It's worse than a nightmare: a girl's best friend is kidnapped and she had no idea why. The police are spinning their wheels, getting nowhere. Then the unthinkable happens -- her parents are kidnapped, too! The 12-year-old protagonist of this crime drama must take things into her own hands and do the dangerous work the police seem unwilling to.
The emotional tension of this novel is pretty high, given that the protagonist is worried sick about her missing friend and parents, and must care for her 6-year-old siblings AND solve the crime. She faces difficult decisions, must decide who to trust, and puts her own life in danger to save those she loves.
She proves she's up to the task, however, and makes a rescue attempt based on her wit, daring, and strength. But don't expect a happily-ever-after ending . . . a surprise twist at the end will have you gasping with disbelief!
Young writers -- maybe all writers -- love to write about their fears. As authors, we get to explore fears other than our own, which is a nice change of pace, or explore our own under the cover of a protagonist.
Today's novel is the story of a young woman who fears water. She has good reason, too: her parents were killed in a boating accident when she was just a child. When her adopted family moves to a house near the beach, she feels severely threatened and anxious.
The story contains other fears, as well. There is the lingering fear of abandonment, there's the fear of not belonging, of families being separated either by divorce or circumstance, the fear of being lost, of wild animals, and of being trapped in a world not your own. In the end, the protagonist faces her fears one by one, growing in confidence with each success. When facing her fear of water is her only hope of getting home, she's as emotionally prepared as possible, bolstered by the great strength of family and friendship.
I just love that writing gives us all a safe place to explore fear. We're surrounded by the possibility of fear all the time; how wonderful that, as writers, we can use our characters to practice facing our fears and being brave!
Some kids are just born funny. I don't mean the ones who think they're funny and they're really just annoying . . . I mean the kids who actually understand timing, irony, and sarcasm. Today's novel was written by one of those kids.
This novel is the second in a series (the first was published last year). The story is about a family of treasure-hunters, and the narrator/protagonist is the youngest son. It's got something of an Indiana Jones feel to it, family-style, with gangs of bad guys and a multi-talented team of good guys.
The humor is evident from Chapter 1, where the protagonist accepts a dare to jump his skateboard over the principal's hot rod. (Spoiler: it doesn't end well.) The author is really quite a master of dialogue, and so the exchanges between characters are often hilarious. He adds just enough detail about facial expression, hand motions, and that sort of thing to help us feel and see the humor. Conversations are funny; situations are funny; the kid-logic is funny; even the villains are funny in their ineptitude.
The author of this novel had a great deal of fun writing his story, and he managed to enjoy himself somewhat through the initial editing process. When I asked him to go back one more time and fix some punctuation problems and gaps in the plot, his humor momentarily left him. He might be burned out from the revision process, but the book he has written is a great success!
Maybe it's because NaNoWriMo begins the day after Halloween; whatever the reason, today's novel brings together Halloweeny elements from every spooky book you've ever read.
The protagonist is shown early on to be kind of kick-butt and fearless, which is good, because she faces some pretty bad monsters: a witch, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, spiders, and a giant python. There's a haunted house, a creepy swamp, and a cemetery that transports her between worlds. Her mission is to fulfill her family's curse to rule the underworld, either by uniting the creatures or by going to war with them -- all before a rival queen takes the throne for herself. Oh -- and that rival queen? She used to be the protag's best friend!
What I loved about editing this novel was the process of working with the author. This is her first time doing NaNoWriMo and when she gave me her first draft she was SO nervous! What if I didn't like it? What if the story was dumb? What if she embarrassed herself with spelling and grammar mistakes? Sound familiar? Most of us have experienced the same sort of self-doubt -- me included!
But this story is AWESOME. I loved it. It wasn't dumb. Yes, there were spelling mistakes and lots of things to revise. But that's what the editing process is for! I'm so very, very proud of this author for finishing her story, and then spending time rethinking, re-visioning, and rewriting. She proved herself to be pretty kick-butt and fearless herself!
I think most people agree that "Write What You Know" has evolved into "Write What You Feel," or "Write What You're Passionate About," and today's novel is a perfect example.
What would a 12-year-old self-described fashionista be passionate about? How about hair, clothes, fashion, and girlfriends? The protagonist in this story is lifted away from her everyday existence by a flying horse. She and her best friend are delivered to a school of magic where their dorm room includes a swimming pool, a fully-stocked walk-in closet, beauty supplies, and pet bunnies. The girls discover they have secret magical powers, which are put to the test when a bitter antagonist kidnaps one and throws her in his dungeon. In the end, friendship and self-sacrifice win over all the negativity the bad guy can throw at them.
