Those of you who already know me will be aware of my picture book proclivities and my wordcount comfort zone of 500 words or less. However, recently I have decided to flex a different writing muscle and try and finish something a bit longer. So I have written the first few chapters of a middle grade story. It has no title. Not even a tentative/TBC one. It is called ‘MG experiment’ in my documents folder. But I want to finish it.
Now those of you who already know me will also be aware of my tendency to be easily distracted! To finish this longer text I thought I might need some additional focus, some jeopardy to spice things up and keep me going. Fellow SCBWI and all-round middle grade genius Barbara Henderson suggested sharing the text with a local school. You can read about the start, middle and very successful end to her own adventure here.
In a fit of enthusiasm, I arranged with a local school librarian to go in and read 1-2 chapters a week to the year 7 book group. If the school doesn’t have a librarian then the English lead would be the person to try (and then start a campaign to get a librarian (-;) I emailed them and pitched the concept as I already knew them but, if you haven’t met then it might be a good idea to try and fix up a meeting with them to explain what you would like to do.
I want feedback from the target readership for the story. My main character is 13 so I thought a Year 7/8 book group would fit the bill. You might be after feedback from older or younger readers depending on your story.
I found the school very receptive to the idea and the first session was today. I’m pleased to report that I’m still alive despite being a nervous wreck beforehand. There was an audience for starters! I suspect the party rings and chocolate fingers the librarian very kindly provided were part of the attraction! Twelve avid readers were introduced to my main character and the first two chapters. The good news (for me) is that they want me to come back with another two chapters next week. Phew! I went with a few specific things that I wanted help with. They were brimming with ideas for plot development, characters, possible titles. I have done a basic plot outline but it is going to be fascinating weaving in their ideas as we go along. And knowing they’re waiting for new chapters will be a real incentive for me to finish this thing!
If you’re thinking about doing something similar… go for it!