A Year of Showing My Work: Day 4

In addition to playing with lettering and calligraphy and making websites, I’m also a writer trying to write a novel. Because apparently one can never have too many projects (and in too many different subject areas).

The novel I’m working on now has fallen apart, come together, fallen apart, and come back together again so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve written a full draft and several partial drafts, built and rebuilt the plot many times over, but in the end I’m always disappointed in it. It’s not the story I want to tell. But I love the characters and the basic idea for the story, so I keep going with it.

Just recently, it has fallen apart once again. And I think the problem is that I just keep making it too boring.

Here’s the basic idea: It’s a middle-grade (ages 8–12) book about a character named Danni who comes from a family of superheroes and who has the ability to move super fast (think The Flash). She’s turning twelve and on her twelfth birthday, she is supposed to start her superhero training. Only she doesn’t want to because she has to keep that part of her life secret from her best friend Chris, and she doesn’t like keeping secrets from Chris. That part of the story is pretty solid. It’s the actual action of the story that I’m having trouble with.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with my son about all this and he told me about this graphic organizer that his teacher taught him last year in third grade. Basically, it’s a story prompt: “Somebody…wanted…but…so…then…” It’s very simple, much simpler than the ones in all the writing books I read, so I had him help me construct a graphic organizer for my story. Here’s what came out:

Danni wants to be normal, but someone threatens her and her school, so Danni has to use her abilities to save the day. Then, Danni changes her mind and decides that she wants to be a superhero after all.

It’s simple, but it works and I like it. I even have an idea for my villain—a girl named Hazel who telekinetic abilities and who is determined to become a villain. My problem comes in trying to figure out how Hazel and Danni are going to come into conflict and making that conflict exciting.

Another idea I’ve come across is the focus sentence. I found this one on Jessica Abel’s blog (and book) Out on the Wire. In this version, the focus sentence goes “Somebody does something because... But...”

This one is a little harder, I think probably because it gets at the root of my problem. I haven’t focused enough on my characters’ actions. So that’s my next step, figuring out a focus sentence.