Thursday, February 9, 2012

The ABC's of Middle Grade: J is for Juggle

I've tried juggling a few times. I can almost keep three balls flipping through the air (flipping is too strong and fast of a verb for what I do--it's more like lobbing in super high, slow arcs), but if I try to pick up speed, lower the arc, or add another ball--forget it. And I know talking about how juggling is like (fill in the blank) is quite cliche. But it's a fun concept and middle graders can get pretty jazzed about learning how to juggle, so hang in here with me.

When you write, there are characters, plot lines, and time lines to keep straight. There are story nuances to be aware of--things like voice and pacing. There's the ever-present word choices--getting just the right ones exactly where you need them. You need to make sure you've chosen the right point of view. And . . . keep that action moving. Oh . . . don't forget to show not tell. And on and on and on the list continues.

So writing is definitely like juggling. Cliche or not. Only--and here's the point I wanted you to hang in here for--I don't want to drop balls, and I don't want to keep lobbing only three of them in super high, slow arcs. I want to increase speed and the number of balls I'm juggling, and I want to toss smaller arcs. Maybe one day I even want to juggle knives and things that are on fire. (Not really. That would scare the world, but . . . I have seen these guys juggle knives AND fire--The Danger Committee. They also throw knives, sometimes at one another, and are simply AWESOME).

Ahem. But I do want to learn how to write better (specifically write middle grade better), make all my story elements fit together, work on voice and pacing, evaluate my POV choice, keep the action flowing, and anything else that will improve my writing. But what's the best way to do all that?

I think it's just to keep writing. What do you think?


  1. You got it right. It's to just keep writing.Oh and every time you revise you learn something new and how to juggle that new element along with everything else. That's how you get better at making everything work together, I believe.

  2. Just like juggling.
    And hanging out on line with other brilliant writers. We're doing a good job at that part! ;)

  3. Akoss and Kristen, practicing is such FUN too. :-) I wish I had more TIME to do it.

    My husband coaches football and basketball, and along with practicing, he wants his athletes to lift weights. I wonder what the lifting weight equivalent is in writing? I think it might be reading.

  4. Great post! I love the analogy of juggling and writing, and I would agree the lifting weight equivalent would be reading. It helps make your writing stronger and keeps or helps you to get to your prime ability.

  5. Yeah, trying to keep track of the different pieces of a novel is kind of like juggling. I do think the more writing you do, the better you get at it. I also like to take bits of advice about the craft and try them out to see what works for me.

  6. What a perfect metaphor. I'm okay with dropping the balls so long as they don't roll behind the couch and I forget it exists...LOL

    1. Lydia, I like that perspective! Revising is where we can pick the balls back up--but it's so true that we can't forget about the ones that rolled away.

  7. You're so right (I almost typed, "You're so write"). I think another thing that helps, is to read great writing of all kinds, not only books in your genre.

  8. Oh yes! Must keep writing! I think in many ways we writers must become adept at juggling, but can only get better if we write and write and write...

  9. Megan, I think it's natural for a writer to type that. :-)

    Writing and reading. And more writing and reading. Absolutely.

  10. I agree: just keep writing! And reading, of course. I'm always learning things from other writers' stories to make my own better!


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