If you’ve been following me over on Instagram (@authorallysonkennedy), you’ll know that I’ve been celebrating the third birthday of my second novel, Speak Your Mind, all month long with quotes from the book, spotlight posts on the characters, and an eBook sale!
P.S. If you haven’t claimed your eBook for only 0.99 cents, you can do so here!
Speak Your Mind holds a special place in my heart, and not just because it was the first middle grade novel I’ve written. For many reasons, writing Speak Your Mind was the most fun experience I’ve had writing a manuscript to date, which is an honor, as I have almost five completed manuscripts under my belt.
Why was this little ball of sunshine so fun to write? Just read on to find out! 🙂
Though I admittedly HATED middle school back in the day, being able to write about a middle school experience from the point-of-view of a character whose lens was very similar to mine at thirteen was exhilarating. It felt like I finally got to get my frustrations out into the open. As a shy kid who was picked on, on a daily basis, for being almost mute-like at school, being able to represent that on paper really ignited my creative fire.
My method for “escaping” bullying in middle school was writing in my notebook during recess. In Speak Your Mind, I wanted to avoid inserting my own interests into the story as much as possible, so I went with the route of having Victoria seclude herself to a hidden table at lunch, and spend her time daydreaming about overcoming the antagonistic forces in her life. Writing the daydreams was a bit challenging at first, but once I dived deeper into Victoria’s inner mind, it was a fun place to explore. Re-imagining the girls and boys who bullied Victoria as dragons and trolls respectively allowed me to delve a bit into a more fantasy-inspired setting, which I had never done before, but could easily see shy kids like Victoria daydreaming about at lunch.
Middle school is a time in adolescence when kids are developing their own personalities and figuring out what they would like to pursue in the future. Considering that, I knew this setting would allow for a zany cast of characters who each had their own weird quirks and goals. This resulted in some of the most unique side-characters I’ve ever crafted, including Aiden, Max, Zeeb, Bobby, Jessica, and Meredith. Due to the creative edge writing middle schoolers allows, I felt free to be as weird as possible when coming up with each of their personalities. Middle schoolers are basically an even mix between kids and teenagers, so this advantage allowed me to explore the somewhat immature tendencies of characters this age than writing contemporary YA, my usual genre of choice. The result was a lot of fun scenes where characters made questionable yet hilarious choices because they just didn’t know better.
Writing Speak Your Mind, well, at least once it became my sole writing focus, came as naturally as opening a jar of words and letting them spill in place on the page. I don’t recall any major setbacks or challenges that occurred while creating scenes. Unlike with all my other manuscripts, I didn’t have to go back and rearrange scenes during edits (and if I did, it was a very minimal amount). Writer’s block did hit a few times, but for the most part, I didn’t have to force myself to write. The setting and characters were so immersive for me that I craved going back to visit with, and further develop, them. Still to this day, I wish I was working on another upper middle grade WIP, though I currently don’t have another idea for one and plan on releasing mostly YA novels for the next few years.
If you’ve read Speak Your Mind, you’ll know that there is a big twist involving school staff that makes school much more unbearable for Victoria. This twist came out of the blue for me while writing Speak Your Mind (at the time, I was a strict pantser and didn’t believe in creating outlines), and once the concept fleshed out for me, I knew it would make the book ten times better than what I had originally planned.
Though the subject matter for this twist may be considered a little risque for a middle school audience, I felt it was important to include, as it shows that adults, even those in authority, don’t always make the right decisions. It also lends a Christian perspective to this type of situation that some middle schoolers may be experiencing for themselves. While I’m in no way saying that it was fun to write this torturous experience for Victoria (because honestly, I cried multiple times while writing, and editing, those scenes), it was fun to write a character whose story I could 100% root for and never grow tired of working on until it was complete. It wasn’t fun to watch Victoria suffer, but it was addicting to become completely invested in the story each time I sat down to work on it, which is what writing for the love of it is all about.
Victoria’s story is one that isn’t jumping from online shelves, nor is it garnering as many readers as my contemporary YA books. Nevertheless, I highly resonate with the book, and feel shy kids, or those who suffer from social anxiety, can too. Throughout this month, I’ve prayed that through this birthday sale, God would allow the book to reach kids who need it as much as I did in middle school. Because there’s nothing more fun about being an author than seeing that your book has impacted readers. ❤
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
Have you grabbed your copy of Speak Your Mind yet? If you have, I hope you’ve enjoyed it!
For my writer friends out there, which of your manuscripts was the most fun to write? Why was it the most fun to write?
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.