A ‘Novel’ Writing Class – A Day in the Life!


Many of you have noticed {I HOPE you’ve missed me!} that I’ve been absent in the past few weeks. I’m teaching a writing class to young adults entitled:

A ‘Novel’ Writing Class

In this class, we use the NaNoWriMo model of writing in a month to accomplish for ourselves the satisfaction and success Novel Writing can bring!

To make the process better for the students, and help me to help them better, I also commit to writing a novel during their novel writing month. My students are writing during the month of May. We pre-planned and practiced freewriting, dismissing all our Inner Editor had to throw at us, so we are able to write with WILD ABANDON during the month of May 2016.

I encouraged all my writers to try to write at least 10,000 words for the month, which is the equivalent of writing 500 words per day, Monday through Friday, for the first four full weeks of May. Of course, writers can write more or less, and have extra days at the end of the month, but when writing for NaNoWriMo, you need to have a plan. To write so much for an emerging writer can be daunting; to see the success of your hard work is empowering!

To that end, I’ll not be able to teach this week – which I’m sorry to miss, both for the students and myself – so I gave them a soft lesson they can easily absorb this week.


This is the lesson I sent them via email:

Week 6 Lesson: 5 W’s and an H
A lesson? Yes! Even though we are not meeting in person, I chose this easy lesson for this week I’m unavailable to teach. I say easy, but what I really mean — it’s easy to convey the idea, but being able to discuss it together could help spur others in the group.

What are the 5 W’s and an H? Simply put, these are the questions a journalist will ask. Have you ever read or watched an investigative reporter? Many questions are asked and revealed, but as a reader or consumer of information, it’s important to know:

Who is it? Who is involved?
What happened? Details, Details, Details…
When did it happen? Time of day, day of week, historical or future?
Where did it happen? At home, school, spaceship, Narnia, Hogwarts?
Why did it happen? This is where you can leave your readers on edge — inciting action may be forthcoming in the leading up to your conflict or revealed later (think of our plot rollercoaster, some facts or reasons may be revealed after the climax or conflict).
& How did it happen? In excruciating detail if you like (remember, details add to your word count!), but if you leave out this critical step, your readers will be lost and may *GASP* choose not to be engaged in your story. Perish the thought!

These interrogatives allow reporters to gather facts and build their stories based on factual information gathering. Facts, not IRL, but in your story – to your story characters – real life is imperative to moving your story forward.

But you’re thinking: I’m not a reporter – there’s no reporting in my story. Au contraire, my friend! In telling your story, your voracious readers will want to know the answers to these questions — and of course many details — as we discussed last week. If it helps, always draw a picture, construct an aside {think of those information boxes in nonfiction books that will provide more information on a subject}. Since we’re focusing on adding word count with wild abandon, and not erasing, you may find boxing off a page or two can help you contain an area of your work to explain the story, but aren’t sure where it fits in. This is the brilliant part of writing without editing — you’ll figure out if you need it, or even if it’s worked in differently, as you write this month. If it needs to be added and finessed later, you do that in June — NOT in May! Yay! What a load off our collective shoulders. Just continue writing, continue letting the story unfold!

If you choose to meet, you could give the 5 W’s and an H a try while you’re gathering. Remember the Golden Rule when you meet with your fellow writers, whether I’m there to guide or not: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you — or in the words of Rufus of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures: Be excellent to each other. Your writing group is your team in the trenches and respect is key for not only being heard, but hearing.


{Link: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure — I hope this works! Quick search did not reveal a .gif !}

George Carlin played Rufus as the guide for the young men {one of which is played by Keanu Reeves, whom we just re-watched in The Matrix — one of my favorite all-time films!}; ending each encounter with, “Be excellent to each other…and Party On, Dudes!” – obviously, I left off the last portion of the quote, because ‘Party On’ is so Waynes World (another of my 1990’s addictions!)!

And, since I’m unraveling my digression into my 1990’s history {History Lessons, as seen in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure can now be expanded to include early 1990’s culture} — did you see Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live this weekend — reprising his role of the Church Lady in Church Chat?!? I was shocked to see him, and while I wasn’t crazy about the message as it panders to the divisiveness of this Presidential Election cycle {why can’t we all just get along? Oh yeah, I remember….}, it was great to see him reprise a role that took me back to the laughter of my youth.

Where was I?

Oh yes, so I’ve been busy — I’m not editing, as you can see, so my monkey mind is running rampant. But that’s good! It all adds to my word count — removing the Inner Editor, getting the words on the page, remembering to tell my story boldly, in my words, with my voice.

Goals? Oh yes, having something to shoot for is always better than open-ended, non-goal oriented flights-of-fancy. My goal is 50,000 words this month, while my students goals range from 3,000-30,000 words. For some, this is the first big writing they’ve ever attempted to accomplish – for others this is their second, third, or more. We base our success on ourselves, not in competition, but in harmony with others success. The famous adage, “If you shoot at nothing, you’re sure to hit it every time” is never more true with writers. It forces us to give details {our lesson last week!} that make our stories more rich, textured, and believable.

As I tell my children, and my students, we all have stories within us. Telling our stories, and the stories of others, becomes a calling for some of us. Whether we’re ever published or not, whether anyone ever reads our stories, is irrelevant. The satisfaction with our successes must come from within – this is how we make our mark on the world, by choosing to be true to ourselves!

Write On, Writers!

Do you ever get back to basics? What’s your 2 minute writing pitch?

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