You’ve heard about the young authors who have written and published novels. I remember hearing about Walter Farley, writing The Black Stallion during a high school class. There’s the Eragon series, begun by a teen; there are three books in the series, and one has already been made into a movie. I know homeschool teens in the process of writing novels, as a matter of fact, though some are more knowledgeable and organized than others. Maybe they just have good mentors.
So you have a teen who wants to write, or is writing already, and you’re not sure you can offer the right guidance. Maybe you’ve thought about the creative writing classes at the local community college, but you’re not ready to throw your lamb to the wolves...? (I know a couple of homeschool parents currently taking classes at the local community college. I know our sensitive young teen is not quite ready yet to enter that environment. Maybe in a few years.)
Maybe you’re a budding writer yourself, but you’re not quite sure what it takes to write a winning novel.
Perhaps you have a student who hates to write. You can lead a pen to paper but you can’t make it write! (Sorry. We’re having a punning contest, and I’m losing.)
I have news for you. You can do this!
Daniel Schwabauer knows something about novel writing. More than something, actually. He is the author of two award-winning books, Runt the Brave (see related review) and Runt the Hunted. His new writing curriculum, One Year Adventure Novel is especially suited to youthful writers who are excited about writing. They may or may not know something of how literature is put together. Plot and character development, setting and voice, conflict and climax may be familiar terms, and then again, they may be new concepts waiting to be explored.
A massive amount of time and energy has gone into One Year Adventure Novel. The course comes with a textbook and workbook, a parent/teacher’s guide, an example of a classic adventure novel, The Prisoner of Zenda, and seventy-eight video lessons on seven DVDs plus additional resources on CD-Rom.
We won’t be judging any books by their covers, but if we were going to start out that way, I’d have to say that the quality of the materials is excellent. The softcover books have sturdy bindings; the production values of the DVDs are outstanding; the online forum is easy to navigate and intuitive to use. The additional resources on the bonus disk are designed for ease of use (Just don’t do what I did and try to open the files on the disk individually—go right to the “start here” file on the CD and click on it to bring up the interactive menu, at least if your computer is like mine and gives you a list of files when you insert the CD).
Just a little more on the bonus disk: Here you have all the quizzes, which your student can take on the computer and have instantly scored. There are more than a dozen classic adventure novels in PDF form, as well as additional short video clips with answers to frequently asked questions, and a slightly longer clip where Mr. Schwabauer discusses common mistakes and how to avoid them. There’s a PDF printout to go along with this discussion, and two more worksheets with “words to avoid” and suggestions for words to use which show the reader the action in a cinematic way and telegraph the thoughts of characters while maintaining a steady point-of-view from the narrator’s standpoint. You’ll even find a clickable link to the online forum and computer wallpaper suited to the task of writing an adventure novel.
Now that I’ve assured you on outward appearances, let’s get to the meat of the matter. Mr. Schwabauer knows his subject, and what’s more, he communicates his passion for writing in a contagious manner. He connects with his students in a meaningful way, but serious work is going on. He is a competent teacher, an engaging lecturer, a thoughtful guide. He’ll lead your student through the steps of character development, voice, setting, plot, conflict, dialog, resolution—just to toss out a few of the terms.
...only your student won’t just be learning these terms while analyzing others’ works, but writing an original work!
Your student will work at the rate of three lessons a week, about an hour and a half a lesson. The first half of the course involves building the skills needed to write a novel; in the second half, the student actually writes a short, complete novel. Each lesson starts with watching a video; these include lectures, clips from adventure movies based on classic novels, even timed writing exercises. Following the video, students read the textbook (appropriately entitled The Compass) which presents more details on the topic covered in the video. Many of the readings include excerpts from classic adventure novels, illustrating the point under discussion. Next comes The Map, or workbook part of the lesson, where the student applies what was learned. Weekly quizzes help to determine how well the student is assimilating all this information.
And what are you, the parent, doing all this time? Do you have to be an English major to administer this program? Do you need to hire a tutor? To the last two questions, the answer is a resounding “No!” To answer the first question, I’d point you to the Teacher’s Guide. Herein you’ll find everything you need to mentor your young writer, including evaluation guidelines, quiz questions and answers, and an overview of how to make the course work. The quizzes are also available on the resource CD-Rom, allowing them to be taken on the computer and automatically scored.
Included in the cost of the course is registration in the One Year Novel’s online forum, where your student can interact with other youthful writers, as well as the author himself. In addition, your student may publish the finished novel at the One Year Novel website.
The One Year Novel compares favorably in price to other online writing tutorials, even better, if you’ll be using this program with more than one child in your family. Your initial investment buys a complete set of materials for your first student, while each additional student registration costs another $25, which includes the student workbook and forum registration. You are not purchasing the program, but rather a household license for exclusive use by one (or more, with additional registrations) student. Co-op licensing is available; please see the website for more information.
One Year Adventure Novel can be used to supplement any high school English course, but it can also stand on its own as a complete English course for one year of high school credit. It’s my opinion, having gone through the materials, that your student will have not only an original, well-thought-out, carefully crafted novel to show for the effort, but also a deeper understanding of how literature is put together, and a deeper appreciation of classic literature, after finishing this course.
I give this course high marks.