By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
A whopping 125 students at Cleveland Middle School can now call themselves novelists, thanks to each having written a draft of a novel during the month of November.
Eighth-grade English language arts students at the school were encouraged to participate in the National Novel Writing Month Young Writers Program. To help students develop their writing skills, teachers encouraged them to think big by writing novels rather than just short papers.
The 125 students who chose to participate were honored in a ceremony Friday, after each had completed a novel draft of at least 10,000 words.
“These are some extraordinary students,” said Angela Wright, one of the eighth-grade English teachers. “These students really went above and beyond, doing most of their writing at hope. We even had a weeklong Thanksgiving break in the middle of all this.”
Teachers gave students time to write in class, after teaching them about the widely accepted characteristics of a good novel. They also helped students as they each developed their storylines and characters.
While teachers can teach the theory behind good writing, teacher Cana Kirksey pointed out that students get better with actual practice. Kirksey said it was “refreshing” to see students getting excited about writing.
The students were allowed to choose exactly what their novels would be about, meaning they built upon their writing experience while creating stories that truly interested them.
Though the students were encouraged to shoot for 10,000 words, several students surpassed that mark. The highest word count belonged to Caroline Clark, who wrote a novel in excess of 40,000 words.
Clark wrote “The Cold Woods,” a murder mystery novel which she said combines religious themes and “great suspense.”
“It was such a fun thing to do,” Clark said. “I was skeptical about getting to 10,000 words at first, but I just got into it once my story continued.”
Another student, Ella Hammond, said she experienced the same doubts and the same joys upon finding that her story warranted a large word count.
Hammond was the author of “Aristocrats,” (not to be confused with the BBC TV series or band of the same name) a 16,000-word fantasy novel which involves people with magical abilities trying to overthrow a corrupt government.
“Some us found that, when you really love your story, you can write for days,” said Hammond.
The teachers said they were pleased with all the students’ novels, whether they surpassed the 10,000-word mark or not. Each student had successfully plotted an original story and put it on paper.
Dr. Leneda Laing, principal of Cleveland Middle School, also praised the students for their hard work. She pointed out that what they did was very unusual.
“This is something that is impressive, even for adults,” Laing told the students. “Few people actually sit down and write a novel, and I expect your writing skills are so much better for having had this experience.”
Laing said she and the teachers will be looking at ways the public can read the novels the students have written. Some of the projects could be published online before the school year is done.
This was the second year Cleveland Middle School students have participated in the National Novel Writing Month Young Writers Program, an online program which encouraged students to set writing goals for the month. It is modeled after the National Novel Writing Month program for adults, which requires writers to create 50,000-word novels.
Last year, 63 students successfully completed novels. Seeing more students get excited about writing novels this year, the teachers said they expect this will become an annual tradition.
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