Finding the Starting Line with @jenmalonewrites

Let’s play with an analogy today. Let’s equate Kidlit Summer School to running a 10k road race. You’ve signed up, you’re raring to get going. But of course, you won’t just show up on race day—you’ll train to build endurance. Over the upcoming steamy weeks, you’re going to pound pavement (okay, keyboards), learn tricks and tips from the pros for streamlining your techniques, and be cheered on by teammates who’ll help you dig deep for extra motivation when you need it.

And when race day comes, you’ll be cheered on from the sidelines by crowds of supporters. This is gonna be fun!

But wait. Back up just a bit. There’s a step that comes before any sweating begins, and it happens to be my favorite. You get to join the running club, shop for new springy shoes and super cute Lycra running shirts, and pencil in the training times in your calendar. You’re (literally) gearing up, building motivation, and giving yourself tools for success.

In NovelLand, we call this pre-writing… and it’s no less a part of the process than revision or drafting. It’s a time for allowing yourself to get excited and inspired. Your story is nothing but sheer possibility at this point, and you can play with abandon as you become acquainted with your characters and enter the world you’re creating for them.

It’s also a time to go from abstract to concrete, to begin zooming in closer and closer on the race map until, at last, you spot it: the starting line!

Try out any (or all) of these pre-writing activities to keep you energized while you wait for Day 1:

  1. Pinterest boards- create digital bulletin boards that help you get to know your characters (what does she look like, what would he wear, how is her room decorated), or their world (what is the scenery on his planet, how might the castle look or the monsters appear), or even one that simply evokes the mood of the story, to get you into the right frame of mind before a writing session. I’m an Author in Residence at a middle school and here’s an example one my students created when I had them do this assignment (using a similar program called Educlipper): educlipper
  1. Research the time, setting, or subject matter of your story through trips, texts, and personal interviews. I’m co-writing a novel set in the Gilded Age in Newport, RI and my co-author, Kris Asselin, and I spent a day walking the grounds of the mansion we’re using as our backdrop, snapped hundred of photos, and interviewed the caretaker at length. Since returning home, I’ve read a dozen books set in that time period and watched period dramas galore—this is hardly a hardship and I’m picking up the details that will make our descriptions as uber-rich as those high society types were.
  2. Interview your character. it can be a simple five questions or as detailed as an FBI background check, and there are tons of sample sheets online (Google: character worksheets) to get you started. Here’s a fairly basic one I have my students complete:JM image
  1. Make a timeline for your story. For my YA Wanderlost that just released and follows a teen on her own for the first time and charged with leading a senior citizen’s bus tour through Europe, I went to AAA and collected brochures for actual European bus tour itineraries so I could see how much time might be allotted at each location and which routes would be followed. Below is a snippet of the timeline I had open next to me as I wrote my 2017 YA, Changes in Latitudes, which features a girl sailing from Oregon to Mexico. The timeline ended up dictating much of the story, because I needed to know the sailing times and weather conditions between each possible port, so I could figure out where to set pivotal scenes and how to get her into place for those events. The amenities she’d have access to at each port dictated how she’d be dressed and what tasks she’d need to concern herself with at each point in the trip. Had I skipped this step, the revision process would have been intense!TL

 

  1. Draw a map of the story’s world. Even if what you’re writing is less Game of Thrones and more “takes place on one square block in NYC,” maps are incredibly useful tools and they don’t have to be fancy. This is one of my co-author Gail Nall drew for us to use while drafting the You’re Invited series, which was set on the (fictional) teeny-tiny island of Sandpiper Beach in North Carolina:sandpiper beach
  1. Create a playlist of songs that fit your story. I have a friend who blasts them on her drive home from work to get her in the world of the story, so even if you can’t write to music, it can be a helpful tool in your arsenal. This site has collected a series of authors’ playlists to give you some inspiration.
  2. Write your cover blurb. Last year during Kidlit Summer School I talked about how I always start my stories by writing the jacket flap copy.
  3. Send that blurb to friends and ask them to come up with five “what if’s” for twists and turns your story could take. People tend to underestimate how much of the book writing process relies on outside eyes and opinions to push things forward, and pre-writing is a perfect place to begin embracing that idea. You never know what jumping off points they might offer you!

So, while I’ll be cheering you all along the course (although, of course, writing is never a race. Bad Jen for even invoking this analogy!), I’m more excited to see you at the starting line, full of energy (and carbs) and wearing those cute, springy running shoes.

Have a blast gearing up!

