Writing a novel is a dream that afflicts many, but the antidote comes at a high premium. The only cure, of course, is to actually write a novel, and that is easier said than done, to the tune of being one of the easiest things to say and nearly impossible to actually do. It seems so simple—all you have to do is sit down and start using your imagination. Why is it so hard?
The main obstacle is laziness. How much we want something is directly proportional to how much time we spend pursuing it, and while the desire to write a novel often burns quite hot, as with all intense flames it tends to burn down very quickly. But not all who wish to write suffer from lack of interest or drive.
Let's say you write every day, but still can't seem to finish your novel. The likely reason is lack of focus: you might know what you want to say, you might even know vaguely how you want to say it, but you just don't know how to get a handle on it all and actually commit it to paper (or Word).
Other problems include a lack of writing know-how, insurmountable distraction, losing your way, an inability to fine tune the plot, or any number of any difficulties, including the elusive (but very real) Writer's Block. Well, high school students need fret no more—you can write your novel, with the help of The One Year Adventure Novel (a nine-month course).
How Does This Work?
While there are tasks for parents to perform, this is a student-directed course. Author Daniel Schwabauer encourages parents to read the first two chapters within the first month of students beginning the program, and you'll have to evaluate your child's work, but all the tools you'll need for this are included in the material.
Each element of the program is integral and essential.The Compass Textbook includes 78 lessons, which includes text written by Schwabauer, excerpts from famous adventure novels, and reading questions. Schwabauer's text covers everything from helping students choose a character, to handling historical context, to writing dialogue, to drafting an outline, etc.
Seven DVDs include lectures by Schwabauer corresponding to the 78 lessons in the textbook. Much of this is simply the author speaking directly to the camera, but there are also visual helps and even extended scenes from classic adventure films to demonstrate the content covered in the book and lectures.
An eighth disc includes resources including weekly quizzes with answers, a selection of adventure novels in e-book form, a video addressing Frequently Made Mistakes, a video of FAQs, bonus printouts, and computer wallpapers. Much of what's included here appears at various points throughout the other material (except the e-books and quizzes), but this makes it accessible.
The Map Workbook actually walks students through constructing their own characters, plot, etc. through a series of poignant, probing questions to which students are to respond with written answers. If nothing else does, this workbook will show you just how much work writing your own novel will be, but also how much help this course is.
Also included is a copy of Anthony Hope's brilliant novel The Prisoner of Zenda. Schwabauer uses each chapter as a reference point for guiding students through the whole process. Kids will read a chapter, reflect on it, answer comprehension questions, and move on to craft some aspect of their own novel.
There are many boundaries placed on students in this program. Their novel is 12 chapters long; they are required to pick a hero or heroine within two years of their own age; the plot revolves around the Heroic Quest model; and so on. While some will doubtless balk at these restraints, they're necessary—Schwabauer promises your students will write a complete novel in one year using this course, an assurance impossible without laying some ground rules.
While pitfalls such as switching point of view, making characters act or speak out of character, using cliches, and other common beginner's mistakes are covered, there is no training in composition or grammar here. This should only be used by students who have mastered the mechanics of writing.
Students register with the One Year Adventure Novel website, but only if they've bought the curriculum new. Schwabauer licenses the program to households, with one student registering and others who plan to use the course having to buy their own Map Workbook. However, you can easily use this course without registering, so buying it used is not prohibitive, so long as everything in the set is there and usable. The publishers don't (as far as we know) sell missing parts separately.
Our Honest Opinion
This is a great idea. Lots of kids want to write a novel, but few have any idea what that entails, and either produce something that isn't worth reading or simply give up soon after beginning.One Year Adventure Novel will guide high school students through every step of the process, and at the end they'll be able to present a completed product.
There are some problems. Schwabauer is sometimes reductionistic in his pronouncements (actually, some writers do start on page one and write straight through), and in front of the camera he's pretty wooden, clearly reading cue cards. The very idea of putting multiple students through a single course to write a novel is itself somewhat absurd.
Be that as it may, we think this is a great way to get serious students on the path toward writing their own creative fiction and nonfiction. Will their finished One Year Adventure Novel be a masterpiece? Certainly not. But having completed a longer work, the student who wants to write will have the confidence necessary to strike off on their own. This course isn't perfect, but we can recommend it pretty strongly.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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