Learning Plot with the WD, Part 2

We ended up teaching plot to our high school class a week after our middle school teams, so I took the results from Columbus and reworked the lesson plan before Friday. Normally we start our classes with a freewrite, then teach the lesson and finish off with an activity. However, our first quarter with Wooden has shown us we need to adapt our traditional routine to better fit this group of students, so we tried Kate’s suggestion doing an activity first and teaching the lesson second.

I think it worked.

First, the starting activity: Each student drew three cards—one each for character, setting, and a story starter—and had 30 minutes to write or plan a short story based on the cards.

Second, the lesson: we drew a plot mountain on the board and explained its different components. (I even made a fancy little graphic for this week’s lesson plan because I was avoiding finals.) Continue reading “Learning Plot with the WD, Part 2”


A mini pep talk for NaNoWriMo

I’ve always wanted to write a NaNo pep talk, so I took the most captive audience I could find and talked about Thanksgiving weekend in an email to our members participating in NaNoWriMo this year:

If you’re behind: your goal for this week/weekend is to either catch up completely or catch up enough so that you feel confident you’ll make it to 50k by the 30th. Remember: your family will be around for Christmas. It’s totally okay for you to ignore them during Thanksgiving weekend if it means catching up on your word count. (But don’t tell them I said that. If they bug you, play the “Why aren’t you supporting my DREAMS? I thought you LOVED me!” card. It works. Hypothetically.)

Be ambitious. Aim high. Write 5,000 words in a single day–believe me when I tell you how exhilarating it feels. Ever spent a day alone with just you and your laptop, completely immersed in your story’s world? If you have the time, try it. But why stop at 5k? Try for 7k, or 8k, or even the almighty 10,000. Revel in the glory of words. Spew them out. Barf your book if you need to. Disconnect the Internet with SelfControl (if you have a Mac) or a free trial of Freedom (Mac/PC ) and get into the zone, that mystical place where you’re in tune with your story, when your fingers are flying over the keyboard, and it feels like the words are pouring out of your head by themselves. Once you’re there, it’s hard to leave…but when you do, you’ll have a much higher word count and some amazing material that you–yes, you–created. So make as much time as you can for writing when you’re home, because this weekend is your last shot at positioning yourself to finish this crazy awesome endeavor.

Never give up! Never surrender!

Batman says Stay Away from Cliches…Like the Dead Parents Plot Point

So we might be teaching the kids about cliches this year. I’m glad to say we don’t hear a lot of cliched phrases or plot points in the Den meeting room, but in case you get tempted, here’s 10 tips to avoid cliches from Writer’s Digest. I’ve cut it down to the important points, but you can find the link to the full article at the bottom. Continue reading “Batman says Stay Away from Cliches…Like the Dead Parents Plot Point”

How are you with Death Scenes?

One of the most amazing parts about spending time with students far younger than you is their surprising ability to draw your attention to details you might not have noticed otherwise. This past year at Columbus Middle School, I was forced (on a seemingly weekly basis) to examine an important element of writing I had never thought much about before: character death.

One of the reasons that these kids’ stories drew so much attention to the subject was because of the seemingly arbitrary and indiscriminate nature of the deaths.

Story about a girl who dreams of becoming a superstar? BAM. Dad is killed.

Story about a new student in high school? BAM. Both parents dead.

Story about a zombie apocalypse? BAM. Millions eaten.

(Okay, maybe that last example doesn’t quite fit with the others…)

Continue reading “How are you with Death Scenes?”