It didn't take me long to realize I had no idea what I was doing, so I started reading up on the subject. And not long after that, I realized that reading about writing a novel was helpful, but not sufficient to turn me into a novelist. Maybe it works for some people, but I could tell I was going to need a more intensive approach.
So, I signed up for a Stanford Continuing Studies novel writing class, called Young Adult Novel Writing: Creating your own world. It sounded perfect, given that my novel is for and about kids, and part of it takes place in an alternate world that my character, Sam, slips into by mistake.
Learning something new and taking a class fit very nicely into my sabbatical Spring plan to "run experiments." So, I took a deep breath and signed up.
The experiment: Lets find out if I can write, and if I enjoy it enough to really give it a go.
The results: I found out that I can write, and that I really enjoy it. However. The jury is still out on whether what I write will be any good, and the jury is also out on whether I have it in me to finish what I started writing. Because it's hard work. Enjoyable work for the most part, but really really hard.
Here are a few thoughts on my experience of the class:
I loved having the structure and weekly accountability of assignments and due dates, and having classmates counting on me to produce work and to provide feedback on their work. I've known this about myself for a long time, but proved it yet again: structure really helps me make progress.
I loved having specific writing assignments each week, related to my novel. Those short assignments helped to get me moving and put onto paper some of the ideas in my head. And the feedback was priceless. Getting outside eyes on my writing was incredibly helpful and encouraging.
I loved finding out that several of my online classmates live within minutes of my house. I've since met some of them in person and have plans to meet regularly. They are interesting, intelligent and fascinating people I can't wait to get to know better. Finding a tribe and doing it together makes it so much better.
I loved the craft book we used in the course, Mary Kole's Writing Irresistible Kidlit. It was overflowing with incredible advice. If I can actually write something that meets the criteria she carefully lays out, it will no doubt be an awesome book (and something of a miracle.) I love that I can return to this book over and over again for guidance.
I loved the instructor, Stacey Swann, who set a positive and encouraging tone and was highly engaged and responsive throughout the 10 week class. Learning from a teacher who can make the material come to life is such a treat.
The class drew to an end last week, and I was sad to say goodbye. I am proud of the progress I made. I have written a synopsis, three chapters and lots of notes and miscellaneous little scenes. But I am daunted also by what lies ahead. There are still a lot of gaps and questions about how my plot and characters will progress. Answering those questions and filling those gaps will take a lot of time and a lot of determination and dedication. My gut tells me it's worth sticking it out, to see what I can create. I might have to be patient with myself, as I don't think it will happen quickly, at least not this summer. But I think it can happen. I want it to happen. So, stick around, as I'll be posting here as I go along.
Now, back to Sam... who was eating banana pancakes with her Aunt, the last time I saw her...