler Street, in downtown Amarillo, Texas. We’ll be on the 9th Floor in the Ed Davis Room.  Bring your questions and be prepared to leave inspired!

 

It’s Called Networking


It’s Called Networking

by Natalie Bright

 

Throughout every industry, professionals network. From skilled surgeons, teachers, CEO’s, clothing designers, coffee shop owners, office managers–you name it. There are working lunches, golf games, and five o’clock happy hour meet- ups. At some point in every one’s career, there will be some type of meeting, workshop, or conference to learn and connect with others. When I worked in human resources, conferences were invaluable. It’s where I learned about the new labor laws and where I found a network of people who worked in the same industry as I did. People I could call on, if I needed information or resources. People who were saavy as to the latest trends or tools that I needed to know to do my job more effectively.

Being a writer is no different.

Writers are No Exception

Creating and publishing books is a business after all, and at some point in your career, you’ll need to leave the creative side and step into the business side of writing. You need to know about social marketing, query letters, proposals, characterization, plotting techniques, formatting, book cover designs, social media, and you need to network with people who understand the business.

Attention: Amarillo Area Writers

If you live in or around the Texas Panhandle or tri-state area, there is a networking group for you.

Texas High Plains Writers, based in Amarillo, is one of the oldest continuous groups in the U.S. Founded in 1920 as Panhandle Pen Women, the group has been supporting and educating writers for almost a century.

As a Board member this year, I can tell you that there are many exciting things on the horizon. 2018 is going to be an awesome year, and you should plan to be a part of it. Go to the website, http://texashighplainswriters.com/ and join for only $30 a year. Hurry, you have until February 1 and then dues are $36.00. We meet every other month on the third Saturday. For the price of a latte you can network with authors who write in every type of genre, and learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this crazy industry.

As the Newsletter Editor, send me an article that might be of interest to the group and I’ll publish it in our eNews. You can sign up THE WINDOW on the far-right side of our Home Page.

Find us on Facebook too, where we already have several events posted for 2018.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1400256840281452/events/

So what have you done for yourself lately to advance your writing career? What have you put back into your business? As a professional writer, one of the best ways to make an investment in YOU is to become active in a writer’s organization.

Network, learn, and keep writing!

 

THPW Youth Writing Contest: Celebrating Young Writers!


THPW Youth Writing Contest: Celebrating Young Writers!

Natalie Bright

Texas High Plains Writers sponsors a youth writing contest every year. Propelled by area English teachers, kids grades 3-12 can submit their work in three categories: short story, memoir, or poetry. I judged short stories for grades 7-8, and as with every year I’ve volunteered, the entries were amazing. The depth of emotion and sophistication of the themes are mind blowing. Awarding a first place is extremely difficult, and possible only after hours of deliberation.

This past Saturday afternoon, we held the awards ceremony. The room was packed with the winners and their families. As I watched kids make their way to the front to accept their medals, I couldn’t help but feel a burst of joy.

One of the hardest things is giving a stranger your very private musings to read. One of the most rewarding things in any writer’s life is recognition. As a kid, no one explained to me that the conversations floating through my brain were normal. Strange places and people that were so vivid in my adolescent mind was not a sign of crazy. These are the things of a writer’s imagination, waiting for us to give them wings on the page.

I remember jamming my freshman college schedule with poetry, English and history courses. My father asked, “Shouldn’t you take more business courses?” In the present rise of the Indie Author, who could have predicted that my reluctant shift to business finance and marketing would serve me so well today.

Young writers are oblivious to the possibilities. We are most likely not the most popular, nor do we excel as class leaders. Often, we watched others from the sidelines, observing and hesitant to join in. Even as children, we had an uncanny eye for details, filing the information away to be used later in our stories. We have a slightly skewed view of things, which is unexplainable to non-writers. As I watched those kids on Saturday, I understood that they see the world so very differently; you know what I’m talking about.

After the awards ceremony, I wanted to tell every parent how talented their kids were, and how important it is to celebrate and encourage that writerly weirdness. Their creativity and imagination is boundless. The experience of walking to the front of a crowded room to accept a writing award will remain with them their whole lives.

I guess the main point of this blog is that one day I’ll be able to read their books. I can hardly wait!

Workshops for Writers: I love talking to kids and adults about the writing process. If you have a group who is interested in a writing workshop, please call my office 806.655.4046.