Monday, February 4, 2013

I sent my kid to school naked

typewriter, writing tips, fiction, author, middle grade novel

As a research engineer, I author a lot of dry, science-y technical stuff. Everything from scholarly journal articles and tech reports to test plans, lab manuals, and memos. Besides the snore factor, one thing that sets this type of writing aside from fiction is that it’s often not necessary to provide smooth transitions from one part of the document to the next. It’s perfectly acceptable, for instance, to jump right from  “specimen preparation to “instrumentation requirements” without any words to link the two sections. Just write up the former in its own titled or numbered section and do the same with the latter. No need for anything fancy, such as: 
“it was raining hard outside the laboratory, providing a soothing white noise for prepping the samples….later that afternoon, however, that same pounding rain made it almost impossible to concentrate on the instrumentation plan...”
As I plunge into fiction-writing, however, I’m learning that the same sort of brevity and shorthand doesn’t always work. In fact, sometimes it produces quite unexpected results.

Case in point: My 9-year old loves reading my WIP (see, I’m picking up the lingo). Or maybe it’s just an excuse to mess with my MacBook which is supposed to be completely off-limits to children. Heck, the boys have a tricked-out gaming PC that if we were to battle, would blow my little laptop away, but the allure of the Apple is great. Anyway, about two or three times a week he’ll open up my manuscript file to see what I’ve written. It’s a MG (more lingo!) novel aimed at boys, so he’s a perfect beta reader. 

I usually hover around while he reads, feigning business while actually gauging his reaction. I love his looks of surprise, his chuckles, and his outright laughter. He’s not shy or quiet about giving me feedback, either, which is great. If something’s funny or confusing or too complicated he lets me know right away. 

So this morning, he read through the last four or five pages that I added last week. Very serious he was, watching the story unfold word-by-word, until he stopped, looked up at me, and burst out laughing. I didn’t recall writing anything all that funny.

“What? What’s so funny?” I asked him.

“Mom, you sent the kid to school naked! Look! Naked!” he said and pointed to the screen. “See, he took his shower then showed up in school without EVER PUTTING ON CLOTHES!”

I tried to bluff my way out of it, claiming it was Naked Day at the fictional school, like when my own kids have Pajama Day or Jersey Day or Hat Day or Finding-These-Silly-Outfits-Is-Too-Much-Work-For-Mom Day, but he didn’t buy it. And he was right, of course. One minute the kid was sudsing up under a warm stream of water and the next minute he was apparently transported to his homeroom au natural

At least he didn’t have to walk. Now that would've been embarrassing.

Photo courtesy of nh313066 at


  1. LOL, how funny!
    I saw your post on Book Blogs and I have become your newest follower. I would love a follow back at: :)

  2. OK, now THAT is funny, and interesting, too.

    I can remember times, in my own writing, where something I've written about, and the way it was written, caused certain segments of what readership I had to freak out.

    I've had to remind them to read a dicitionary, then a few of the great poems of English Lit, THEN re-read my piece. Don't know how many ever did as instructed though.

  3. Hilarious! Sounds like your 9-year-old is the perfect critic in connecting the dots. I think you should now make the character go to school naked. Write it in!