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:

Going fast is a great way to write what is most important. It is so easy to get involved in a scene. Say you have a butterfly fly over, and then you wonder to yourself, “Are sulfur butterflies even around in Thailand in February?” Then you think. Wait, Thailand IS in the Northern hemisphere, right? AND then you’re off to research Thailand and butterflies, and you’ve totally left the flow of your scene. You know when this happens to me the most? When I’m in the middle of a scene that I don’t think is working well, so I do whatever I can to not do what I need to, which is to power through the scene and move on with my manuscript.

(FYI, I have 5 minutes and 280 words left, so I’m feeling a little pressure here)

For me, I can get so caught up in perfectionism, that I abandon a manuscript before I even get momentum. Or I might talk myself out of a premise before I even really know if it could work–because I haven’t written enough to find out.

But when you’re writing for speed, you have to ignore the typos, and the lack of logic, (edited to add: and, most important, your critical voice). What that buys you, at the end of your time, is a complete manuscript–or at least enough of one that you know whether or not it could work. AND you’ve only invested (in the case of MM) three days of your writing life in order to do it! (Or, in the case of this blog post, 15 minutes.) I should go back and spell out fifteen there, but ACK, I have less than two minutes and more than 100 words left!

So what do you say? Do you have a book inside you that you just haven’t had the chance to get down on paper? Could you use a three-day sabbatical from your current project? DO you just want bragging rights so that you can show people that writers can be badass too? Then join us on the Facebook page ( ) and pick your three days.

Even if you don’t make your goal (Write or Die is showing that I have -45 sec and 33 words left), I bet you’ll get a lot closer than you thought you could. And at the end you’ll have a new novel to edit. (Plus, we have some fabulous prizes!) I hope you’ll join the madness.

* The first May Mid-Grade Madness was in 2012. Here’s a link to that announcement:

** Here are the full rules for May Mid-Grade Madness:

1.      Enter by joining our Facebook page:

2.      You have 72 consecutive hours to complete 20,000 words on a Middle Grade novel.

3. You can pick any three consecutive days in May, but you have to go public. Announce your start on the Facebook group.

4. We’re flexible: say you finish your book at … 18,000 words, you can make up the 2,000 words by writing something else, like a blog post, short story, a new manuscript, or 2000 words of notes on your first thoughts for revision.

If you get to 20,000 words and realize that you’ve got something more epic than you originally thought, we’ll call that a win as well. (Sometimes you think you’re writing Tuck Everlasting and you end up with The Lightening Thief. It happens.)

5. You can do all the plotting and planning you want ahead of time. We’re sharing different tools and tips on the Facebook page to help with that.

6.     When you have won the challenge, post a screenshot of your word count to our Facebook page and bask in the glory and praise. The grand prize is a 20-page critique by Kate Angelella—the winner to be drawn from all those who finish the challenge. All other challenge finishers will get up to a 20-page critique by a regional PAL or Sweet 16 debut author TBD.


About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Contest Guidelines, May Midgrade Madness. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to May Mid-Grade Madness!

  1. carolinebock says:

    What a terrific—and scary idea—especially for a writer contemplating a middle grade novel (gulp) like me!!

  2. Pingback: May Midgrade Madness, anyone? | As the Eraser Burns

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