We’ve got NaNoWriMo Winners!! (Yeah, I’m not one of them!)

First period (once adjusted for students that left during the month), won with 49,756 words. 8th period hit just over their goal, coming in at 62,514 words. 6th period took the collaborative cake with 69,168 words. The top writer in the creative writing classes was Gilbert with over 6,000 words of short story.

The afterschool program had a lower success rate, but I’m still very proud of not only the winners, but the ones who accepted the challenge and threw themselves at the wall. Two hit their word counts of 12,000 and won. (One had me scared, but slid into home plate literally in the eleventh hour.) I am especially proud of the student we call Poizon Ivy. Her goal was 15,000. She just barely succeeded last year, struggling for those last few words, but never got the complete manuscript typed up to be published. This year, she not only hit her goal of 15k, she DOUBLED it! Her final count? 31,426 words. (She complained that she ran out of time and had to cut the ending short.) This year, I intend to see this girl’s name in print!

I hit the collaborative goals for my classroom stories, but fell short of the final for my after school piece, Slave Princess. Thursday afternoon is coke and cookies for all my writers to help celebrate their struggle and accomplishments.

Maybe now, after a short break, I can finish the short story and return to work on my Work-In-Progress, Hero Games. Watch for the Nanite Chaser stories to show up soon on the Frontpage of The other short story was taken from the world of On Common Ground. You can read an excerpt of that by clicking on the title link there.


I have more to write about than is appropriate for this blog. Thus, trying to focus on the writing-oriented topics is tough.

First, let’s talk about my students, which have been a focus this month. I’m so very proud of them. (Yeah, I’ve said this, but they keep giving me more to be proud of!)

6th period, holding steady in second place most of the month, surged forward and not only passed 8th period by percentage and word count, but hit their own goal last Tuesday! (Round of Woot for 6th period!) Then, since that wasn’t good enough, they kept writing and passed 8th period’s goal, too! They currently have 64,020; their goal was set at 58k.

8th period made a good effort, but weren’t able to meet the class goal this week; they are 58.8k out of 62k. Not much left, and I think they’ll hit it. Many of them are already done, so most of the strongest writers are no longer adding to the collective word count.

1st period isn’t done either, but wow did they put up a fight this last week! They were further behind than anyone, and needing about 14,000 words on Friday to even catch up. They didn’t make it, but in that 90 minutes of class time on Friday, they churned out over 10,000 words! They now stand at 49,272 words. A mere 2,728 words from their class goal! I was amazed that they brought that much gain in only one class period!

They don’t have class at all this week, being off for Thanksgiving break, but I sure hope they write like I encouraged them to. The game is over next week with only one class each.

Now, as for my own contributions and efforts for NaNoWriMo: I have completed two out of the three class anthology pieces. I’m working on the third class piece now, and then to tackle the afterschool one, which is significantly bigger than the three for class.

Susan’s Book Club, which is for the Nanite Chaser series, is complete at 4,297 words. There’s a little of the tech fun for those that really enjoy that aspect, but mostly, this one is for the romance and plot fanatics! It’s too short to spill any beans, but let’s just say Susan plays a much bigger role in this one than usual. Watch for this, and other, Nanite Chaser stories on

The other Nanite story, Shocking Rescue, currently has 1,308 words, but at least I can tell you a little more about that one! Derek gets an assignment to rescue workers from a major fire: in a power plant! So, let’s see, in one big building, we have technicians to rescue, lots of fire, lots of water, and lots of electricity. Derek and the nanites are in for quite the challenge this time!

The last class story is from the world of On Common Ground. This one I hesitate to tell too much about, because it takes place after On Common Ground so has some spoilers built in. However, I will tell you that there’s a big fight in a demon trial and the pretty little angel in the picture there was in it! (Notice the wing.) [Image by Boris Vallejo]

The last project for NaNoWriMo is Slave Princess. This one is a new piece, and most likely a stand alone story. The general idea? Kingdom is attacked by goblins. Royal Family is murdered, except for the young children, who are rescued by a knight and caretaker. Unfortunately, little Princess Gemma is captured by the goblins, her knight brought down before her eyes. She becomes a slave in the goblin camp, and grows up in that camp. Her brother may or may not have made it out alive.

After many years, a prisoner is brought in to the goblin camp that recognizes the slave girl. So begins the adventure.

From Whiners to Writers

Is it bad when your “slothful” students are kicking your literary butt?

