Saturday, May 21, 2011

Learning from the Pros

I recently heard two great speakers, and each one shared nuggets of wisdom I can apply to my own writing.

Laura McGee Kvasnosky spoke at the May SCBWI Western Washington professional series meeting. Ms. Kvasnosky, who is an author and an illustrator, shared artists' techniques that can be super helpful in structuring a novel. She pointed out that when a novelist does it right, the reader quits noticing the printed words. She said when an author has a clear image in his or her m
ind, he or she can transfer the image better into the reader's head. One of my incredibly talented critique partners, Margaret Nevinski, blogged about the evening here. I met Ms. Kvasnosky after her presentation, and she is so sweet! Plus she plays a mean ukulele!

This is a pic of my critique group from that same night.

left to right: me, Margaret Nevinski, Jennifer Mann

This week I went to a
Field's End Roundtable, and the speaker
, Jennie Shortridge, really impressed me. Ms. Shortridge is the author of four bestselling novels. The title of her talk: "The Art of Arc: Getting Those Flabby Middles in Shape." What I loved most was she gave us several concrete steps to help us firm up our novels.

Jennie Shortridge
(photo credit: David Hiller)

One tip: use clear, brief transitions. Her example was, "Two hours later, she was sitting at the bar. Her dad walked in." In writing, we can skip the mundane parts and get to what's interesting. She said, "When you peel away the crap, you reveal the good stuff."

Another piece of advice was to put limits on the story. She said a ticking clock is one way to put limits because it puts urgency in a story. "Something needs to happen
or else." She also suggested shortening a story's time frame. I agree! I did this between drafts and my WIP is much tighter.

Ms. Shortridge had so many great suggestions! If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, do so!

Happy writing!


Travener said...

Thanks. Interesting stuff. One of these days, I need to get out of the house and go hear a writer talk about the craft.

Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks for the tips. I've heard that about the middle, not in those words but, bascically take out the crap.

Anita Saxena said...

Thank you for sharing these nuggets of wisdom.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Ah, peeling away the crap! The hardest part for any writer :)

Laura Pauling said...

Sounds like you had a great time! I love great speakers. :)

Susan Fields said...

I like that advice on transitions. I'll have to check out the transitions on my wip and make sure they're brief and to the point.

Janet Johnson said...

Great suggestions! The ticking clock one is very helpful. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm getting better at peeling away the crap.

Dawn Simon said...

Travener, I find it helpful to hear how authors tackle the same things I'm working on. Plus it's fun!

Anne, I had too. I appreciated how Ms. Shortridge had so many suggestions on ways we could firm up our work.

Anita, you're welcome!

Sherrie, true!

Laura, I do too. On top of the learning, I often walk away extra inspired.

Susan, when my former writing teacher used to catch me over complicating, she'd remind me to keep it simple. That doesn't mean I don't complicate things too much now; I'm just better at catching myself.

Janet, yes, it adds that sense of urgency that keeps a reader reading!

Medeia, I am as well, though I don't sweat it too much in my first drafts. I find it easier to identify once I have the story down.

Robert Guthrie said...

Great advice about timing. And now in Bellingham, I'm intrigued about SCBWI Western WA.

Kari Marie said...

Great tips, sounds like a helpful presentation.

Dawn Simon said...

Robert, I love SCBWI Western Washington! We have members in Bellingham! Hope to see you at an event!

Thanks, Kari! Both authors gave super helpful tips! Since I'm currently revising, I'm keeping my notes from Jennie Shortridge's event handy!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

This is great advice. Thanks for sharing! I love SCBWI conferences. I recently shortened the timeline of my WIP and I think it's added much-needed urgency to my story. :)

Dawn Simon said...

Ghenet, that's great! Shortening the timeline helped me too!

Kjersten said...

I'm so sad I missed Laura McGee Kvasnosky speaking in Seattle. She's one of my favorites.

I like the advice from Jennie Shortridge about skipping the mundane parts. That is a problem I've seen many times in critique groups.

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Kjersten! Both speakers were excellent. I hope you get to hear Laura McGee Kvasnosky before too long. (And I'm glad you've connected with SCBWI in Malaysia!)