Every November is National Novel Writing Month – 30 days of nonstop writing during which writers old and new challenge themselves with an often outlandish goal to write a certain number of words of a novel… and then write, write, write! November just happens to coincide with the beginning of the Book arc (who knew!) and so as a part of the exploration of Book, students have committed to writing a piece of their own, original novel every day. We have dedicated the hour after lunch as official quiet time, giving the students time to write during the day – even though many of them choose to write at home, too!
Each band has approached the writing process from a different angle – many using plot diagrams, character dissections, or other brainstorming tools – map out their ideas and develop their characters. It starts with an idea – a character, a place, a scene – and billows out from there into new worlds and new people that the kids have gotten to know very well over the last few weeks. Every day, they come in bubbling with news about how many words they wrote, what happened in their story that they didn’t expect, or a new character that tragically died or had something surprising happen to.
My favorite parts are the conversations about character, things like: “What do I do with this character? There are too many already and I feel like I can’t handle that many.” And the response: “Just kill them off, it’s fine.” The intricacies of where characters are in the world, on the page, in the writer’s heads become more complicated and apparent when you sit down to write. How do you move the action along? How do you get the clan of cats into the wild? How do you get your plucky crew of astronauts out of the storage room they’re hiding in? How does it make sense to take this character back in time, and where do they meet up with their present? It’s been amazing to see the kids fighting through writer’s block and becoming jazzed again by their characters and their plots.
NaNoWriMo unfortunately ends while we’re on Thanksgiving break, but everyone has gone off to a week of rest with a plan and motivation to hit their word goal or get to that elusive piece of a story – much harder to come by than beginnings or middles – the end.