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.
• 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.
• 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:
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.
- Current Mood: creative