A continuation of SCBWI-LA conference tidbits on writing. Following are some of the comments from the different writers/editors and agents at the conference. Ingredients for a breakout novel:
Your work must be unique. Write what fills you with passion. Who’s your reader? Write with a fresh twist. Work out a one-paragraph pitch before you even start to write. Use strong, fresh ideas. Articulate it successfully. How would you sum it up? A couple of sentences is all it takes. If you cannot do this, your story doesn’t have enough focus. Think beyond your small place. Think big.
Larger than life characters. Vivid. True. Your writing leaps off the page. Know your characters so well they’ll reveal themselves in personality and voice. Show, not tell -- not what your character sees, but what he whispers. Description should be a revealer of character. That is its sole purpose, i.e., the way they push back their hair, the way they look at something. Character is revealed by conflict which moves us to the big moment of realization.
A high-stakes story. What does your character stand to win or lose? Tension build up. A good outline. Chapter outline structure to know where you’re going. Use to reach the climax to the ending. A good outline will keep you paced. High stakes can come in any number of forms but they are vital.
Deeply felt theme – what’s the spiritual theme of your story? Truth about what it means to be human. Do not overwrite. Something integral to your center. What is the central theme of your story and how are you going to get it across, i.e., forgiveness of ourselves or maybe nothing we could have done. The best books teach us more about ourselves than about the tragedy.
A vivid setting – a sense of place in your story all become a character in itself. Story is created by the revelation of the internal and external, i.e., survival, hope, death, high stakes, character, setting).
Voice!!! You need to be a musician. Train your inner ear. Develop a musicality for language. Play the language. Language has a cadence you need to hear. Find your VOICE.
Great advice from the best. Have a productive writing day.
"Surprise is what keeps readers turning the pages and writers filling them up." -- James Howe