Jen MaloneJen Malone writes fun and flirty YA travel romances with HarperCollins and humorous “girl power” MG adventures with Simon & Schuster. Her 2016 titles include The Sleepover (MG) and Wanderlost (YA).  She once spent a year traveling the world solo, met her husband on the highway (literally), and went into labor with her identical twins while on a rock star’s tour bus. These days she saves the drama for her books. You can learn more about Jen and her books at http://www.jenmalonewrites.com. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @jenmalonewrites.

 

*Thanks to Jen for this excellent idea-generating post! Today is the last day to pre-register for KLSS and the pre-registration webinar is Wednesday, June 29. Click on this link for more details.

 

What’s New at School? Free Webinar! More Posts! (+ a #Giveaway!)

badge final 4x4-brighter heartYou know how it goes, every year when school starts back up students want to know what has changed, what’s the same, and who is going to be around. Same thing happens with Kidlit Summer School, right? So we thought we’d fill you in on some exiting changes! For the first time ever, we are offering a week of PRE-Kidlit Summer School posts. For this awesome week of inspiration, five members of our KLSS Faculties from our first two years have volunteered to share their winning strategies for getting into the writing groove. Look for posts NEXT WEEK from Jen Malone, John Claude Bemis, Rebecca Petruck, Kristine Asselin, and Tara Lazar! Their wisdom will pave the way for  you to get psyched and excited about writing. Then we’ll take the week of July fourth off for these great ideas to percolate, and hit the books with enthusiasm on Monday, July 11, the first official day of Kidlit Summer School 2016!

Now … we want you to sit back and pretend you just heard the tell-tale buzz of the loudspeaker followed by the principal’s voice, because we’re about to make a big announcement:

OUR PRE-REGISTRATION WEBINAR with Editors Aimee Friedman and Caroline Abbey has been scheduled for this WEDNESDAY night, June 29 at 9:00 pm EST!

Here is a little information about our fabulous guests:

authorphotoAimee Friedman is an executive editor of middle-grade and YA fiction at Scholastic, where she has worked for fifteen years. Her projects include the New York Times bestselling middle grade series Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski; The Secret Language of Sisters, the YA debut of New York Times bestselling adult author Luanne Rice; and of course The Boy Project and The Boy Problem by acclaimed middle-grade author Kami Kinard. Aimee is also a New York Times bestselling author of novels for young adults; her most recent book is Two Summers (Scholastic/May 2016). She lives and works in New York City. Find out more about Aimee on her website aimeefriedmanbooks.com

 caroline abbeyCaroline Abbey is a Senior Editor at Random House Children’s Books. Her publishing experience also includes serving as Senior Editor at Bloomsbury Children’s Books. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Hamilton College where, over the course of many writing workshops, she discovered she loved editing more than writing.  When not editing, Caroline loves drinking milkshakes and learning random facts about anything and everything. One of her forthcoming projects is a fabulous chapter book series by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.

IF you are pre-registered for KLSS 2016, you will receive an email Sunday, June 26 with a link to a Google form where you can submit questions for Aimee and Caroline to answer. They will answer as many questions as we have time to ask in the hour long session, so if you have a burning question for a fantastic children’s book editor, take advantage of this opportunity! (If you are not pre-registered, click HERE to join the fun.)

Okay, you can put down those hands! We know you have more questions and we’re getting ready to answer them. 😉

You were probably wondering how to watch the webinar, right? Just keep an eye on your email inbox. You will receive a link that will allow the first 200 of you to join us live on Wednesday night. The email with this link should arrive on Wednesday.

What happens if you can’t join us Wednesday night or if you happen to log in after the first 200? No worries! The webinar will be recorded and all pre-registered students will receive a link via email that will allow you to watch the recording at your convenience this summer.

Next question? If you can’t watch the webinar live can you still submit a question? Yes! All pre-registered students will have an opportunity to ask a question.

Did you hear that? It’s the loudspeaker again. Time for another announcement!

This Contest had Ended. A winner will be drawn from all comments left before midnight June 27 and will be announced at the end of Kidlit Summer School. Thanks to all who helped spread the word! 

All you have to do to enter is share a link to this post on any social media platform and leave a comment about where you shared this information. We will draw a winner from the comments.

rotem-jenne-webinar-screenshot-e1437061579759 (2)

Win a free online brainstorming session!

What will the winner receive? A free 30 minute brainstorming session with KLSS Administrators Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Winner will be announced at the end of summer school and will have until September 30, 2016 to schedule the session.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and share the news! See you on Monday!