Monday, May 18, 2009

SCBWI WWA Conf part 1 - Lisa Papademetriou

Some of the best advice I ever received was to attend any and all writer's conferences. Luckily we have a great chapter of the SCBWI up here in Western Washington. This past weekend was the annual conference. It was filled with exciting information and peeks into the lives of different agents and editors. I thought I'd do a couple different blogs on the classes I attended.

The First class I attended was Be Your Own Editor with Lisa Papademetriou.
For those who don't know her she used to be an editor at Scholastic, HarperCollins and Disney Press. Right now she is writing her own novels. I highly recommend her book, The Wizard, The Witch and Two Girls From Jersey. I was lucky to get an advanced copy of it a year ago and loved its simple fantasy story.

Anyhow, she offered great advice. First off she had us write down our dreams concerning writing. Mine included; Speaking at a school, giving a talk at a SCBWI convention as a "success story", having books for sale at Target and Fred Meyers, having a published series, and being on a first name friendly basis with agents and editors.

Then she told us that editing is a mindset and we needed to separate our external expectations from our manuscripts. We need to focus more on internal motivators such as becoming a better writer or learning to write an exciting story that flows.

She gave some key advice such as; "You are not your work." All work has flaws and we need to accept that as writers. One tip given was to place your completed first draft in a drawer for at least 6 weeks before trying to revise it. That way you'll see it more detached from your emotions.

Lisa mentioned that stories need shape. Make sure you have an inciting incident (the problem your character is facing). Place it as close to the beginning of your story as possible. Next, make sure there is rising action. The stakes must get higher until, the climax. Then there is resolution and the denouement.

Make sure you have an active opening. Allow the conflict to be clear and compelling. Don't start with exposition.

Writing an outline was highly recommended. For writers like myself who like the character to evolve on paper, she suggests writing the outline after the first draft. The outline will show you if your plot is moving forward. It will also let you see if the action your character is taking is always the same. If they are always fighting people there is nothing new going on. The character must take a new and different action to achieve their ends.

Let's see, other advice- less is more, cut things. Use verbs instead of adverbs. Don't draw the ending out. Wrap things up fast, people can't pay attention forever. And lastly, watch the cliches.

It was a great session and I learned a lot.

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