Tag Archives: Brenda Bensch

Three Thing Thursday

Brenda
What’s wrong with 14-year-olds?
Actually, nothing . . . really. And I’ve taught just enough of them to know — they’ll grow up, some day, and be REAL people (a word of encouragement for parents!).
But in writing ? ? ?
I’ve been told — reminded, actually, a number of times — NOT to write about a 14-year-old. And don’t write FOR 14-year-olds either. Apparently, at least in more than one publishing house, you’re likely to get turned down.
So, here’s my take on it: 14-year-olds are struggling. I’d have been the one struggling to stay “a kid.” I’m REALLY not sure I’d even, thoroughly, given up on Santa Clause by age 14. Then there were the other 14-year-olds I knew: (some of the girls already wore bras . . . and NEEDED them! Some had already started their . . . well, you know . . . )
Not me.
I was just hoping Santa wouldn’t forget my house, finally, this year. I still BELIEVED. Or wanted to so badly I could taste it. (Christmas was NEVER the same, after I finally crossed that threshold.)
But, back to writing, instead of reminiscing about my Childhood Lost.
Here’s what I’ve finally concluded: 14-year-olds already know what 14-year-olds do. What they say. What they think.
MOST of them (excluding me when I was that age, I suppose) want to know what comes NEXT. What do 15-year-olds get to do? To wear? Where can they go? WITHOUT Mom or Dad?
The lesson here is don’t write your MC as a 14-year-old protagonist. Make him12 or 13. Or write her as 15 or 16.
I’m told a 14-year-old protagonist is flat-out-dead on the first reader’s desk s/he lands on.
Merry Christmas ! ! ! And don’t forget that 14-year-old who lives at your house: (Does she still need Santa? Let me know, and I’m there ! ! !)
Cheryl
Today I got some harsh critique on some my photographs. 

And when I say harsh, I mean I was crying for most of the rest of the day.
Now, I’m no stranger to critique. I’ve developed a pretty thick skin over the years. So I started thinking about why this one affected me so strongly.
I think the biggest problem was that there were no rules on this particular forum about how to give critiques. In most professional settings (a.k.a. Carol’s classroom) everyone is required to note both the good and the bad about a particular work. On this forum, no one said anything positive until I was already miserable and broken. Also, most of the mean comments were downright rude and intended to belittle and make fun of me.
The point is, there are good things about every work. Even if all you can honestly say is, “Well, it looks like you had fun making it!” It’s still worth saying that.
Critique should never be used as a way to scare someone away or make them give up. It should be used to encourage growth and learning. You should walk away from a critique feeling like there is plenty of work to do, but you can do it!! If you don’t feel that way, find a new critique group that better fits your needs.
Carol
We’re taking next week off, so I encourage you to do three writerly things this week:
1. Imagine the holidays for your character. What are they like?
2. Sketch–even if you don’t draw–your character. Leave plenty of white space. Hang that picture someplace you will see every day. As you pass this picture add adjectives, incident ideas, plot points that come to you. You don’t have to use them all. Allow yourself to be informed by this drawing.
3. Read one book for pleasure

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Three Thing Thursday

ALERT! MARK THE DATE!

 

We’re having a WIFYR kickoff  January 15, 2016, Friday. 6-9 pm. !!!!!!!!!!!!!

At this point I’m not exactly sure where we will be, but . . . this event is for all writers, published and almost-published and thinking about writing.

This will be ticketed, meaning you’ll need a number to get in the door, as there’s a limited space.

We’ll share a fantastic potluck celebration and, if you’d like, you may bring a new or gently-used book that will be donated to a library in need of books.

We’ll have a guest speaker (TBA), a few writing prompts (bring writing material), a chance to share a best line or two and a quick pitch session (just with each other!).

This kickoff is supported by SCBWI UT/ID chapter. We’re excited to work with Travis and Sherry in making UT the producer of the finest children’s lit ever.

 

FYI

For those who are interested, Steve Fraser, an agent at Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency will be here in UT on February 24 and 25 for a day + workshop.

PM me on Facebook or email me and I can give you details.

Limited number for this event, too.

 

CHERYL

I admit, I haven’t been writing. 

But I have been reading. Not just fun reading, but critical reading. Deciphering what works, what doesn’t, what should have been.
And I’ve been thinking. It sounds like a cop-out, I know, but my process has always been to work things out in my mind first and then just transcribe it onto the page. By the time I physically write anything down it’s already on the third draft.
My big problem in my novel is the science. No matter what I do, I can’t make the science work in my favor. I need to make friends with some scientists. In another novel, it’s too short and too cliche. It needs a dose of reality, and I have no idea how to inject it.
But I haven’t given up. Someday something completely unrelated will happen in real life, and everything will click into place.
I can’t wait.
BRENDA
Carol wrote on the 7th about what the writing world had opened up for her: basically, a whole new world.  This after just having survived (like several of us, no doubt) NaNoWriMo, November, Thanksgiving.  And now we’re knee-deep in getting ready for Christmas.  Or, at least, getting ready to get ready.  I’m with Carol: time seems to speed up these days.
I refer back to the book I recommended last week and the week before: “TimeShifting”.  Try to hang on to the here, to the now.  Let the person who ignored you at the ward party go.  She probably was having problems of her own.
Let the family member (you know the one: the one who MUST have everyone’s attention) and stoops to coming “fashionably late” or fails to show up at all for a family gathering.  The guy who dominates all the conversation so that “significant others” belonging to this or that family member stumble through the evening trying to greet people they don’t even know, while the conversation has been hijacked by some needy friend or family member, and can’t stop railing about his/her misfortunes.
Concentrate instead on the attention paid to arranging the serving table.  Listen . . . REALLY Listen to the music playing softly in the background without calling attention to itself, even though it was carefully thought through and chosen by someone there.  Find that someone and give a thank you for the thoughtfulness of that gift of calming sound.  Talk to one of the small children whose parents are busy talking to other grownups.  REALLY BE THERE for any function you attend.  Look forward to it.  PLAN what you will do within the milling crowd of family, friends, and the occasional stranger.  Welcome that stranger by listening to him or her before moving on to others.
And thus create your OWN Merry Christmas Celebration, within the context of places you “MUST” be this holiday season:
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT ! ! !

