This past weekend I attended the Southwest Florida Romance Writers Super Saturday conference. We got to mix and mingle with other authors, agents & editors at the Friday night dinner and then attend workshops Saturday from 9-4pm. There was a key-note from author Jennifer St. Giles, a lesson on the Art, Craft, and Business of Writing Genre Fiction from Rita Winner Linnea Sinclair (whose book, The Down Home Zombie Blues is being made into a movie right now. If you’ve never heard Linnea speak or taken one of her classes, it’s a real treat . . . she knows her stuff!), then heard from the Editor/Agent Panel (visit my Twitter page to check out my tweets on what they said), and then heard from YA Author Stacey Kade, Adventures in Writing Who You’re Not. By some miracle, I won a three chapter critique from Stacey. Her series, The Ghost and the Goth, are one of my favs:) And it couldn’t have come at a better time because another miracle happened . . . three editors requested my YA:) Harlequin Teen & Sourcebooks both requested the full and TOR requested the first 100 pages. I have two weeks to polish so I haven’t commented as much on other blogs as I’d like (sorry). But on with the show . . . here are some notes from Stacey’s presentation:
•’Write What You Know’ is probably the most common piece of writing advice.
•It’s also likely the most misunderstood. We interpret it too narrowly.
•If we truly limited ourselves to our exact personal experiences, the story world would be a small and horribly boring place.
From Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction: “…your self is made up of many selves—the girl who wanted an older brother, the high school misfit, the college student who dressed in black and wanted to join French club, the woman who fantasizes about what she’d do with her own television talk show. You are, in part, not only persons you once were but also persons you have tried to be, persons you have avoided being, and persons you fear you might be. All these are people you know.”
•High school is incredibly political and very structured. However, each school varies. In my books, Alona has power (initially) because she is popular and pretty. In another school, where academics were the determining factor, she might not have been in the power position.
•When (and where) I went to school, being in the band was the kiss of death socially. For my sister, at a different school and in a different time, it was a social boon to be in the band.
•When writing YA, I’m looking at the school environment as well as family. School, I think, operates as a substitute family in some cases. You need to know how your character fits in (or does not).
•I think this one of the factors we often overlook, perceiving it (and rightly so) as a sensitive subject. But you can’t accurately portray your character or your character’s world without knowing what role religion plays.
•We’re not always talking traditional religion. Religion is HUGE factor in Star Wars, for example. It’s the light side of the Force vs. the dark.
•If you’re writing about ghosts, angels, witches, you need to be thinking about the religious environment!
•Religions environment is not just about God but about gods, spirituality, ethics, and morality. What drives your character? “To what ‘gods’ are your characters responding? What is their highest aspiration?”
From Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: “Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen. Characters should not, conversely, serve as pawns for some plot you’ve dreamed up…I say don’t worry about plot. Worry about characters. Let what they say or do reveal who they are, and be involved in their lives, and keep asking yourself, now what happens?Find out what each character cares most about in the world because then you will have discovered what’s at stake. Find a way to express this discovery in action, and then let your people set about finding or holding onto or defending whatever it is. Then you can take them from good to bad and back again, or from bad to good, or from lost to found. But something must be at stake or you will have no tension and your readers will not turn the pages.”
Pretty good notes, right? If you haven’t read Stacey’s books, I highly recommend them. She’s pub’d by Disney Hyperion & the third and final book in the series comes out May 8th *squeeeeaaaal!