Friday night was the first Write-In for our school. We advertised it as “YWP Hosts DFW NaNoWriMos.” As far as I know, it is the first time in the history of the Young Writers Program that the two groups have mingled. I count it as a success, though I was a little disappointed by the grown-up attendance. (I think the weather threats kept many away.) Our wonderful DFW Municipal Liason was in attendance, however, and was kind enough to bring goody bags for all of my kids (nearly 20 sacrificed their Friday Night for writing, fun, food, and extra credit). The biggest hit of the goody bags were the little googly-eyed “fuzzies”. One of my students bartered and begged and acquired a small army of fuzzies with which she will no doubt take over the world.

We had a couple of word wars, and lots of fun and laughter. Overheard throughout the night, however, were conversations like this:

“How many words do you have so far?”
“Two thousand, but I’m still only in the Rising Action!”

I am so proud of these kids. So many of them, only six weeks ago, tried everything they could do to escape the writing class they had been shoved into and hated to write. Now they groan in defeat when their class count is only 39-thousand words and they missed beating the other class by 1.5 percent! Hearing 7th and 8th graders use words like Rising Action, Protagonist, Conflict, and Subplot in casual conversation just warms my heart.

Not every NaNoNovel is a success story, unfortunately. I do have some that are not only behind, but not gaining much ground. Curiously, it isn’t that they don’t care, they just don’t care enough to put in the extra effort, I guess. One girl lied when charting word counts. She claimed to have 200 words, but only had 190. I called her on it, and she pounded the desk. “I want that little green bar!”

Now if only I can catch up to some of my little super-stars! For those following my work, I’m writing 4 total stories: two Nanite Chasers, a supplemental scene based in the world of On Common Ground, and a new short story called Slave Princess. In the Nanite stories, Derek has once again met up with Taryn, but only briefly before off to “serve and protect.” Let’s hope he hasn’t bitten off more than he (and the nanites) can chew! In the other story, we’re getting to see a whole new side of Susan. Those watching and guessing on that story arc are going to LOVE it! The Common Ground bonus story centers on Rayne. I don’t want to spill many beans on that, but let’s just say he hasn’t gotten any less arrogant, but has become a much bigger danger! Slave Princess has only penned the exposition thus far, but little Gemma knows how to make quite the entrance! If I don’t miss my bet, she’ll grab your heart and squeeze out a tear before you’ve even hit the real story!

Full Pages!

Wow, I am so impressed with my students. They have really rocked the house and brought it to the game this first week of NaNoWriMo. To recap in case you didn’t read the last couple of weeks’ blog posts: I have three Creative Writing classes of 25-30 inner city 7th-graders. The class happened at the last minute, so none of them got to choose to be in there, they were just put in there because they needed electives. I am doing NaNoWriMo with all three classes, each class creating a themed anthology of stories equal to 2,000 words for every student. (I am also writing a 2k story for each class to help encourage them and be a part of it.) I’m also running the afterschool NaNoWriMo, whose kids are writing 10-15 thousand words each, and is voluntary particpation.

Well, alot of the kids in these classes don’t want to be in the class, but this week, you’d never have known it.

My 1st period class, which met twice this week (Tues & Thurs), is writing a work titled “Won’t Back Down” along the theme of “Evil vs Good.” They logged 15,602 words this week.

My 6th period class got to meet three times, (Mon, Wed, & Fri) and their theme is “Never betray a friend.” They are calling their novel BFNFL: Best Friend NOT For Life. This class turned out an amazing 27,239 words this week!

Finally, my 8th period class, which also met three times, chose “Don’t pick a fight you can’t win” as their theme and “Fighting with Demons” as their title. These students brought 28,427 words to the table this week! Outstanding!

I am so proud of all of them! Some on Friday had even hit their goal of 2,000 words! We gave them a big round of applause. Then I asked each of them one question: Are you done yet? *grin* Nope! They’ve still got pages of story to write!

In comparison, these are the same classes wherein earlier this year I asked them to write 500 words and they acted as though I had shot them and took two weeks to get it turned in. Now, they churn out 500 words in a class period without blinking twice, and go home promising to double their word count. I can’t wait for Monday.

My afterschooler NaNoWriMos have also been hard at work, but many of them didn’t get their word counts updated this week, so I don’t have a total count for them. There are about 25 of them, though, and several have logged over 2-3 thousand words each.

This coming Friday night, November 12th is going to be really exciting, though. My students will be hosting a Write-In for the adult NaNoWriMo program here in Dallas-Ft. Worth. If you are in the area and doing NaNoWriMo, you’re invited! If you haven’t seen the information out there yet, send me a message and I’ll get you what you need to know. There’s going to be games, prizes, food, and drink. Hope to see you there!

Blank Pages

It’s here, that magical time of year that fills so many with such joy, and such dread. Yes, I’m talking about NaNoWriMo. One of my students last Friday told me she was scared of Midnight Sunday night, when NaNoWriMo starts. She’s going to love it.

