Category Archives: Voice

Save on Phone Plans: 25%

I’ve lost my phone.

This worries me as I have an appointment with two friends. What if I’m late?

I fought against getting this phone. But year before last when people were messaging all over Waterford trying to find me, and the last time my agent had to listen to Carolina’s weird answering machine, I realized it was time to get a phone of my own.

Where is that darn thing?

#40

What has your main character lost?

How important is it to her?

Does this loss play a necessary part in your story?

Look through your novel. IF this loss is important, in needs to be present. It can’t be forgotten.

When Rick Walton was ill, he was always on my mind. Always. He’s still on my mind quite a lot.

Loss can be anything. Anyone. Keep it age-appropriate, and remember loss for a young child is as important as for an older person, even if the object isn’t as huge as a lost cell phone. ūüėČ

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Filed under Character, CLW, Exercises, Family, Revision, Voice, writing process

Animal Testing? NO WAY!

(Controversial!)

Long ago, I met Claudia Mills when shecame to speak at an SCBWI event. Oh, I LOVED her immediately. Little did I know, I had found a writer who’s books I loved right at the same time and had been reading all the author’s works. AND IT WAS CLAUDIA! AND THEN I MET HER AND REALIZED THIS IS MY FAVORITE GAL!

Anyway, I said to Claudia, “Do you like Oreos?”

She gave me an odd look. “Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Because your characters always eat them when they have a snack.”

People know who I am when they read my books, too. Bits and pieces of me slip through.

As writers, we must remember we are writing for teens or kids and not writing to drive home an agenda. Spoon-feeding a reader isn’t fun for the reader.

#37

What is the most controversial thing in your book?
Is it there because you want to make a point? Is it there because you are trying to change someone’s mind about something? Or are you just telling your story?

Go through your work.

Is this what a kid would say? Think? Feel?

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Filed under CLW, Exercises, Point of View, Voice, writing process

Heartbreak at 36–When Life Doesn’t Go the Way You Hoped

(Are these titles bringing in more readers?)

(Can you believe we are at #36?)

Emotion grounds our reader in such a way that the reader should be changed at the end of the book. It is our duty, as writers, to allow the reader to feel. We do that by putting emotion on the page.

Once, many years ago, I asked a few amazing writers, how they put emotion on the page so that their books rang true-so they felt like real life. Jerry Spinelli said this:

“You need to experience that emotion yourself. You don’t have to be experiencing it as you’re actually writing, but you need to be able to tap the keg where the memory of it resides and, so far as you are able, relive it.”

Martine Leavitt gave me this advice: “Create a powerful story, and you will create powerful emotion. Novice writers sometimes try to spoonfeed their readers the emotion they want them to feel, but language has the great knack of¬†diminishing emotion. Put an emotion into words and you will undoubtedly drain it of power. All you must do is write a great story, a story¬†full of love, honor, pity, pride, compassion and sacrifice (Faulkner’s six), and your reader will feel every emotion you want her to feel.”

David Gifaldi answered the question this way:

“For me, emotion comes only when I have become close enough to the character
to feel what he/she feels at every turn in the story.”
#36
List important events in your story.
What do you feel as you write these parts?
How do you want your reader to feel?
How does your character feel?
Are you getting the emotion across?
How?
How can you de better?
Do you have Faulkner’s six in your story?
Do you know how your character feels at every turn?
Are you tapping into your memory keg?

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Filed under CLW, Exercises, First Line, Life, Plot, Voice, writing process

Sexy Sense of Place

“The author must know his countryside, whether real or imaginary, like the back of his hand.” Robert Louis Stevenson

When my first editor, the amazing Mary Cash, bought my first book KELLY AND ME, one of the things she said was, “We need more sense of place.”

“How do I do that?” I asked.

“Read,” she said.

And so I did. I found lots of books that painted worlds for me. But the authors I learned the most from for that writing exercise were Bill and Vera Cleaver. They wrote WHERE THE LILIES BLOOM (Newbery winner). All their books (yes, I read them all) were so beautifully detailed that I fell in love. I’m STILL in love with their writing.

A Few Facts about Sense of Place

  1. If well done, setting can become a character (what one reviewer said about KELLY AND ME).
  2. Not just fantasy novels need world building–ALL books do.
  3. If you feel like the book you’re reading is a desert (when it’s not!), that’s because the author has failed in making¬†the world real and visible. The author is your eye.
  4. When your main character talks about place, remember he will speak only about what he notices. YOU have to make him notice what allows the reader to believe they are there.
  5. Use all five sense when you write. At this moment I can hear the baby and, across the street, a lawn edger going. I can feel the cool air blowing in around my feet from the open window. Outside my window there are two trees, one with leaves the color of an almost-ripe lemon. The smells coming from the bathroom? Let’s just say the wintergreen smelly thing ain’t helping a lot. And then, of course, there are the keys under my fingers. All of this is part of my sense of place–of the world I am in right now.
  6. Don’t use all sense at once, like I did above. After you build a place, it’s your job to remind the reader where they are. And I don’t think it’s a bad idea to do that two or three times a page.
  7. The amazing Tim Wynne-Jones gave a great talk when I was at school at VC, about the emotion¬†sense of place can give a book–how it can forecast doom or help¬†readers feel joy. There’s a name for this, and try as I might, I can’t remember what it is. When I do, I’ll add it.

 

#32 Rewrite your book opening using sense of place.

#32.5 Do what Mary Cask said: Read for setting. How does the writer do it successfully?

 

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Filed under Editors, Exercises, Setting, Voice, writing process

Tuesday: Number Twenty-seven

 

Review time!

In 30 minutes, write all the things that could happen in your book. Even if you have done this once or twice, try to come up with new events.

Every novel is a bit mystery. Keep this in mind as you plug in ideas that might happen in your fabulous story.

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Filed under CLW, Exercises, Plot, Revision, Voice, writing process

Freezing Friday

I have no idea if this is true as I haven’t been outside this morning. But yesterday afternoon the wind was blowing and cold and the people at Lowe’s were moving flowers into a heated room in case we had another freezing night. AND it’s supposed to snow.

Sheesh.

#25

In your work, look for ways to trim unnecessary words. Here are three examples of ways to clean up your creative writing.

~ was-ing words can become one word. I was running = I ran

~ that can almost always go as well as well, just, very, ly words, adjectives

~ Cheri Earl taught me no need to use start or begin (unless starting a car or lawn mower etc). I started running =¬†I ran. “Let the action happen,” Cheri says.

Words are power. But you an overdo amazing writing. Many a good novel has been ruined by the words that make it up.

Remember, less is more.

You can read where this phrase came from below (if you can get past all the ads).

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/226400.html

 

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Filed under CLW, Exercises, Life, Plot, Voice, writing process

Prompt

# 24

Write 25 first lines for your novel.

Jot them down quickly (you already have a first line, and you’re working on a book, so you know where you’re going–this will be an easy exercise), a minute or less per line.

That first line is a promise to your reader. It can show voice, hint at character and plot, show mood and it certainly should grab the reader.

So what are you doing with YOUR book opening?

Remember, Richard Peck (LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO, A YEAR DOWN YONDER) says, “You are no better than your first line.”

Once Richard read the first few pages of my novel that is under consideration right now. “You don’t have your best first line,” he said. He was right. I chopped off the first paragraph AND learned a valuable lesson from a great writer.

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Filed under First Line, Life, Publication, Revision, Uncategorized, Voice