A Special Project


Today is my son’s tenth birthday. He assures me that this means he’s no longer a child even though he’s still a kid. I’m not entirely convinced by his argument, but what the hell.

Anyway, he and I have been working on a special project for weeks. Actually, lets make that months. See, many of you reading this will have heard that we’re homeschooling my son, but you might not have heard that he hates to write.

Yeah, the writer’s son won’t put a paragraph on a page without an hour of griping and squalling. He won’t let his artist mom teach him to draw, either. Learning science, division, or world history from us? No problem. But when we try to teach him about the things we know best? Hell no. That’s practically an affront to his dignity.

Then I bought Adventures in Fantasy by John Gust:

Although I actually bought it from Barnes & Noble–the one in the University Village that’s going out of business. (Although maybe you’d rather see a link to Indiebound.) It’s a lesson plan designed to guide a young person through the process of writing a novel.

So far we’ve had lessons on punctuation, showing vs. telling, alliteration, POV, the hero’s journey, metaphor, simile, and a dozen other subjects, all handled in the fun prep work for a fantasy novel. He did written projects, did an oral presentation, (re-)learned vanishing point as he drew an early scene from the book (a drawing he’s very proud of, btw)–all in all, it sounds like a soft assignment, but he’s been doing a lot of work on this project.

And my son, being who he is, wouldn’t have done all those work sheets [1] without having me right beside him doing them at the same time. So yeah, A Blessing of Monsters has been planned in part through these grade school exercises. No, I will not post the drawings I had to do of all the characters. Hell, I don’t even like to talk about plots ahead of time.

Plus, I had to kick over the book’s recommended plot structure before I wrote it. For elementary school kids, the hero/sidekick/mentor format works just fine[2]–it’s excellent, actually–but for me I needed to really change things up.

But finally, after weeks and weeks, we got through all the exercises. Before he sat down to write the first page, we spent a few days watching the LOTR movies, then it was a go.

He’s a funny kid, and he loves funny books. I knew he would be working on a comedy, but I think he’s really nailing it (for his age group, of course). I’m also a little surprised by how rough some of his punctuation can be. He reads all the time, but apparently that doesn’t give him a model to follow.

His goal is a 100 words a day, and I expect him to do a few thousand words before he reaches the end of this novel. The biggest goad to get him to produce is to know that I’m going to do more words that day; he’s actually a bit of a tyrant. “Dad! Less Twitter, more writing.”

After he reaches the end, we’ll do an edit and–surprise surprise–I intend to offer him a penny a word for it and publish it here on my website.

It’s been fun and I think he’s learning a lot. Best investment I made last year.

[1] If you’re thinking of picking up the book, keep in mind that it’s full of worksheets that need to be copied/printed/filled out, and might not be appropriate for your Kindle.

[2] And would probably sell a million copies if I wrote it myself, but I’m not that commercially-minded.