There are constests here and there, but here is one you may not wish to miss, especially if you write MG or YA.
Deborah Halverson is the author of the upcoming Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies (June 2011). She is the award-winning author of two teen novels, and has worn editing shoes for fifteen years. In celebration of her completed manuscript, she is giving away a free MG or YA critique. Your novel must be complete and must be under 80,000 words.
NaNoWriMo comes in November. So does Thanksgiving and my husband’s birthday. Last year, my first NaNo, I ended up not writing the last six days of the month because of cooking company. (Here is a good sidetrack point about grammar. With a missing comma or word, you may come to the conclusion that I am a cannibal. Not true. I meant that I was doing a lot of cooking, and better than normal cleaning, for company.) Hence, I did not “win” last year. However, I did get a completed novel out of it later, which was, in my opinion, the whole purpose of the NaNoWriMo exercise.
Although I’ve kept up with the daily word count so far this year (1,667 words/day), and have even stashed away some extra words each day, expecting not to be writing around the Thanksgiving period, I found myself sinking into a slump. I was doing well. I am doing well. And yet here I am in a writing depression. What is that about?
And then I open my NaNoWriMo email from my regional leader. She mentioned that Week Two was the hardest week of all. What? Had she come into my house? Into my head? How did she know that? I suppose I should have felt more comforted, knowing other writers were feeling, at this point, the same as I. “No!” I shout. “I am not a groupie. I am an individual writer! I will not be like everyone else. Ha. I’m not depressed any more. There.” And I’m off to write my 1,667+ words.
Face to the grind.. Not quite sure what that means, except that it sounds painful. I’ve got my face to the grind, working on NaNoWriMo this month. It’s not painful, actually; it simply requires discipline. Then again, perhaps that is painful in a sense.
From participating last year, I know the NaNoWriMo group gives ideas periodically for what to write about for the day, in order to add to your word count. Just like never getting bored, I never have trouble thinking up things to write. What I have trouble with is the discipline of writing. Therein lies my writing challenge for you — do some raw writing about this photo I took on a trip up north last week. Set the timer for ten minutes… Ready? Set? Go.
On Saturday, October 9, 2010, fantasy writer Cinda Chima spoke at the SCBWI-MI Writers Conference on “Engaging a Middle-Grade and Young Adult Reader.” She stressed the importance of drawing the readers in with your first line. She said to open during a change, or with an interesting character, or an interesting setting; to open with humor, or with atmosphere and suspense. She gave several examples of first lines of novels.
Cinda said that writers need to make a promise to the readers about the story in the very beginning, and then keep that promise at the end.
Use conflict and action to keep the readers reading. Story happens when character and conflict collide. She encouraged us to “write cinamatically” with our delivery, like screenwriters.
New world-building slows the pace of a story, so deliver information on a “need to know” basis. To help speed the pace, use dialogue with the scene, use short paragraphs and sentences, and use simple sentence structures.
Cinda suggested printing out your story, then highlighting in different colors the narrative, the action, the dialogue, and “the exciting parts” to see where the story drags.
She spattered her talk with quotes, one from Alfred Hitchcock: “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”
At the writers conference a week ago, I was honored to get into Darcy Pattison’s workshop, “Using the Hero’s Journey to Enhance Your Novel.” Darcy is amazing, and so spot-on in her craft of writing suggestions. I highly recommend her books, CDs, or attending her novel revision workshop (which I sincerely hope to do someday).
Darcy based her talk (tweeked to that which only Darcy can do) on THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, by Chistopher Vogler. At the conference, I bought two copies — one for me and one as a gift. This post is paraphrased from Darcy’s talk. Formulas are meant just guides.
The big picture (of your story) is in three Acts: Act One (approx 8 chapters) is the set up; Act Two (approx 16 chapters) is the twists and turns; and Act Three (approx 8 chapters) is the resolution.
Act One Objectives: show the hero in his/her ordinary world, call to adventure, refusal, crossing the threshold.
Act Two Objectives: tests, enemies, allies, approach to inmost cave, supreme ordeal, reward.
Act Three Objectives: the road back, resurrection, and return with elixir.
Darcy used BRIDGE TO TERABITHA for her example throughout the workshop, with some mention of the original STAR WARS. Some of my own favorite fantasy stories which also follow this “formula” are THE HOBBIT, LOTR, and THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. The formula works!
On to work on my own writing. <deep and heavy sigh> Writing is such hard work.
On Saturday, October 9, 2010, Susan Chang, Senior Editor at Tor, spoke to our group. This was her second SCBWI conference. There was much she shared in the ninety minutes. This is a brief summary.
Susan continues to be fascinated with the publishing process, after eighteen years in it, the last seven years at Tor. Tom Dorety formed Tor in 1980. In 2002, Starscape was started fo 8-12 year old readers. In 2003, TorTeen was stated for 13-19 year old readers.
Twelve years old is the reader age when science fiction/ fantasy reading starts. This, of course, does not include fantasy of talking animals, etc in picture books.
Not every editor is the right match for a good story.
Agents are looking for you. But… if you query fifty agents and receive all rejects, take a step back. Writing needs to sparkle. Ideas are easy to come up with. Susan added, “I don’t write because it’s too damn hard.”
Good SF/F writing has action and suspense with strong, flawed characters.
Two books she suggested reading are DEAR GENIUS and SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS.
After our primary needs, the need for story is very basic. Book have the ability to change lives.
Our SCBWI-Michigan Fall Writers Conference is going on this weekend. I am commuting since it is: 1) close to where I live; 2) cheaper than staying there; (Those reasons should probably be reversed, but I’d sound too cheap if I wrote it out the other way.) and 3) I get to see my husband, and sleep in my own bed, actually sleep during conference! Nice.
Our speaker for Friday was fantasy author Cinda Chima. She spoke about fantasy. (Surprise.) She directed us to: Why write fantasy? What are the categories of fantasy? And, what is magic? To greatly summarize her talk, she said that the elements of fantasy are character, setting, plot and magic, with magic being why it is fantasy, and the first three elements being the reason why others would want to read your story.
I do enjoy live writing conferences. It has been wonderful (as I anticipated) to see all my writing friends whom I only see at conferences, and some I’ve only known via the internet. I was also able to eat dinner with spot-on author-speaker, Darcy Pattison. Words flow from her mouth like diamonds. I was in a workshop with Darcy several years ago, and have her Novel Metamorphoses book, and get her Fiction Notes. Since I’d invited her to this conference, I didn’t expect anything less than diamonds.
Last night, I also had to privilege to introduce myself to Tor Senior Editor, Susan Chang. I was the one who invited her, too, to the conference, so naturally, I was looking forward to meeting her and listening to her pearls of wisdom. I’d heard many wonderful things about Susan pre-conference. Face-to-face (even for a minute) has been a thousand times better. First impressions are very… impressionable. She is gracious, knowledgable, reasonable, an excellent listener, quite charming, and (I’ve been told) humorous. (No, I am not buttering her up! She truly is quite nice.) I look forward to her talks today and tomorrow.
My guess is that I will not post again about the conference until Monday. Need to focus. On to the writers conference.
YIKES-A-ROONIE! I just realized today that earlier this month, I put out an August Writer’s Challenge of writing 10,000 Raw (first draft) words by September first. How you doing? Surprisingly, I may make that goal. I know I have nearly 10,000 words started on a new YA (young adult) fantasy, but I’m not sure if I’m going to leave in certain bits to make it into a MG (middle grade) story or not, yet. I THINK I wrote nearly all those words this month, but I may have started in July, too. I’ve been a tad bit scatter-brained this summer.
Has this summer been crazy for other people as well? Family, travels, cleaning oil off of turtles… well, maybe everyone hasn’t been doing that last one, but I’d encourage you to help if you can… heat, humidity. There are lots of summer distractions for writers.
So… how have you done on the August writing challenge?
No more excuses. There are still six days left in the month. Get writing, already!
One of the things every writer needs is a designated writing space. It might be den space in your house, or an overstuffed chair, or a certain table at the library or cafe. All the best of the best writers recommend this. It should be a place where you go specifically to write, not to knit or eat or watch tv or check your email or Facebook friends. This is your personal designated writing spot. Writing only!
I don’t have one.
In my defense, I happen to have many. Perhaps it has something to do with the nomad in me. 1) We move into a new house (often a new state) every seven years or so, therefore a specific place in any given house changes from place to place. 2) My husband works about 1/3 of his job at home, in the den, using the computer, during undesignated times; it could be morning, afternoon, or evening. 2) We own a laptop, which I do use, but with the den taken, there is no designated space in which to use it, and no comfortable place to sit or type. Besides, each room of our house is otherwise designated. 3) I follow the sun. In the summer time, the sun comes up from the back of the house. In the summer, I spend a lot of time writing in our three-season room (unless it gets above 90 degrees — no air conditioning out there). In the winter, I set up my writing nest in the guest bedroom, in which the sun enters each morning. I’ve only got leg-space there since the room is mostly filled with the two beds. But the beds serve as both chair and tables on which to spread my notes, etc. But then, the guest bedroom only works until noon, when it becomes wintry dark in there. I consequently move to the breakfast nook off the kitchen, following the sun around our house.
(Stop yawning, please.)
My suggestion to you all is to find your own personal writing space. That’s what all the biggie-bigs say to do. I support their wisdom: Find your own space… that is, unless you have a circumstantial nomadic spirit, like me.