Getting it Done May Mid-Grade Style



Have you been getting your MMGM on? Our fearless mid-grade leader Kara Laughlin has completed her novel – over 20K words in three days! (Major props and woohoo’s, Kara!!) If you’re doing the challenge, don’t forget to check in on the May Mid-Grade Madness Facebook page and let us know when and how it’s progressing.  If you’re still deciding whether to do it, here’s the details. The month isn’t over yet!

I plan to foray into the madness next week, Tuesday-Thursday. Honestly, it’s the worst possible time to do a writing marathon. Between my youngest’s impending graduation, her sister moving back in from college, cleaning the house for family visitors, and horse shows, it is bordering on insanity to attempt this. Why don’t I wait for a better time to write this novel?

Because if I do, I probably won’t ever write it.

We all know there’s never a good time to write. We just have to do it. That’s what’s so great about this challenge – it forces us to get on with it. I know I’m not alone. Most writers have families, jobs, and other demands that can really fracture the time we put into our craft. The most successful ones cope with those demands. Author Sarah Sullivan told us at a previous conference that while working full-time as a lawyer, she would sit down and write from 12am-2am every night. Patricia MacLachlan, Newbery  award winner and author of the classic Sarah, Plain and Tall (among many others) wrote smack in the middle of her living room and playing children. Talk about getting it done!

While prepping for MMGM, I researched different plotting techniques and came across how the late Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton used index cards to develop his stories. Angela Ackerman detailed his method last year in the blog Writers Helping Writers. In a nutshell, while in medical school (talk about multi-tasking), he always kept a stack of index cards with him and whenever a plot point came to mind he’d write it down on a card and throw it into a shoebox. Once it was full, Crichton would dump the cards out and arrange them in the order he wanted to tell that story.

When I read this, I thought “I can do that,” and I have. Every little story idea that I think of gets its own card. I now have a whole stack (decided against the shoebox) and the bones to my mid-grade. I’m definitely keeping this technique for future projects!

What’s your favorite plotting technique? What’s your secret to getting the proverbial butt in the chair? Share your secret to getting it done in the comments below. And if you’re doing MMGM, get over to Facebook!

Happy writing and illustrating!

Posted in May Midgrade Madness, Writing Tips | 4 Comments

Guest Post by Stacy Couch: Spreading the Tweet Love

Happy Friday, everyone! For those readers who pay close attention, you might have noticed how there was no First Friday #SCBWIsocial post last week. After careful consideration, we’ve decided to pull the plug on that venture until September so we can come back with a bolder, better version. Until then, we still have our monthly themes for those who want to submit to As The Eraser Burns!

And we have a lovely social media guest post by Stacy Couch to share today. Enjoy!

Spreading the Tweet Love

The first time I went on Twitter, I didn’t have a clue. But I liked it.

Its very brevity—only 140 characters per Tweet—kept the word count low and the Tweets funny. And I loved reading other writers’ Tweets. Ame Dyckman, a picture book writer, could whip off these quirky little sayings so very her, so very Ame, I connected to her right away. Continue reading

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Activities For Our Region!

Hello, fellow writers and illustrators. There are some wonderful events coming up soon, and I mean REALLY soon:

Tonight, May 12: PAL Meet-up in Ellicott City.

PAL members – what’s on your mind?  Don’t just update your status – drop in and have a refreshing chat at the White Oak Tavern Restaurant, Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, 10030 Baltimore National Pike. If possible, RSVP to PAL Coordinator Kathy Macmillan at  If not, come anyway!

This Saturday, May 16th: The Gaithersburg Book Festival! 

2015logoStop by the SCBWI booth to meet and buy local from a variety of member writers and illustrators.  It’s our first-ever Gaithersburg book booth so please pop by to show your support and pick up a few trade secrets.  The festival features many acclaimed authors, who you can see for free – no admission fee and free parking. For more information, go to their website!


The schedule for our regional authors

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More May Midgrade Madness!

May Mid-Grade MadnessIn yesterday’s post, I shared how the grand prize that will be awarded to one lucky MMM finisher is a free 10-20 page critique with freelance editor Kate Angelella!* Formerly of Simon & Schuster, Kate is an experienced children’s book writer and editor who offers in-depth, honest, and compassionate critiques.

For those not tackling the challenge, Kate is available for freelance editing! Go here for more information.

We are also happy to announce that ALL FINISHERS will receive a free 10 to 20 critique with a PAL member!* A full list of reviewers will be made available once we find out how many challenge finishers we have. But two of them are: Continue reading

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May Midgrade Madness, anyone?

I must admit. I’m still on the fence with this challenge because I have a midgrade to rewrite by June, another midgrade to finish, a young adult I’d like to write by August, a monster to-do list, and a kid getting major surgery soon. Plate full, y’all, real full.

On the other hand … part of me thinks this is just fear, doubt, and resistance talking, those evil little boogers. Plate full of BS, y’all, real BS.

So whatever. I’m in. My challenge dates are May 26 – 28. Lord be with me.

What about you? Have you joined our May Midgrade Madness Facebook group yet? If not, pop on over and let’s get the party started. And remember, for those who complete the challenge, you will receive a free 10-20 page critique by a PAL member.

KateWe will also randomly select a grand prize winner who will receive … dum, dum, dum, DUM … a free, 20-page critique from Kate Angelella, the fabulous freelance editor who spoke at our March conference!

* For those not tackling the challenge, Kate is available for freelance editing! Go here for more information.

So come join us! Don’t let those evil little boogers hold you back. And if you need some last-minute plotting advice, Kara Laughlin has also been posting up a storm on the Facebook page! Some of which I will be sharing here tomorrow.

Stay tuned and best of luck to whose who are participating!


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May Mid-Grade Madness!

Yes, you read that correctly. We are venturing once again into the insanity aptly titled “May Mid-Grade Madness.” This year, the lovely Kara Laughlin has volunteered to oversee our attempt to pen a middle grade novel in what surely has to be record-breaking time. Here is Kara to tell you all the details:

I’m writing this to you from the window of a website called Write or Die (link: , in which a writer writes as fast as they can for the amount of time they specify in order to create writing in bulk. I’m trying it out, you see, because when you’re looking to write twenty thousand words in the course of three days, you need some tools, and I’m doing research.

May Mid-Grade Madness has returned to SCBWI MD/WV/MD, and I’m going to finish this year. I’m determined. I wanted to go back and edit the first sentence of the paragraph to just add determined, but time marches on, and I can tell I’m behind. I have 550 words left of my goal, and only 12 minutes in which to write it.

What’s May Mid-Grade Madness, you ask? Well, it’s a crazy idea developed by Laura Bowers and Susan Mannix in (check here to see what year*) in which writers commit to writing a complete middle grade novel over three consecutive days in May. I’d add the rules here, but I’d have to look them up, and that would take away valuable time from composition. Basically, 20,000 words in three days is the goal.**

Why would anyone do something so crazy? Well, like Tolstoy said (sort of) happy families and sane people are boring, but each crazy person is crazy in her own way. Which is my way of saying, I can’t speak for my fellow MMM participants, but here’s why I want to try: Continue reading

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Don’t Give Up!

I had a fabulous time at the Miller branch of the Howard County Public Library last Sunday, giving a talk about myself and my career and foibles at our region’s Authors Book Club event. For one thing, I rather enjoy talking about myself; I’m rarely shy about blowing my own horn… perhaps the mark of a first-born? Anyway, the event was fun for me and I’m sorry if you missed it.

photo by Kathy MacMillan

photo by Kathy MacMillan

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Posted in Author/Illustrator Events, Member News, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments