Friday, July 8, 2011

Notes From a Writer's Workshop (and a winner!)

Hi, friends! Thanks so much for stopping by here. So far Operation House Hunt is well under way. It's a weird feeling being in between homes and not knowing where we'll live yet. But alas, there is always dear old mom and dad to take us in. lol

Needless to say, there's a whole lot happening right now. But finding retreat in the blogosphere is a welcome relief.

Congrats to SHARI BIRD who is the random.org winner of the Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading from my last blog post. Yay for Shari!!

I mentioned a few posts ago about the SCBWI regional workshop I went to, and wanted to leave you with a few notes I took while I was there. I sat in on the MG track with author Gordon Korman and kid lit agent Joanna Volpe.

** Gordon, who's been writing since age 12, made a comment that resonated. He mentioned how most writers think they have to write from experience, but how really, writers should be writing from observation as well. Makes a lot of sense, and I think most of us probably do that anyway.

** Gordon had us do an exercise where we wrote an action scene that involved these three things: a situation, something that goes wrong in that situation, and how the character (s) get out of it. Pretty basic stuff. But you should have heard some of the scenes writers whipped up in ten minutes time spontaneously.

**  Joanna talked about pacing and how every scene must move the story right to the next. If you can remove a scene without cutting any pertinent info to the plot, do it.

** Joanna also discussed plot and how all story lines must tie together. She broke it down like this:

     E = emotional plot    P = action plot   S1 = subplot one   S2 = subplot two
     They must intertwine to create the story as a whole.
     The start of the story should deal with feelings of the character's current situation.
     The first change in the story, or Gateway 1, must bring about a point of no return.

She also mentioned how:
* we should NEVER write to the trends
* pay attention to chapter books and YA
* know what types of voices kids are responding to
* writing for kids means your story has to heave HEART. It should be tried and true. MG is different from YA in that younger tweens believe they can change the world.
* in every MG story, there must be something the MC has learned
* coincidence in a story weakens the plot. Every occurrence and MUST feel authentic to the story.
* looking for how to market your book? Try BalkinBuddies.com
* kids get involved in stories when the stakes are high
* editors need a BIG story with high stakes and lots of suspense

Something else Gordon mentioned was how, as writers, it's important to step out of our comfort zones in order to push ourselves to our optimum performance. I couldn't agree more. Every time I try a new genre, I amaze myself at what I can do, even though I was certain I couldn't make it happen before writing the first draft.

Gordon also said he likes to imagine the toughest, most self-proclaimed non-reading kid out there with piercings and green hair and scowling face, and write the story for him. LOL! What a great way to taunt our muses into creating something spectacular!

Have a wonderful weekend!

What about you? Have anything to add? Is there something you've learned about writing over the last few weeks that you really liked? Please share ....

39 comments:

Madeline Bartos said...

Thanks for sharing your notes! Love the advice - especially imagining the tough green haired dude. ;) This week I learned about the 20 Bad Idea method. You write down 20 ideas and the farther down the list you get, the more creative your idea is. I'm getting ready to outline (tons of possibilities!) so I'm looking forward to brainstorming like this.

Rogue Mutt said...

I wonder if you read their books how often they follow their own advice. So many times writers, agents, editors SAY one thing and then DO the complete opposite.

Old Kitty said...

Thanks for sharing such succint and very helpful notes!! These are great reminders of what to keep in mind when writing. I love that advice about writing to the most difficult of reading audience! Have a great weekend too! Take care
x

William Kendall said...

Thank you for the notes, PK! Very helpful!

Karen Walker said...

Just want to wish you luck on your house hunt, Pk. These notes are also quite helpful. Thanks.
Karen

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent tips! Thanks for sharing, Pk.

Susan Kane said...

Joanna was absolutely right in every point. Good writing will be good in 20 years +. Trendy writing will be in the GoodWill box in two years.

Hart Johnson said...

Great stuff from that conference. I particularly like the diving into the point of no return. Good stuff to think about.

GigglesandGuns said...

So much information! Thanks for sharing. I took notes on your note :)

Rachel Pudelek said...

Thanks for sharing. Glad your house hunting is in full swing! I know how tiring it can be though. Good luck!

Carol Riggs said...