Well, in my last post (which was much too long ago; I’m falling down on the job), I talked about how my classroom students are writing anthologies to be part of NaNoWriMo. We discussed and voted and here are the results:

  • 1st period is writing about “Evil vs Good” and are calling their anthology Won’t Back Down.
  • 6th period’s theme is “Never betray a friend” and they are calling their anthology BFNFL (Best Friends NOT for Life).
  • 8th period chose “Don’t pick a fight you can’t win” and is calling their anthology Fighting with Demons.

I’m so excited to see what all they come up with. They’ve shown some real promise and growth all the way around. This 2,000-word assignment/challenge for NaNoWriMo will be their longest work yet (for most of them).

As for myself, yes, I am contributing to each of their anthologies and writing with my afterschool WriMos. For the afterschool bunch, I committed to 12,000 words. That puts my total word count for NaNoWriMo this year at 18,000. It’s a great defense against student complaints about writing a mere 2k. My 12k work will be called Slave Princess and is an idea sprung from chatting with a Facebook friend. Bit of a fairytale style story, but it should be fun. As for what I will be writing for the anthologies, I’m not sure yet! I’ve been so busy getting them prepared and ready I forgot to prewrite my own! So, I need to come up with short story ideas for each of the above classes. I am planning to borrow some characters from the world of On Common Ground for one of them, but that could fit in two out of the three.

So, I need to figure out what to write for the other two. Any suggestions?

NaNoWriMo in site, er, sight!

Friday was October 1st, which is the day that NaNoWriMo unleashes the reigns for this each year’s event. While I do exist on the grown up site, I mostly operate on the Young Writers’ Program site, because I lead middle school participants in the program.

Well, this year, the staff at the Office of Letters and Light really outdid themselves on the YWP this year! They’ve created a Virtual Classroom area to help Educators stay organized and in touch with their students. It’s wonderful! I’m so very excited. Tomorrow is when most of my WriMos will see it for the first time, when we meet after school.

The afterschool WriMos aren’t the only ones that will be writing this year, though. My three Creative Writing classes will also be participating, making class anthologies of themed stories, about 2,000 words per student. I told my afterschool wrimos that I wouldn’t be writing a full story this year, but would be writing as part of the class anthologies. I’m rethinking that idea, though, and considering setting a low target, like 12k, and writing one of the concepts that is swimming around my bowl of ideas, waiting to be written.

Regardless of what ends up happening, I am excited about this year’s event. In fact, I’m in the beginning of organizing a NaNoWriMo Night at our school. Student writers writing right alongside the adults, and other students (for extra credit) serving drinks and maybe a bake sale. How inspiring! (I hope.)


Well, now that school is back in, maybe I should pull my posts back a bit. I’d love to hear my readers’ thoughts on that. Supposedly, there are recommendations out there that say that to have a successful blog, you need to post 3-4 times a day! I don’t have the time to read that many posts a day on a single blog, nevermind writing them! I am, however, open to your thoughts on this.

As I mentioned, school is back in. I am lucky enough this year to be teaching a handful of Creative Writing courses. Sadly, not all of the unlucky children who were stuck with my class actually wanted it. Many of my students are interested in writing, or at least entertained enough by my antics that they don’t mind. Several others are merely biding their time, hoping to be rescued. With that in mind, and characterization on my lesson plans, I developed a “polyhedral character generator.” Wow, doesn’t that sound nice and science-fictiony? The average 13 year old should be able to take over a planet with one of my “polyhedral character generators.” Fortunately, they can’t take over a planet, they can only create people.

Borrowing polyhedral dice from the math department, I sketched out a set of charts that would allow the students to roll character traits. Polyhedral dice are dice with more or less than 6 sides.

From Adventures in Elvenfire

Technically, six-sided dice are also polyhedral, but the rest of them are more interesting! Once the kids rolled out about 20 traits (I didn’t make them roll every chart.), they had to flip their paper over and flesh out their character, making all those random facts make sense.

No surprise, the kids loved it. Every one of them. They rolled traits the entire period and begged to do it again. My fast-rollers asked if they could make a second character that same day, if they had the time. In short, it was a success. Much of the fun was in the odd combinations that developed. One student ended up with a werewolf who had been bitten by a vampire (that would explain why he was scared of the dark). To make things even more interesting, this same werewolf’s favorite food was roast chicken, and he was a vegetarian! Quite the story behind that one. Another students rolled a character who was claustrophobic and afraid of open spaces. With a little more luck, he could have been afraid of milk and we’d have an award winning detective show on our hands!

