“One of Life’s Essay Questions”

I am furiously set in learning from this course “How to Write Amazing Children’s Stories” by Alison Mott and I have until the end of tonight to absorb (or write down, really) all that I can before the course expires.

As the lofty course-title suggests, it’s about learning to write for kids, all of the poor woman’s advice is desperately needed. The “Justin and Nate story” (untitled) is more or less the product of the exercises I’ve had to do for the course. I debated whether or not to start publishing it all until the whole thing was finished, but I like the idea of watching it change as I (am forced to) edit it. (As per the rules of the course.)

The course raises a few concerns that I never thought about – perhaps the most pressing being that I need to stop writing about people I know. It lessens my creativity when thinking of characters, the real people become their own crutch and their “little details” stop me from bringing new things to life. It makes sense, even though I love the people I know, it’s time to leave them alone and bring in some new people to torture.

Language is an issue, too, and I have to choose the audience that I want to aim for, since there’s a lot of mental developmental difference between even ages 6-8. The good news is, it means I can have simpler stories… or learn to tell them in a more profoundly simple way.

And the endings. For some weird reason, even as a reader, I’ve never paid them much attention. It’s really only been through my recent immersion into movies that I’ve started to look at them critically, and sadly, the ending is the most important part! So, much attention must be paid there.

Despite all my learning to organize, there’s still a few things I’ve forgotten to do… finish these lessons at the top of that list. And learn their principles. It’s teaching “the formula,” aka “the equation,” for success…! Very valuable info!

And it’s more the structure that I need to know. Specifically for a 3-Act nightmare (read: “play”), action, action, action. That’s what kids want and it makes sense. I guess I sat still for exposition when I was wee-reader because I was already reading adult books and I needed the context.

Plus, it’s, you know, eighty years later and tastes have changed, especially among the very young.

So what’s that mean for my own story? Well, I’m glad that I’m learning that every author feels their work stinks, especially in the rough draft form. Reassuring, it can be fixed “in post.” Getting to that part is the hardest thing… up until then.

Ah, and soon I’ll have to answer my own questions about why I think my work sucks. Is it the characters? The dialogue? It’s not the story I envisioned. How did I tangent off so well? What do I need and what do I need to lose? The “Justin and Nate” thing is the piece to practice on so I can keep my sanity, but also the want to work on “The Cat!”

I mentioned before, what seems like ages ago, that I had made it farther in that story than I ever thought I would, got the whole family up to OH. I’ve typed out that “chapter’s” outline, I do have to admit that I need to be way more detailed in those, including outlining dialogue. Oh, and the simplicity. Those thousands of pages of description aren’t useless per se, but they don’t all belong in the story.

So, some good news. If I start to turn my thinking around and actually learning what I’m learning, it’ll never be easier to finish this damn thing. I just need to settle down, get all the stuff out of my head and maybe even give my characters some new names.

If I start distancing myself from them, even that little bit, it’ll be easier to cut their lives (descriptively) in half. And that might make room for some of the stuff that I want to put in, actual story for one.

Ah, it’s not so bad, but there really was a crushing period there. I fell as far down as I was up when I was at my highest peak. And learning saved me. Is saving me!

-j.

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