I just got back from the opening SCBWI meeting. I had a wonderful time and learned a lot. So, let me share.
We had a great speaker tonight. Her name is Elana Roth and she is an agent at the Caren Johnson Literary Agency.
She mentioned she agents pictured books through YA. She seems to be open to all genre- just no vampires! Her topic tonight was plot and pacing. She asked bloggers not to write her speech word for word, so I am just going to touch on some points.
Her pet peeve in novels is when nothing happens. She made it very clear that stories need actions. They need stakes, risks and obstacles. Her main question of the evening was- What is on the line?
Your novel needs two different types of change; external and internal. External involves what is happening in the world. There could be a world disaster or perhaps your character has to move to a new city. Internal involves your character's emotions and growth. Both of these changes are important for plot.
She next talked about 3 types of plots; conflict, personal quest and mystery. Regarding conflict she pointed out that a writer needs to make sure the conflict gets worse before it gets better. The personal quest is when the character needs something to feel complete and goes off to find it. It is important they get what they are looking for, but then they have to choose whether they really wanted it or not. Mystery plots revolve around the search for information. Elana said that you should combine all three for the best action plot.
She touched a bit on pacing. Basically use small chunks where everything doesn't happen all at once. Plus, make sure there are some sub plots so the story isn't too flat.
I really enjoyed the evening. I can't stress how important it is to join some sort of writer's group.