Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tidbits from Cinda Williams Chima, Paul Zelinsky, and Robin Wasserman

SCBWI Miami, January 2011

Fantasy Writers: Cinda Williams Chima said her life and her books are all about transformation. Her website has helpful links and tips, many geared toward fantasy writers. One tip is sort of discouraging, but I agree with it anyway, "Don't be a writer unless you have to...there are easier, more reliable ways of making money." Cinda's latest book THE GRAY WOLF THRONE will be released on September 20, 2011. THE EXILED QUEEN is in stores now.

Illustrators: Caldecott winner, Paul Zelinsky, broadened my view of fantasy. He said fantasy today is "a world that is not bound only by our laws." He challenged us to ask the question: "What if our world is more than it seems?" To view some of Paul's wonderful illustrations check out his website.

YA Writers: YA author, Robin Wasserman offered the following tips:

  1. Use the software Scrivener to organize research notes. More about Scrivener here.
  2. Watch the television series "Friday Night Lights" to better understand teens.
  3. Google Scott Westerfeld's presentation "Slanguage: Teen Voices and Teen Vernaculars."
  4. Google Patricia Wrede's article about "Worldbuilding."

You can read more about Robin Wasserman at her website.

If anybody has actually tried Scrivener, I'd love to hear about your experience. How difficult is it to use? Pros and cons.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bruce Hale: A Man of Many Hats

Bruce Hale, author of SNORING BEAUTY and the Chet Gecko mystery series, delivered the kickoff speech at our Miami SCBWI Conference. To say he was phenomenal is an understatement.

I read on Bruce Hale's blog that prior to writing children's books, he worked as an actor and a deejay. He still loves to perform and has appeared on stage and television. None of that experience has gone to waste. Bruce Hale is first and foremost an entertainer.

Bruce's talk centered on the following six principles:

  1. Start a good habit - cut time blogging, facebooking, tweeting etc.
  2. Write like your hair is on fire - driven by passion.
  3. Think it through, and take the big view - ask questions like a three-year-old. Keep asking why.
  4. Teamwork makes the dream work - critique groups, conferences.
  5. Face the iron tiger - FEAR. Fear never stops.
  6. Beat resistance with persistence - what would happen if I pushed a little harder?
For Bruce's grand finale, he sang "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree. He was so infectious, that all of us rose to our feet and sang along with him.

If you'd like to be inspired by Bruce Hale, he has a free electronic newsletter full of tips for writers. You can sign up here: Bruce Hale's Writing Tips.

I recently submitted a question to Bruce and he published it in his newsletter. The question was "What happens after a writer receives a contract?" For participating, I received an ARC, (advanced reading copy), of one of the Chet Gecko mysteries.

So what happens after a writer receives a contract? You'll have to subscribe to Bruce's newsletter to find out!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Novel Writing Tips from Erin Murphy, Joyce Sweeney, and Krista Marino

As part of the SCBWI Miami conference, I attended a "Novel Writing Intensive" led by literary agent, Erin Murphy; Executive Editor, Krista Marino; and writing instructor, Joyce Sweeney.

Erin Murphy talked about the art of revision. She advised us to see our manuscripts with fresh eyes. She shared the following tips to help:
  • Apply Darcy Pattison's shrunken manuscript technique.
  • Outline after you've written a first draft.
  • Employ the nine steps for plotting fiction (found on Verla Kay)
  • Use to look for overused words.

Joyce Sweeney started by telling writers to "be in scene almost all the time." She advised using the first part of a scene to orient the reader (e.g. who, what, when, where). She asked us to consider what each particular scene means to the novel as a whole. To remember that each chapter needs its own arc.

Krista Marino lectured about voice. There are two kinds: authorial voice, which she defined as the fingerprint of an author, think Stephen King and Meg Cabot. The second kind is narrative voice, which she called "the character's voice."

Elements that contribute to voice include:

  • Diction - Word choices.
  • Perspective - Mental view.
  • Characterization - Appearance, age, gender, education level, ambitions, motivations.
  • Dialogue

Krista said the #1 element missing from most manuscripts she receives is interior monologue. She read us a passage from REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly without interior monologue, and then she read the same passage with the interior dialogue inserted. The manuscript was much richer and more interesting with the right amount of interiosity included.

Krista reminded us that when you're young everything feels like the end of the world. She said to write effectively for teens, we should erase adult perspective and in our minds go back to high school everyday. We need to actually listen to teens to get their dialogue just right.

The workshop provided lots of great tips, and I'm summarizing an entire days worth of notes. If anything is unclear, post a question and I'll try and answer it.

Happy Writing!