Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Going BIG

I'm having trouble lately focusing on what I want to write on the blog, and thus, end up writing nothing. I think it's a sign the book is going well, too, that I'd rather work on that than be on here. I hope you can bear with my randomness, in topic and posting!

Last night I took my son to his future middle school. I'm still trying to get over the idea that in a few months I will have a child in middle school, but that aside, I have to say the open house was exciting. Everything is BIG. The gym is BIG. The science labs are BIG. The halls are BIG. The classrooms feel all grown up.

And the library... Wow! Maybe not bigger, but more mature, for sure. Gorgeous. The kind of place I'd love to sneak off to and spend my entire day.

I poked around the shelves and was surprised to see that Clive Cussler and Mary Higgins Clark were propped up beside more traditional middle school fare, and that raised my traditional conservative eyebrows a bit. Not that there's anything wrong with those books, but in middle school? Are kids growing up that fast these days? Aren't there enough awesome MG and YA books to fill that room without adding adult books as well?

I'm not going to be protesting or anything, I'm just saying...

I found the place on the shelves where Jen and Kerri, my MG/YA critique group partners will be someday - hopefully soon. It's a nice location. They'd be proud. :)

It made me remember why I'd wanted to write YA when I started writing. There is an energy about it that isn't there in adult lit. Especially watching the rising sixth graders all excited about the library, wandering around, pulling out books, pointing and giggling and giving each other high fives and looking all wide-eyed at this new world they get to be a part of so soon.

There's an energy about that age - a positivity - a hope that you can still change the world any way you want to. You can make a difference. You can be anything you want. The world is wide open, and it's yours to grab. And there is still so much new to see, so much that is fascinating and crazy and weird and amazing. It reminds me why I loved teaching that age.

I won't be going back to try my hand at writing for YA again. I don't think that's my gift. But I want to capture that energy and motivation and excitement and bottle it up for days that are hard. I want to think bigger when I write. Maybe that's my struggle. My books are too small. Not in size, but in concept. I need bigger character (well, maybe not bigger than Babs...). I need bigger plots. I need a bigger imagination.

Maybe I'll just try hanging out with my son a bit more. He's got a big enough one for both of us!

For now, I'm going to try to work harder at the planning part of writing - the imagining part. I'm going to take each idea and see if it can be ratcheted up more. Can I make the stakes higher? Can I make the characters bigger? Can I make the conflict harsher? Can I make the story move faster?

I'm a plodder, I admit. And I'm reading a book now that is plodding, and it's driving me crazy. I keep thinking, "Where is this going? Isn't anything happening here? Am I missing something?" And I'm reading less and less each night, going to sleep earlier and earlier. And I don't want that to be my book. I want to be the one someone can't put down, even if it's two in the morning and they know they have to get up early.

So it's time to focus more, and let my imagination out of it's tiny cage. It time to GO BIG!


  1. Heidi, I think these ideas are important for all of us. That's why just letting yourself go--letting the imagination run rampant--is so important. We can always go back to the manuscript and weed it down later but that first creative burst of energy is critical and we have to let it have it's way.

    I loved your insights into this grade level. I am going to write down the name of this post because I know I'll want to come back to it again and again. Thanks for it!

  2. Marsh - I think you're ideas are always BIG. I think you are over-the-top creative (and I mean that in the best possible way!!).

    I feel very small in my creativity most of the time. What comes out is never BIG. The BIG stuff has to be planned and created out of sweat and tears. I don't know if it's because my life is small, or ordinary, or because my mind is just wired that way.

    Middle school age is great. I love those kids. I'm excited for the next phase of life for our family as our kids begin moving into it. But sad, of course, to leave behind the childhoods. It all happens too fast.

  3. My oldest is heading to highschool next year. YIKES. I agree with your GO BIG philosophy. My first draft was drab and dull then someone told me to try and make something happen in every chapter so that's what I did, even if it was something little.

  4. Well I don't know... what I like about your writing is that you get into the small stuff and examine it and give it the attention it needs. You are the macro lens.

    I have a small life and a big imagination too.

    If by BIG you mean IMPACT then yes, go for it. I have a feeling you're getting it.

    (and for what it's worth, I'd be raising my eyebrows too at some of the books you saw. Nothing against them, but... yeah. So many good ones for that age level, why push it? I read a lot of books at that age that were too old for me, but I'd outgrown kid books and then what?)

    Also... I wanted to write YA. I think the one I did could get by there, but what if it's the only one like it???

  5. Patti - I like that concept: make something happen in every chapter. I'll try to look at my writing through that lens now.

    Heidi - you make me blush. Yes, I really am a macro writer, aren't I? I love that analogy, it being so photographic and all. :)

    I think the hardest thing about not having an agent at this point for both of us is not knowing now which direction to go. Having that one book being picked up is like branding - an agent saying, "This is what you write!" Without that, we could be anything - YA, thriller, literary, Christian.