Wednesday, November 10, 2010


This past weekend was spent gearing up for another revision pass at my new manuscript.  No, not by eating too much chocolate and complaining about the evanescence of time.  I attended an SCBWI Western Washington writing retreat coordinated by the amazing Jolie Stekly

This year, Jill Santopolo, executive editor at Penguin’s Philomel Books imprint, and Nancy Mercado, executive editor at Roaring Brook Press, (both pictured below) led workshops focusing on everything from plot development to finding inspiration to using acting exercises to develop a thorough understanding of your characters.  Oh, they were also fun and occasionally pretty darn hilarious!

Other great elements of this year's retreat were the intensive, small-group peer critiques; the fun of chatting with friends old and new at KidLit Drink Night; and, of course, the yummy meals.

Along with a couple of extra pounds, I took away two important notions from the weekend:

1-It is essential to have a deep and thorough understanding of your character and, as you review your manuscript, to make sure that every plot move is honestly motivated by what that character would do (and not by where you want the story to go).

2. Even the best character development wears thin if the story--the character's WANT--isn't introduced in a timely manner.  Here is where classic plotting structure and pacing must be examined even if you consider yourself a character-driven novelist.

Now, in all honesty, these are not things I didn't already know at some level.  But it was extremely helpful to hear intelligent, thoughtful editors revisit these critical notions.  I eagerly tried all the exercises and techniques they suggested to hone these elements of my novel and was so grateful for their fresh perpectives.

A truly wonderful weekend.

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