Something Old, Nothing New

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a good while since I’ve written something brand new.  Sure, I’ve worked on manuscripts that have been sitting on my hard drive for almost a year or more. I even finished researching one non-fiction project that was almost two years in the making, and is now out on submission. But as far as opening a fresh page and starting a shiny new story…it’s just not happening.

Back before this blog was officially launched, I posted a response to J.’s idea notebook with my own notebook idea. I bought a composition book and asked my students: What makes you keep turning the pages past your bedtime? Which books get lost in your bedroom, kicked under the bed, and forgotten?

I set the composition book on the chalkboard tray and let them write in it whenever they felt like it.

Oh, and they felt like it. So to get myself out of the nothing-new-lately rut as I head into summer vacation (when I’ll have more time to write), I decided to turn to my students’ wisdom for some inspiration. Ready? Here we go…

I couldn’t take a photo of this first student’s entry because someone else scrawled her wisdom on the back of this page in purple Sharpie, but here’s what he wrote: “I like all parts of a book, but my favorite part is the beginning because of the questions.”

Okay, I just need a first chapter that makes kids want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

I’ll get right on that.

Next up:

Sure–all I need for a good middle is a lot of stuff. Good stuff.

I’m on my way…

Now for the ending:

What!? Don’t think I don’t know your handwriting, Miss I Don’t Like Books That Make Me Think…

How about a more general piece of advice:

So funny is in, I guess. I suppose now I’ll have to throw out that boring manuscript I’ve been working on so diligently…

On to more wisdom:

New to the list: two series, one about wolves and wizards, and another about an elementary school. Perhaps I could combine the two into a mega-series about wolves who sit at desks and go to recess and learn their multiplication facts, all with the help of wizards. 

Or maybe not.

But I love that she likes series because she never wants the story to end.   

Time to end this post and start brainstorming…

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22 Comments

Filed under Writing, Writing and Life

22 responses to “Something Old, Nothing New

  1. “I hate books that leave you thinking in the end.” I think that would be a brilliant title…

    I start new picture books with some frequency, but starting a new novel is really turning into the kind of thing that would be illustrated as monsters and demons and maybe some wolves standing between my story and me. I tell myself that the back of my brain is working on this, processing things that aren’t yet ready to be sent on to my typing fingers. I hope I’m telling the truth.

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    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Are the monsters, demons and wolves sitting at desks, Audrey? Because if so, just give them a pop quiz–that’ll quiet them down…

      Like

  2. Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    Natalie! A post like this makes me miss teaching so much. Your students are wonderful and that idea of the notebook is genius. Boy, your kids really know how to focus in on what’s important–and they’re so honest. I love the quote, “I hate books that leave you thinking in the end.”

    Sorry, but I already have a book about desk-sitting wolves learning their multiplication facts. Erin expects an auction on it. This is going to be my big break!

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    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Thanks, Lynda, but I have to credit J. with the inspiration for giving them the notebook in the first place. 🙂 Your WIP sounds awesome–go, Erin and Lynda! 😉

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  3. So much fun, having a notebook like this! I’ve never thought about doing something like that with my students. Then again, mine are in college, but I suspect the feedback would be similar.

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    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Oh, you should definitely do it, Jeannie! And let us know what they say. In your students’ notebook, the wolves and the wizards will be dating, no doubt.

      Like

  4. This is a great idea. I think I’ll email my friends with kids in that age range, and enlist my wife’s school.

    I love talking to kids about the books they read. They’re often surprised I’ve read them too, or have even heard of them. Instant bonding process. Like magic their walls drop and I’ve gained a friend, and hopefully, fan.

    (I should add, this isn’t something I do at the mall, or even the library. That’d be a little creepy. No, this happens at family/neighbor cookouts and at the high school drama club I work with. You have to know the kids first.)

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    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Ha! Glad you’re sticking with kids you know, Jim. 😉

      It *is* rather funny to start talking books with kids, isn’t it? It’s like you’re speaking their language, and sometimes they can’t figure out how you cracked the code.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  5. Love this– great post!!

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  6. Mike Jung

    You appear to have an amazing bond with your students, Natalie. Stuff like this makes it clear that they’re smart, creative and engaged kids, but it also makes it clear how well you communicate with them and how much they love you. Wonderful stuff. 🙂

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Thanks, Mike! I’ll tell them you called them smart, creative, and engaged. They may have to look up “engaged” in the dictionary, but that’s fine by me. 🙂

      Like

  7. J. Anderson Coats

    See, I interpret the quote about “boring stuff” a different way. That kid is saying, “Only write funny stuff and skip the boring stuff.” It’s some of the best writing advice I think I’ve ever heard, and something I’m going to keep in mind the next time I’m revising. Cut the boring stuff!

    Like

    • I agree, J, it is very good writing advice. Unless you happen to be Shakespeare working on Hamlet. I guess then would still cut the boring stuff, but keep the gory stuff, ruthless stuff, spooky, creepy stuff…

      Like

      • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

        Oh, definitely leave in the gory, ruthless, spooky and creepy stuff.

        Michelle, I’m hoping I’ll find all that in your book! 😉

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    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      You’re absolutely right, J. I should post that snippet near my computer…

      Like

  8. Michelle Ray

    What terrific advice. Would that it was so easy to do all that! It’s recognizing the boring that’s a big tough sometimes, no? Mine is all the gore with more smooching and less boring . . . I hope. ; )

    Like

    • Michelle Ray

      Though I don’t find a well-edited Hamlet boring. It’s genius, so maybe I’m not such a good judge of dull. Hmmmm

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      • I think Shakespeare already cut the boring from Hamlet, Michelle. He just didn’t restrict it to the funny (which would be a MUCH shorter play if you pared Hamlet down to only the funny scenes.)

        I think All the Gore with More Smooching and Less Boring would be a great tag line for a book. I know it’s too late to get it on FALLING FOR HAMLET, but I think they should definitely consider it for the paperback edition 🙂

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    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Gore + smooching does not equal boring. The short skirt (albeit longer than the original) on the cover proves it. 😉

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      • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

        Ohmygoodness, Jeannie–I thought your “All the Gore” said “Al Gore”…must go to bed now before my eyes cross…

        Like

  9. Pingback: Something Shiny, Something New (It’s really all I want to do) | EMU's Debuts

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