Wednesday, June 24, 2015

12 QUOTES for Writers

Here are 12 quotes about writing that give me great food for thought.

LIFE and WRITING
A book is simply the container of an idea—like a bottle; what is inside the book is what matters.   
Angela Carter

I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.     —Ray Bradbury

If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day-work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.     —David Brin

Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.    ―John Green

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.     —E. L. Doctorow

Writing is its own reward.    —Henry Miller

All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.     —Somerset Maugham

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.      —Edgar Rice Burroughs

WRITING and EDITING
I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.     —Harper Lee

Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.
Larry L. King

For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.     —Catherine Drinker Bowen

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.     —C. J. Cherryh

YOUR TURN
Which of these is your favorite, that inspires or resonates with you? 
(I like them all, but I like John Green's the best!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Making of Great Books

Recently I attended an Oregon SCBWI conference, and enjoyed listening to Lin Oliver, co-founder and executive director of the SCBWI—and a writer herself. She’s a funny personality with tons of good information. One of her talks was on the making of great middle grade fiction; I’ll touch on some highlights here. The book cover shown here is Lin Oliver's middle grade novel, WHO SHRUNK DANIEL FUNK, first in the series about a boy who gets shrunk to the size of his fourth toe.

Some of these concepts apply to writing novels in general, not just middle grade.

KEY POINTS 
1. The journey. Middle grade often involves leaving home, setting out into the world, having experiences, and then going back home wiser and experienced. (In contrast to YA where the character often does NOT return home, and the goal is independence or separation.)
2. Middle grade, for kids ages 8-12, is the MOST SOUGHT AFTER books. It’s the “bread and butter” of publishing. I didn’t know that, with the focus on YA in recent years.
3. Your “canon.” Make a list of books you like and study it to find out WHY these are your faves. What themes are repeated? Do certain subjects crop up repeatedly? Are they linked by humor, adventure, quirky characters? This will teach you about your OWN voice—because it’s reflected in what you love to read.
4. Common MG themes: adventure, a secret that must be kept, interacting with friends, making sacrifices, rising to a challenge, exploring one’s bravery.
5. Act 1 is the beginning third of a novel. The character’s flaws and vulnerabilities are exposed. Get those characters out of their comfort zone!
6. Act 2 is roughly the middle third of a novel. This involves a testing, which results in failure—there’s no growth if the problems are solved too easily. Problems need to BUILD, with a period of learning before things can be solved.
7. Act 3 is the ending third of a novel. It’s the resolution of the plot as well as the character development. How is he or she different by the end of the book? There doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but a satisfying one…moving forward with hope.
8. Plot. In middle grade, the plot doesn’t have to be complex. It can be linear and simple; kids don’t necessarily care about subplots; they just want to know “what happens next.”
9. BIG excitement and adventures: Kids love to have these!
10. Humor. Kids love it, so include that if you can do it well.
11. Pacing is crucial. New things must be happening on every page—fun things, adventuresome things!
12. Climax. You need a scene that is SO dominant that everything builds toward it. Put all your emotional chips there. The hinging scene where things have to change or else can’t go on. The point of no return. This happens roughly around the end of the second act or the beginning of the third.

YOUR TURN
Do you have a dominant scene, a point-of-no-return climax, in your novel?
Did you know that middle grade is the “bread and butter” books of publishing?
Do you feel like you can do humor well? Is yours more of a middle grade or young adult or adult flavor of humor?