I was off work today, so I managed to get more writing done than usual in day 14 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month. Like any day that start out clear, mine quickly got filled up and I spent the morning running errands. But I was back at my computer at 1:30, feeling fresh and ready to work. I whipped through the scene I have been working on, then moved on to paying bills. I didn’t write for as many hours as I had planned, but I feel good about the work I did get done, and feel ready for tomorrow’s morning session. I feel as though I know where I’m going.
Now onto more highlights from the Brazos Valley SCBWI conference on Saturday. Today, I’ll give you a little bit of what I got out of all the author speakers talking about craft.
Cynthia Leitich Smith talked about the importance of setting and how it can sometimes become a character itself. The setting informs the characters, reflects the characters or works against the characters. Cynthia detailed the exhaustive research she did for the setting of her latest book, Tantalize, and encouraged us to visit the places we’re writing about, take pictures and write lots of notes. Accuracy is important, she said, even if you’re writing about a small town that only a handful of people have heard of. That last point was in answer to a question from me, because my novel is set in a small town that’s real but I have given it some fictional elements.
Sherry Garland described the different types of openings for a book, such as action, dialog (although she said dialog is very difficult to do affectively) and humor. Her number one message was that the opening should pull in the reader, and the first reader will be the editor/agent you’re submitting to. So make it good.
Janet Fox talked about characters, saying that although most protagonist’s will be flawed in some way (how else will they learn over the course of the story), they should have at least one likeable trait so readers can identify with them. Names are important, she said, and should reflect the character in some way. Janet also gave attendees a tip of making a scrapbook for their characters, with photos and anything else.
Finally, Kathy Whitehead discussed voice and showed us how the choices we make in character and personality in our writing distinguishes our writing from others.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you a bit about Kathi Appelt and Emily Van Beek’s talk.