I loved reading this story, because pre-teen concepts of magic, friendship, and fantasy are so sweetly combined. Innocence and goodness prevail, and the whole thing just made me happy.
Today's novel is a study in conflict. Remember that idea that we authors are supposed to make things bad for our protagonist, and then make things WORSE? The novel I'm reading does just that.
The story is set in an unidentified rainforest, where a 12-year-old girl has been living alone since her dad died. Out of the blue one day, another girl and her father arrive, and the two girls become best friends.
I'm only a third of the way through, but here's a partial list of the trouble my student author has thrown in the path of her adventurous protag:
1. The best friend has to go home;
2. The car breaks down;
3. She loses her prized telescope;
4. A killer tiger threatens them;
5. She falls from a cliff to almost certain death;
6. The forest burns down; and
7. When the protag is caught in the inferno, something terrible happens that I'm not even going to tell you here . . .
You'll have to read the book to find out! Remember, conflict and tension keep a reader turning the pages.
For many weeks now, I've been saying I'm too busy editing novels to post blogs or keep up on Facebook. But I've thought of a solution: For the next 20 days, I'll post just a little about each of the student novels I'm reading.
For the sake of my students' privacy and intellectual property rights, I won't give too many details. But the truth is that I learn so much as I read and edit these wonderful stories, I really want to share a little of the process.
The novel I'm reading today is set under the sea. The protagonist and his best friend are young sharks who have set off on a quest that could change their lives. The antagonist is a two-faced orca whale with sinister plans of his own, and the conflict of the story includes out-smarting the orcas as well as completing the quest. It's filled with subtle messages about friendship, respecting elders, showing compassion for outsiders, standing up for what you believe in, and holding on to your dreams.
The author of the story is an 8th-grader, and this is her third NaNoWriMo project. What I'm so impressed with is her growth as a writer. Her technical skills have improved dramatically, and her sense of story and dialogue has matured. More than once I've read a complex sentence that she wouldn't have attempted two years ago, and wouldn't have punctuated correctly last year, but this year it pops off the page as a sophisticated accomplishment!
Yikes! Has it really been 10 days since my last post? It seems that the time has flown. But the good news is that I'm on track with my novel (20,123 words to date) and I've posted Tips each day of November on my facebook page. (Wanna see it? Search for "My Own Magic, by Kim Votry.")
My lowest point so far came yesterday, Sunday, Day 11. I finally got the cold that the rest of the world seems to have, and was feeling tired and worn out, and I just wanted a DAY OFF from writing! And then, somehow, during the Seahawks game, I managed to hammer out just enough to keep me on course. Today, with a little more energy but not much, I managed to do 2,000 words.
I keep hoping I'll somehow put together just the right magical day where I can sit and EASILY compose 8,000 words, but that magical day never seems to happen. There's work, and family, and laundry and grocery shopping. If you're a student, there's math, history, public speaking, science . . . plus sports, plus chores. And we need to take a break once in a while, too, right? Writers are inspired by the plots and characters in movies and books, so watching and reading is actually GOOD for us. :)
I have purposely planned for simple meals this month, knowing that late afternoons are prime time for me to get writing done. As I was putting frozen Orange Chicken and Tofu Edamame Nuggets on a tray for baking just now, it occurred to me to be grateful -- very, very grateful -- for whoever is making your writing time a little easier. For me, it's Trader Joe's for selling easy, healthy food, my daughter for being my writing buddy, my husband for the occasional neck-and-shoulder rub, and my son, who does the dishes each night. And of course, all my NaNo writing buddies, whose progress I watch with pride and envy!
So please remember to thank someone who helped you reach your goal today. Don't just say, "Thanks for dinner." Say it with meaning, and really explain what that dinner means to you: "Thank you for making dinner for me tonight (mom, dad, grandparent, babysitter, sibling, etc.). Your thoughtful attention to my health and well-being means that I can devote myself to my writing, and grow as an artist. I appreciate your help!"
And while they're smiling and telling everyone how wonderful you are, see if they'll let you put off cleaning up your room until December. :)
Happy writing, Wrimos!
It may sound like I've been procrastinating: grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, posting FB updates . . . but I'm really just getting everything in order so I can disappear into my writing for big chunks of time. REALLY. Scout's Honor.
HAPPY NaNoWriMo EVERYONE!! Its November 1st, and that means fingers on the keyboard, pen to paper. If you haven't done so yet, visit the NaNo
website, sign up, and watch the "What Species of Wrimo Are You?" video. Very fun!! Or go to the Young Writers Program
website and read the pep talk by Lois Lowry. She wrote "The Giver" and other amazing novels. Have you read her?
I've got my first 1,000 words done . . . how about you? Have you started?