Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Maze of a Writing Journey

By Morgan Tarpley Smith

Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle in southeastern England is one of my absolute favorite places in the world. The castle is beautiful and unforgettable in its own right, but what stood out to me the most during my visit was the hedge maze. (So much so it’s featured in my latest novel but more about that in a minute.)

Thinking of this truly memorable maze brought to mind an interesting parallel to my writing. You see, my fiction writing journey resembles that maze.

My actual foray into novel writing began about seven years ago in Young Adult fiction with the birth of two very different book series. The problem was that two years later I still hadn’t completed a single book, and today they remain unfinished. Therefore, this maze path led to a dead end.

In the meantime, I turned from it and headed in another direction, a completely different pathway—a very long and winding one that has lasted the past five years with many more writing conferences, numerous writing critiques, writing research and the completion of my first novel manuscript—except this one was in the adult inspirational genre.

Maze at Leeds Castle
The problem was it truly wasn’t finished and was in desperate need of extensive and involved rewriting to start resembling a publishable manuscript. For many reasons, it remains unfinished today; though, I know it I will finish it one day, but I have way more to learn about myself and writing before that time.

So, that path isn’t a dead end per say but more of a “I’m going in another direction at the moment.” And, right now, that’s where I am—maze path #3 of Middle Grade fiction.

For many years now, I’ve been quite passionate and intentional about fostering imagination and self-confidence in young children. As a trained journalist and through my work with our local newspaper, I’ve had many amazing opportunities to share in classrooms about my job and writing in general—including my dream to be a published author. A few years ago, an idea sprouted in my mind to merge these passions—and, viola, my MG series was born.

Middle Grade Research!! How fun is this?!
The books follow a ten-year-old girl and her twin brother who travel through Europe one summer with their aunt and grandmother while their aunt completes various photography assignments for travel magazines. The girl dreams of being a writer, but she needs encouragement and direction—therefore her aunt steps in and enrolls her in a young writers’ class in London that gives her the tools and the confidence to start writing stories inspired by each country they visit that summer.

And, guess what, I recently completed Book One in the series which is set at Leeds Castle and features the maze in a big way. I’ve already begun the next book set in Ireland. With this series, I feel completely prepared to write compelling characters and enticing story arcs after all my years of research and practice. I am, in no way, saying that these books are simple and basic, but they are much less challenging for me to write than that adult novel that right now is still way over my head.

The end of the maze
But I’ve finished a book, and it’s still complete after thorough editing and polishing. This maze path has led me closer to my goal, closer to the end of the maze prize. All those maze paths that seemed like they led absolutely nowhere are all part of the experience, the learning process, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I continue to learn so much and it all makes getting to THE END so much sweeter.

Is your writing journey a maze too? Have you switched genres? If yes, was it easy for you? Did you have dead ends? I’d love to hear from you!

Also, are there any middle grade authors out there? I’d love to meet you and join the MG party! 😊

Morgan Tarpley Smith is an award-winning newspaper reporter and photographer in Louisiana. She is also an aspiring inspirational novelist. Besides writing and traveling to over a dozen countries, her interests include acting in her local theater, genealogy, photography, and singing. She resides in Louisiana with her husband. For more information about Morgan, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads. 


  1. I suspect one reason MG fiction is "easier" to write is that it's shorter than a full-length novel. My first completed manuscript was a novella, and I found that relatively easy to plot out, then write in a short space of time. I'm having a lot more trouble with my longer novel.

    And perhaps it's that attempting those longer novels has taught you how to write. Either way, congratulations on finishing!

    Maybe I need to revert to my inner child ...

    1. Thanks, Iola! Yes, the shorter length is certainly easier to write, but I do think it has been all my practice and work on longer novels that has helped me to complete the MG novel easily. I'm loving this series! I would love for you to revert to your inner child and read it! :)

      For research to write the series, I re-read all my diaries from age 9-12 and oh wow, it was entertaining and very insightful. lol