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Three Thing Thursday

Cheryl

Last week I reread To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time since high school. I even read my high school copy, which is covered in color coded highlighter marks and notes filling the margins of every single page.

In case you’re wondering if there were any incredible insights to the novel in those notes, there weren’t. But it was fascinating to look back and watch myself learn how to analyze. By the end of the novel I was better than at the beginning.
Like anything else, learning to analyze literature takes practice. For me, it really helped to mark up the books like crazy. Breaking up the page into separate colors helped me to deconstruct what I was reading.
Once you’re able to analyze literature and understand what separates the good and the bad, then you’ll be able to analyze your own writing. That’s when you learn how to elevate your writing from a “fun story” to serious literature. 
Brenda
I’ve heard more than once that another way to really “hurt” your protagonist is to kill (of at least seriously damage) the person he or she most cares about.  Cruel, I know . . . but that’s what we need to do in order to jeopardize our MC in the most meaningful way.  We’re here to make his or her life DIFFICULT !
But which character to choose as the sacrificial lamb?  An ally or best friend?  An unsuspected antagonist?  A close relative?  Someone your hero would die to save . . . but can’t, in this case?
This can be used to push your MC to the max.  How will that make him act?  Will he step up and  do the right thing?  Give up?  Dissolve into tears?  Go hide away from both friend and foe?
And, whichever he chooses, what comes next?
Think of three very different characters in your current WIP who could be your chosen victim.  Write a short scene for EACH ONE, showing his defeat (whether death, disappearance, or whatever), and your MC’s reaction.   Does he hear about it later?  See the fated event?  Not find out for many hours, days or weeks?  And WHAT does he choose to do next?
Kyra
I have fallen back into my bad old ways.
I finished my newest novel, and now I’m suddenly not motivated. I have written one paragraph for Nano and that’s it.

My addiction to Ally McBeal has gotten the best of me.

I need help! I need motivation! Areergghhg.

What are your guys distractions?
How do you avoid them?

Carol
Brenda–I love you.

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Three Thing Thursday

Brenda:
When I write I think most of my characters end up in a Utopian world (well, except for the curves I try to put in their way.)  They never have a day like I’ve had today: I THINK it’s just a cold.  “Just”?  It started three or four days ago, by being a little spot in my throat: when my nerves had “gotten to me.” I used to suddenly sprout  one to five cankers in my mouth or along my gum, even down my throat. Hadn’t happened for YEARS. That’s what this felt like days ago.  And it HURT ! ! !  But I didn’t worry.  It’s not like cankers are catching.  (Are they?)  By yesterday afternoon the entire throat was inflamed, burning like crazy.  Woke up today with my throat less bothersome.  There: THAT’S taken care of.  WRONG.  By noon I was sure the flu shot I got in September had finally kicked in, and I had what was only going to be a “mild” case.  Now, the sneezing, coughing (through an already roughed-up throat) and runny nose feels more like a REALLY NASTY cold.  And my energy is totally sapped.
Why don’t my MC’s suffer like this?
Or what if they DID ? ? ?
It could happen.  And if I want it to feel real, it should be at the absolutely WORST time imaginable.  How does that change my MC’s mood?  Actions?  Activities?  Decisions?
Does s/he just GIVE UP?  Fight through it?  Stop everything to go to the doctor, witch doctor, community Elder?  And are their “cures” worth the vellum they’re written on?  And how much does a good Voo Doo cure cost?  And how and WHEN must it be paid?
So, what’s wrong with YOUR MC?  And how is s/he going to deal with it?
If nothing else, this may make him/her seem more “real” !
Me:
For NaNo–How are you doing?
Getting those words?
Moving that plot?
I was okay the first week. Almost made it the whole way writing 2000 words a day. Since Saturday, I haven’t written a  thing. Including for this blog. Today, I’m starting anew. I can’t let the last week throw me. If I can do more than 2000 words each day, I will. However, if I can’t, I can’t.
My goal for this 50,000 words was to finish a picture book, get a draft of a mid grade and rewrite a novel. (The novel Ann Dee and I are working on. Still.)
Picture book is done. Lots of new pages in the mid grade. And I even know some of what I want to happen there in the icky middle that’s staring me in the face.
Nose to the grindstone (OUCH!) on this Ann Dee book.
What about you?
Don’t fall behind like I did. However, if you have, pick up as though you haven’t. At the end of the month you may not have a full novel, but you will be almost there.
Or, you may add 1000 words a day and catch up.
YOU CAN DO IT.
Last Thing: I’m reading tomorrow at the library at BYU. Basement auditorium. Noon.
If you have time, drop in. Cookies when it’s over.
🙂

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