Friday, February 24, 2017

The Middle Grade Slump?

In all my writing career I don't think I've had as much trouble at laying down pixels as I've had for a Middle Grade fantasy book. Although I've written and published several YA titles, this is my first, out of the gate, MG. It's a whole different ballgame. I've read many MG titles, including some old Roald Dahl books, and I can't really see too much difference between them and the YA titles. There doesn't seem to be any writing "down" going on in the MG examples. I think it just takes a simpler touch, meaning easier and more understandable words. Chapter lengths can also come down in length and, of course, these types of books range from 25,000 to 45,000 words or so. 

There is a need for more humor in MGs (I believe)--the emotion that all kids understand. Eight to 12 year-old children can even understand irony--you can't underestimate them. An emphasis on characterization is also vitally important here, pulling the reader in to sympathize with the main and supporting characters--unique and diverse sketches of people who really come to life within the young mind.

I have what I call a portal fantasy, something akin to Narnia. That's where the characters enter a fantasy world via some transporting vehicle--through a mirror, hole in the ground, wardrobe, magical door, etc. In my case, my lead characters, in possession of some magic goggles, find that they can climb up and over solid rainbows to arrive in another land. I had a little problem with the suspension of disbelief with this one, as I have had similar precautions and hesitations with YA titles. 

I have virtually stopped writing this little book after about 12,000 words. I've hit a wall. I'm aghast at my unwillingness to push on through this. I feel I've hit a stone barrier or painted myself into a corner, with seemingly no way out.

I'm finally going to ask any of you children's writers out there for a little help or/and support. Like the Titanic, I'm sending up white rocket distress signals in an attempt to find my motivation and interest again.

Here it is:

My kids slide into the first land which is called Slobstalkia. The inhabitants of this land are young and obese, to the point of dangerous health and unsavory eating habits. Their diets consist of lards and fats. While my kids must wait for another rain to hitch a ride on a rainbow, in an attempt to get back home, they do everything they can to help the Slobstalkians change their eating habits and achieve a new, healthy lifestyle, with plenty of exercise. Yes, there is a message there that can translate to the reader--eat right--keep fit. I have to describe this land in fairly intricate detail, so the reader is transported to another, strange and unique environment which can be fun and thrilling at the same time. 

I have this book plotted out for the visitation and interaction of two more lands (three lands total) before they eventually catch a ride home on the last rainbow. The second land is called Filthania, which is a place rife with very bad hygiene. The lesson there is to clean these people up--washing clothes--bathing--taking pride in themselves in a physical sense. Another lesson learned.

I won't go on to describe the third land. I think you get the point. My dilemma is wondering how am I going to describe three different lands, all with individual detail and nuance within the frame of a book that is loosely regulated by a smaller word count? The project seems massive to me--almost impossible. I could concentrate on one land and get it right. But to follow it up with two more in the same book seems daunting.  It could be a trilogy. And that's a lot of risk. It could be an extraordinarily long book, since there really isn't any hard and fast rules about length and subject matter for any genre/category. Or it could be just one single land, and solving one or several problems in that land, then a return home.

This multiple land issue has blocked me dead in my tracks. I don't know the way out. Do you have any suggestions at all on how to solve this problem? I would appreciate any views or ideas about this subject.

Write like you're dying, because you are,