My to do list gets longer every holiday season. It’s a wonder I made it anywhere near the computer this month, let alone my blog. The time passed fast, yet the most enjoyable hours I spent all month were two I spent visiting a class at a local middle school. I have Mary Brown, our ECW critique group chairperson, to thank for coordinating with a teacher friend to get another teacher’s reading class to review my first three chapters. I don’t want to put names in my blog without permission, but I was overjoyed when Mary’s friend called to say the reviews were finished and to ask if I could visit. Yes!
During my visit I talked about reading, writing, how I get my ideas, and all sorts of things, including the difficulty of making a living as a book author vs. a technical writer or reporter, for instance. I asked the students questions and they asked me questions. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. When they voted to let me come back for another visit the next week I was ecstatic, to say the least. I felt like I carried home a bucket of gold in the form of reviews of my manuscript, chapters 1 through 3, which they had been reading since near the beginning of school.
By the time I read through all the stack at home, I was surprised the class didn’t give me the boot. The opening of chapter 1 confused everybody, as did much of the rest of the chapter, but the majority of students wanted to read more. Chapter 2 had the worst problems, so much that only half wanted to read more. Hence, the blog title — 2 was too much. Thank goodness, Chapter 3 turned the tide, with a cliffhanger ending. It was really muddy, a mystery that made all but a few students want to read more. Whew. I was very glad I didn’t visit until after they read chapter 3.
Wouldn’t you know my mad science puns confused almost all the students? That was just the beginning, so I got busy and rewrote, and rewrote again and again. Two wasn’t enough, and even twenty wasn’t too much. At the next visit, the day before Christmas vacation, I read some of the revised parts as the class ate muffins, my bribe to keep them happy. They seemed to like those parts better, but the real test will be their written anonymous reviews. I read aloud bits of my favorite reviews from the first batch, one of which was a well-done negative review with helpful specific suggestions. Even so, anonymity will encourage honesty. I left chapters 1-6 for the class to read over Christmas break. And woo-hoo! I get to visit again once they finish, so I guess two wasn’t too much for the class, either.
One of my biggest hopes is that more of the students will try writing stories themselves. Two already said they did and I’m anxious to read their stories. I promised that if the students would help me with my story, I would help them too. In this case, two is definitely not too much. Bring ’em on!
I also explained to the class why I decided to split my own book in two, catering to publishing industry rules for word count of middle-grade vs. YA. One was too much, but two won’t be, in terms of book length. Since then, I have managed to write some of my new ending. I’m maybe halfway through the plan, which changes every time I touch a keyboard. I have another think or two coming before the next class visit. I try inventing new ideas when I take a walk, but that doesn’t work. So I let my fingers do the walking. They connect better to my unconscious than my conscious mind does, and they’re not telling — until I type. For those type digits, two is nowhere near too much. I need all ten.