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The Novel Intensive at the SCBWI Miami Conference was an amazing experience! If you ever have the opportunity to take an intensive or workshop with Jennifer Rofé or Kathleen Duey...jump at the chance! Since I have so much to tell you, I won't go into details about the great POV exercise...but it definitely showed me how something as simple as a tree can bring out emotion and let a reader get to know two different characters better as they describe it. Our homework assignment was to write down our biggest roadblock. Jennifer Rofé and Kathleen Duey went around the room, giving us an incredible amount of suggestions, information, and inspiration.

Jennifer Rofé
• You need to write your story for you and stop listening to others...unless there's a common thread (meaning that critique partners, editors, or agents point out similar issues).
• It's okay not to like every character, as long as there is enough meat on the bones and the character is 3D.
• Look for unique actions. Think about the unique things people do besides biting a lip. Less is more!
• What is your character's motivation, and how does it drive your plot forward?
• Are the stakes high enough? Does the character really have something to lose?
• It's a good idea to check Publishers Marketplace to see what's selling—but still write YOUR story. (She said the next big thing seems to be mermaids.)
• Starting a manuscript with dialogue is fine, if done well.
• When it's slow getting into a story, it feels like pre-writing.
• Don't start with an explanation for what's about to happen (such as: who knew...).
• We can learn more about a character by the way he or she describes things. For example, look at the first two pages of The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. Groovy loves cooking and she immediately shows us by her word choices when comparing things to: See's candies, undercooked white rice, and discovering a way to chop onions without crying.

Kathleen Duey
• Take yourself seriously—then people around you will take you seriously.
• Instead of asking what would happen next, ask yourself what your character would do next.
• When a subplot question came up, she said not to get hung up on what's missing—look at what's there.
• End a chapter where a person can't put down the book.
• When you know how a story ends, you know better how it should begin.
• You can use your atmosphere to help you write different characters (if you're working on multiple books or work for hire vs. your own manuscripts). Some ways to do this are to change where you write or use a different scent (such as a candle) for each manuscript.
• When getting or giving a critique, a good method can be to use the letters B, C, D:
Bored
Confused
Don't believe it
• You don't have to put an argument or blood up front as long as we care and have a reason to turn to the second page.
• Hang around kids the age of your audience (for YA, a food court is a good place). When you write, gag your inner parent!
• Setting can make a familiar story fresh.
• Leave room to escalate.
• Make sure the entourage doesn't overshadow the protagonist.
• Discover your own process. When you have a good writing day, figure out why (for example, think about the time of day you wrote).
• Sit down with your character and interview him or her. The more unconscious you can make this part of the process, the better it works.
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Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
saputnam
Jan. 21st, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this, Mindy. I love the last bit of advice and remember someone in SR, Annmarie?? Kels?? saying that they wrote letters to their characters and then had them answer them.

Hope Mom's Wars is coming along
mindyalyse
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, Sharon. The last piece of advice is my favorite, too. Between that and fantastic suggestions from Jill Santopolo's crit and talk showed me how I can take Mom Wars (and any other manuscript) to the next level. I always know a lot about my characters, but there's so much more I can discover...even if the info never makes it into the manuscript. I also love the last bullet from Jennifer Rofé--it's a great way to see how personality can be revealed through the words a character uses to describe things.

I do think Kels is the one who wrote letters.

And thanks--Mom Wars is coming along great! I hope everything is going well with your manuscripts. Are you subbing any now?
jengt
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC)
Really great notes, Mindy. Thanks for sharing. :)
mindyalyse
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jen. I hope to blog about the rest of the conference in the next couple of days.
olmue
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
"Gag your inner parent"--LOL

Great notes--thanks for sharing! I really like the character interview, too. I know it's helped me to write down conversations with my MC before, quite outside of the book. In particular with one character, the questions he avoided or refused to answer were veeeeery revealing, and told me where I needed to make him suffer more so he'd open up. So yeah--more conversations with the voices in your head! :)
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 05:54 am (UTC)
I love that quote, too! Kathleen also said something like: If my characters are too whiny, I tell them to tone it down, or they won't get their own book.

And I thought it was really funny when she said that she hates the term 'break into the business' because it makes us all sound like criminals.

I'm glad you enjoyed the notes! The character interview has helped me so much already! I know it's a tool I'll use on every manuscript I work on.

Ooh--interesting about the questions your character refused to answer! Did you try asking in different ways?
olmue
Jan. 24th, 2010 05:57 am (UTC)
Well, when he wouldn't tell me things straight out, I did what I could to provoke him. (I'm an older sister. I'm good a provoking right under the noses of parents.) The funny thing was, once I finally got him to open up and spill his secrets, and once I got them all written down, it was like he wouldn't shut up!! I had to send him on a road trip to get him out of my head for a while.

(Obviously I have too much fun with imaginary friends...)
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 06:02 am (UTC)
Wow--that's fantastic! And I don't think you can ever have too much fun with your imaginary friends (well, unless they start telling you what to do, rather than just talking to you).