It was loads of fun and I decided to share it with all of you, in case you too, want a vegetarian werewolf, or a man that’s afraid of both large and small spaces. Currently, it’s hosted here in Google Docs.

Special Thanks to H. G. Wells

This weekend I finished reading The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Loved it. Great story. Well told. I don’t want to spoil the ending for any who haven’t read it, but it ends with a bit of a question, though I think Wells left it clear enough for an observant reader to figure out the general idea.

As I closed the cover, the idea struck me to write a sequel. The narrator of the story dated it three years after the close of the action. I could quite reasonably open a new story, from the same narrator’s perspective, five or ten years after the close of the initial action. It is, after all, about a time machine.

While the idea appeals to me, I currently have far too many open projects to try to pick up such a challenge. I say a challenge, because I would not want to write a sequel if I could not write it the way that Wells did. When a writer tries to write a continuation of another writer’s work, and completely fails to copy the style of writing, or the mode of speech, or the format of the entries, or other such subtleties, then they fail at writing the sequel, and instead, partly ruin the world the writer has so carefully crafted.

This happened with one of my own favorite series, Phule’s Company by Robert Asprin. Asprin, sadly, passed away not long ago, and in his last years, he had begun sharing his writings with other authors. Eventually, the other authors took over. Some, like Jody Lyn Nye who took over the excellent Myth series, have done a wonderful job. Unfortunately, the Phule series did not meet as sweet a fate. The author who took the series has not kept Asprin’s voice, nor even, apparently, read the previous novels! If he did, he did not pay much attention to the characterizations or even the format the books were written in. He has trashed all of it, warped the characters, and ruined the series (for me).

If I choose to write a sequel to the classic story by H.G. Wells, I would make every possible effort not to make that mistake. Like the friend of the time traveler, you’ll just have to wait to see if I succeed.

The Next Nanite Episode: Under the River!

It’s that time again. Time for Derek Daniels to save the day! Once again, the newest episode will be listed on the front page of under Short Stories. The previous episodes, in case you missed one, will be in the drop down box.

Give it a read, and remember that you can let me know what you think about it by clicking on the Comment link at the bottom of the story.

Story Train

Every Boy Scout troop has done it. Most summer camps have done it. Countless English classrooms have done it. “Let’s all tell a story together, one line at a time!” Well, a discussion between myself and another writer recently yielded an expansion idea, based on that, which I would like to share.

First let me tell you the ‘train’ part of it. My wife does some couponing. I don’t mean she clips a couple of coupons out of the Sunday paper to use at the store. I mean she plans deals and exploits sales with multiple types of coupons, stacking one on top of another until the store ends up paying her to take home a basket of goodies! Anyways, enough bragging. She is a member of a couponing site where other members, from all over the country, all do these deals and trade coupons with each other. “I don’t need dog food, but I’ll give you this dog food coupon for that pizza coupon.” Once in awhile, she joins what is called a “train.” Listen up, this is the important part. On a coupon train, several people sign up and the coupons go from one person to another, switching and adding coupons and everyone benefits. They have gotten really creative with the way the trains run and what gets on and off them, so to speak.

So, now that you understand “trains” and “stories,” let’s put them together and talk about this idea. What if several authors signed up (maybe even on a website made for this… hmm… more ideas!) to write a collaborative story. Say, just for the sake of explaining it, that we get 7 authors on this particular train. Perhaps we have not laid down a plot framework, but have limited it to a genre, perhaps Western? (Yee-haw!) and the going rule is that you have to work with whatever text you get. (You can’t trash the main character halfway into the book and start telling the story of the cashier that got a cameo in Chapter 3.) At midnight on Sunday, the first author gets to start. He has 24 hours to write as much of the beginning of this novel as he can before handing it off to the next author. She, at midnight, takes what he wrote and moves forward with it. She has 24 hours to write all that she can before handing it off to the next author, and so on. The last author in the train is the caboose. This author has to get his caboose in gear and finish the novel! He, like the others, has 24 hours to do his work, but his job is to wind up the details, tie up the loose ends, and provide a satisfactory conclusion to the work. Voila, we’ve ridden a wild Story Train and written a novel in only a week! NaNoWriMo would be impressed!

Naturally, this probably wouldn’t result in the next Great American Novel, but it could result in a lot of fun, and an interesting challenge for some writers. Naturally, like my wife’s coupon trains, there could be all kinds of interesting rules and setups and designs of trains like this. There might need to be some artistic license questions to answer, but I’m sure we could find a reasonable method.

What do you think? Writers, would this be a fun challenge for you? Readers, do you think you’d enjoy reading something written by several authors all at once? I’d love to hear your thoughts!