Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Just Write for Middle Grade Course Complete and Other Final Things

I first heard Emma critique queries through Julie Hedlund's 12x12 forum. Her insights impressed me enough to want to take her course. The video above is an excellent resource in how to write a query.

I recently completed Emma Walton Hamilton's Just Write for Middle Grade course. Sigh...I miss it. In 14 weeks I was able to accomplish something I'd been struggling to do for over a year: turn my middle grade novel idea into a workable draft.

Oh I still have lots to go, but an idea-that-wouldn't-let-me-go-until-I-had-to-write-it is finally getting it's own legs. 

Emma's class was an easily digestible, 14-week, online course set at your own pace. The topics included: Plotting, Characters, Theme, Dialogue, Revision, Setting and more. 

Many of the ideas she taught seem instinctive in successful writers, and perhaps they are for some, but the course helped me see that these "instincts" can also be learned.

I feel like some of that happened for me. Ideas I'd read about started to solidify. The lesson on settings and world building was particularly helpful. It showed me how to create a setting as alive as my MC, something I hadn't considered before, even though the setting is integral to my MC's story.

Here's a snippet from that lesson:
"Having your characters interact with the setting on a sensory level allows the readers to experience it more viscerally themselves. Revisit each section of your story where you interact with or describe your setting, and consider it from the point of view of all five senses. Is there a detail you can zero in on with respect to what a character can see, hear, smell, taste or feel?"
I enjoyed the exercises that went along with each lesson. Writing a jacket flap, listing each character's backstory and threading themes or symbols into the writing, were among some of the most rewarding. 

And best of all, Emma made her lesson easily accessible, print-outs or PDFs that you can take notes on and keep handy. I now have a binder with worksheets about my novel that I didn't have before taking the class. Each one added life to the idea I started with. 

So now that my novel has legs, I'm ready to give it wings and I feel better prepared, after Emma's course, to do that.

One other final note, we held another workshop with our regional group. This time Erin Cabatingan, author of A is for Musk Ox, and Musk Ox Counts, talked to us about using humor, but that is for another post, which I hope to do soon. It's a busy time for my family, full of many good changes. 

Have a great week.


  1. Thanks for sharing that snippet! I love feeling like I've just stepped into a setting, and in retrospect some of my favs are prolly b/c those senses were used so vividly.

  2. Congrats on completing that course. I agree with Emma. Using the senses to immerse the reader in our stories works like a charm.