He must be such a vivid, 3D character now that you know him so well!
theinkjunkie
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Mindy. I wanted to go so bad, but finanaces wouldn't allow it. I wondered which work shop you would decide on. So glad it was this one as we all benefit from your excellent note taking.
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 06:00 am (UTC)
You're welcome! I wish you could have gone, too. This was all from the Novel Intensive. I haven't even started to type up my notes from the general session and two workshops I took. I ended up taking the picture book workshop with Lauren Hodge and narrative voice with Jill Santopolo--and they were both great.

I had planned to blog about the rest of the conference by today, but I've been so busy revising and spending some quality time with my girls after being away, that I haven't had time for it yet. I have a feeling it's going to be one of the first items in my Motivation Monday list!
annastan
Jan. 21st, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
Great tips! It sounds like they covered a lot of ground!
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
Thanks. :) They did cover an amazing amount of ground, and I'm so grateful I was able to attend.
jenny_moss
Jan. 21st, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
I must have Jen's sweater. :)
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
It is a really nice sweater!
lchardesty
Jan. 21st, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
Hi Mindy! Great summary! I just posted my takeaways from the whole conference, too, but you had some I didn't. I hope you don't mind me linking here to share...

It was just so amazing! :)
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 06:06 am (UTC)
Hi Larissa. Wow--you blogged about the entire conference so quickly! I definitely missed a few gems. The great advice flowed so fast sometimes, it was hard to keep up!

Of course I don't mind you linking here. :)

I'm glad we had a chance to hang out, and hope we'll be able to spend even more time together in Orlando.
karenbschwartz
Jan. 21st, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing these tips, excellent!!!
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 06:08 am (UTC)
You're welcome, Karen. :)
lunalila
Jan. 21st, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing Mindy!
Great post, great advice.
I'm eager to work on my MS now and apply some of the tips. :)
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 06:11 am (UTC)
You're welcome, Anna. The tips have already helped me a lot. I hope they're useful for you, too. :)
chocolateinspir
Jan. 22nd, 2010 04:20 am (UTC)
Great!
I soaked up every word you wrote. Sounds like a great conference. I'm so glad you blogged about it!
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 06:12 am (UTC)
Re: Great!
Thanks. It was an amazing intensive. The whole weekend was great! I love leaving a conference with at least one 'aha' moment.
sruble
Jan. 22nd, 2010 05:21 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing Mindy! I really wanted to go to the conference, but couldn't swing it this time. Maybe June or next year. Will have to see how things are then. :)
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 06:17 am (UTC)
You're welcome, Stephanie. I would have loved to see you again. It's been way too long!

The picture book track for June looks amazing!
Tammi Sauer
Dan Santat
Frances Gilbert from Sterling

I'll let you know when I find out more about the intensives, which will be June 4th (the conference tracks are on the 5th). Maybe you can turn it into a Disney vacation. :)
sruble
Jan. 24th, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC)
The PB track sounds good. Are they doing a novel track too? That's the one I would have taken if I had been able to make it this time. Don't know if I'll be able to swing it in June, but I'm crossing my fingers!
mindyalyse
Jan. 24th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
The main conference in June has tracks for: PB, MG, YA, Series, and Marketing. I'll post full details soon. MG is being led by Kathleen Duey (who is FANTASTIC--she was full of writing gems at the Novel Intensive and Miami Conference), and Alvina Ling from Little, Brown. Young Adult is with Danielle Joseph (who has one novel out that was optioned by Disney and her second coming out right after the Orlando Workshop), and her editor, Brian Farrey from Flux will be leading it, too.

I don't know details about the intensives yet, but the picture book and novel intensives filled up really quickly this time, so I'm hoping we'll have both again. And I believe the Illustrators' Intensive was fairly full, too. I might take the PB track at the conference and the Novel Intensive.
sruble
Jan. 24th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the info! Linda puts on such great conferences in FL. You're lucky to live in her region!
mindyalyse
Jan. 25th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. Linda does put on great conferences, and I definitely feel lucky to live here!
(Anonymous)
Feb. 9th, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC)
I love SCBWI
It was FUN and I am looking forward to June! I'm trying to finish and turn in a novel before then...!

Write, write, write...

kathleen duey
mindyalyse
Feb. 12th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)
Re: I love SCBWI
It was a lot of fun, Kathleen. Thank you again for giving such amazing advice. I know I'll use many of your gems throughout my career--especially the interviews. They've already been a huge help.

Good luck with your WIP! With your dedication, I'm sure you'll finish way before June. I'm looking forward to seeing you again, and taking your Novel Intensive.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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Mindy's head shot
mindyalyse
Mindy Alyse Weiss
I write humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books.

I'm an Administrator on the SCBWI Blueboard, the FL SCBWI Newsletter Editor and Critique Group Coordinator, and a proud member of From The Mixed Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors

I've been married for twenty years and have two beautiful daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix pup who was rescued from the Everglades.

I've been published in Highlights three times and placed in the 80th Writer's Digest Competition.

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