Opening up the writing notebook on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend seems almost like a beginning to me, or at least a very powerful “resuming.” So I want, this week, to share the last two visitors to share thoughts on new projects.
Today’s guest is Jennifer Jacobsen, author of the very popular Andy Shane series for beginning readers and award-winning “Winnie” series of middle grade readers, as well as a number of YA novels. Her most recent book, Small as an Elephant (Candlewick, 2011) received many wonderful reviews and was a winner of the “Gold Fiction Award” from Parent’s Choice. She’s also a successful teacher of writing seminars for both students and teachers.
I’m working on another middle-grade novel… [inspired by a] game I made up as a child. I’ve worked on the story steadily in my mind since the idea first germinated, despite travels and life-changing events (a totally new experience for me). But the drive doesn’t come from the desire to find audience (i.e. publish) or a fierce commitment to art . . . but to the rediscovery of play. Play for play’s sake. I play at writing this story in the very same way I played … as a child. For the first time ever, I find the writing lusciously slow and well . . . pure pleasure.
Jackie, I do believe my beginning process has differed for every book. With this [new] story, I have spent far more time musing — staring off into space as others have described. Also, much of the time that this book has been “beginning,” I’ve been on the road, conducting writer’s workshops in classrooms During each workshop, after presenting a mini-lesson, I write privately for ten minutes along with the students. During these ten minutes, I’ve been journaling on the book: asking myself and my characters questions. I suppose the quick ten minute writes have the same desired effect as telling myself I only need to show up and write nine lines: it has kept the story building and invited a steady stream of new insights. If I go down a wrong path in a quick write – no big deal.
I really like the idea of committing to ten minutes, just ten minutes every day. I have been trying to do this in November–and have to admit that I haven’t always succeeded. But I’m going to stick with it, until it becomes habit. Just start and write for ten minutes–and maybe more. As Jennifer has noted, it often does turn into more.