LOTS of good info here. Argh, I'm still reluctant on the "if the scene doesn't move the story forward, cut it out" pacing thing. But it's great advice--what's the point of the scene if it has no purpose? Just ambiance and mood?

Misha said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing them. :-)

I especially noted Joanna's advice on story lines. It's something I have to concentrate on, as I actually have multiple plots and sub plots going. Even ones that are unseen but have to be referred to in some way.

Have a great weekend.

Sophia Richardson said...

Anyone else really interested in finding out more about this pierced, green-haired, scowling boy? Glad the house hunt is going well!

Jacqueline Howett said...

Thanks for the tips. It will make good re-reading again for me later. Hope it sinks in.

Good luck with the house stuff!

erica and christy said...

Perfect notes for me to read while procrastinating from writing my high-concept MG boy-book. :)
erica

McKenzie McCann said...

These are all such good points. Cutting out scenes when they don't add anything to the story resonated with me. It's for that reason I can't help but scoff at really long books. I can't help but be skeptical and wonder if every single scene is really important.

Alleged Author said...

Thanks for sharing all the bullet points!

kathy stemke said...

Love the advice on labeling plots and subplots throughout the story. I'm writing my first YA and this will help me be organized.

Elana Johnson said...

Holy wow! What great notes. As I dive back into writing, this is perfect for me to be thinking about.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Congrats to Shari!

Thanks for the notes, PK... They definitely will come in handy.

Good luck in the house hunting.

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Pk, It's nice to meet you. I'm new here.

Thanks for being so generous and sharing your notes. I agree with Kathy, it's a useful tip to label your subplots.

I also write MG.

Jess said...

Thanks so much for sharing such valuable stuff from the conference! And congrats to Shari (for winning Charlie Joe Jackson)~ she's a sweetie!

fOIS In The City said...

Good stuff today, PK :)

Congrats to the winner and more to you for the solid post. I've saved it on a doc ...

Good luck house-hunting and with your writing schedule. We all need a break ... don't we?

Amie Kaufman said...

Oh, wow. Gordon Korman is wrote one of my all time favourite books, and Joanna's absolutely lovely. Lucky you, to be in the room with them! Sounds like an amazing session!

Madeleine said...

Absolutely brilliant! Excellent pointers. Thanks :O)

Jen said...

What great advice! Particularly about the kid with green hair and piercings. I think I'm channelling him for one of my characters now...

Nas Dean said...

Thanks for sharing these notes. I'm printing them off for future reference.

Kelly Hashway said...

Wow, how I wish I was at that workshop! Gordon Korman and Joanna Volpe? That's just awesome. Thanks for sharing some highlights of what they had to say.

RAD - Dot Painter said...

Awesome post! Thanks so much for transcribing your conference notes. I'm heading to a workshop on Thursday in beautiful San Rafael, CA and will take your lead and post some of my notes on my blog.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Alison Miller said...

Awesome post! Thanks for sharing!

JSV always has so much good info to share, I definitely took notes from your blog today!

Rachael Harrie said...

Ooh, best of luck with the house-hunting!

That sounds like an awesome workshop. I love Joanna's plotting and pacing advice - will see how I can apply that to my current revisions :)

Hugs,

Rach

cleemckenzie said...

These are great things to keep in mind. I also like to remember that readers love tension, even if it's only bits along the way as I build the story to its conclusion.

Miranda Hardy said...

Glad you were able to get a lot out of this conference. I was so overwhelmed by the amount of information given in so short a time. It was well worth it.

Julie Musil said...

Wow, this is excellent information. I love the advice about trying to capture the attention of the non-reader. When I read John Green's books, I thought non-reader types would love his voice. Thanks, Pk!

Shari said...

Great info in your notes!

Thanks for the book. Woohoo for me!

Ciara said...

Sounds like a fantastic conference. I've been wanting to check out our local SCBWI. I'm thinking now is a good time. :) Thanks for sharing this.

Talei said...

Congrats to Shari on winning the book! ;-)

And wow! Pk, awesome advice here. Sounds like a really good workshop. I'm interested to see that the point about not writing to trends.

Thank you for sharing with us!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Those are fabulous tips! I love going to conferences. I find them so energizing.

Ann Best said...

You have certainly given us great tips. Good writing is always in fashion. For children especially, story is king.
Ann Best, Memoir Author