May the 4th be with you and happy Wednesday! Our apologies for not posting this sooner due to scheduling confusion, but for those who have participated in May Midgrade Madness before … or those who’d like to … YES, we are still on for 2016! (To compensate for the delay, if you need a few extra days for this challenge, go ahead and take them.)
Here’s the full scoop from our May Midgrade Madness coordinator, Kara Laughlin:
For Mother’s Day last year, I wrote a novel. I started on Friday night, and I was finished before the kids came home from school on Monday. Granted, it was a short novel—twenty-some thousand words—and it was a VERY rough draft. Nobody but my critique group has seen it, and I only showed them the first twenty pages. But it was a book idea I’d been sitting on for two years, and now I’ve started it. I’ve more than started it. I have a complete first draft. And it was worth every sleep-deprived, wrist-punishing minute.
And it all happened because of May Mid-Grade Madness 2015, in which a small but valiant group of writers dedicated any three days in May to writing a fast and complete first draft of a middle grade novel. If the idea of writing a novel in a weekend sounds impossible to you, that’s probably because you are a sane, reasonable human being with Things Going On. But, I have great news for you! For May Mid-Grade Madness 2016, we’re giving you a whole extra day to get in your word count. That’s right, we’ve bumped up the writing time from seventy-two to ninety-six hours. That’s a mere five thousand words a day. Piece of cake.
So in honor of those four (count ’em, four!) leisurely writing days, I have four reasons to participate in May Mid-Grade Madness, followed by four tips for having a successful, if frenzied, experience:
1. Discover new approaches to drafting. Maybe you’re a pantser. You don’t like outlining. You like to develop your characters and see where they take you. Use your four days to experience on the plotter side of the fence. (Or vice versa.) Writing a fast draft can help you bust out of your habits and discover new approaches. It’s also a great way to turn off your internal editor because, frankly, you don’t have time to listen to naysayers—you have a novel to write.
2. Learn a lot about structure, fast. Fast drafting is a great way to see your novel’s overall structure from the start. When you’re writing the whole thing in four days, all the threads you opened up in chapter one are still fresh in your memory as you write the climax on day four.
3. Get back into your writing groove. Maybe your day job has been taking a lot out of you. Maybe you dropped your writing schedule with the busyness of the holidays and you never quite got back to it. Four days of writing in every spare moment can be a great way to get your mojo back. You might even discover a new routine that really gets your juices flowing.
4. Get it down while it’s fresh. Maybe you’ve got a project that’s going really well, but you have this other idea that you’d like to work on, if you only had time. A fast first draft out can be a great motivator for finishing your current project, and it gives you a head start on your new book when you are ready to tackle it.
Are you ready to give May Mid-Grade Madness a try? Here are a few tips, based on last year’s experience:
1. Don’t go it alone. You’ll need help and support. Ask family to take on some of your typical duties. Last year, my book was a family project. The kids had little handmade cards for every thousand words I wrote. There were even presents for bigger benchmarks. There were many moments over the weekend when I wanted to take a break, but pushed on, because I wanted to see what my next surprise would be.
2. Don’t expect perfection. Or even adequacy. Setting aside Coleridge’s claims about Kubla Khan coming to him in a daydream, most of us don’t write works of genius at the fevered pace of 5000 words per day. At lest, not without a lot of editing after the fact. Expect your draft to be very rough, and be kind to yourself as you begin the editing process. Think of your four-day draft as a very detailed outline, and you may be surprised by how good it actually is.
3. Make your decision public. We have a supportive group of people over on the MMGM Facebook page, and they will send you encouraging messages throughout your four days—as long as you tell us which four days you’ll be writing. Let everyone know about this crazy, amazing thing you’re doing, so that you’ll have a lot more trouble backing out when the words don’t fly from your fingertips.
4. Don’t worry too much if you don’t make the word count. Last year we only had three people make it to the 20,000 mark, but we have several others get huge chunks of their books done—and 12,000 words of a rough draft are 12,000 more than they had before they began.
So, do you think you’re ready to take the Mad Middle Grade plunge? Here’s what you have to do:
1. Join the May Mid-Grade Madness group on Facebook.
2. On the sticky post at the top of the page, introduce yourself, and tell us which four days will be your writing days.
3. On your writing days, write your heart out.
4. Post a screen capture of your word count to the Facebook group so that we can tell you how amazing you are! The goal is 20,000 words in four days, which works out to 5000 words a day, for those of us who leave the math to the mathematicians.
Best of luck!