Thursday, September 22, 2011

First scenes in MG and YA fiction

First scenes in middle grade and young adult fiction from editor's comments at the SCBWI SW-TX conference.     

§  The goal of a first scene is to grab your reader’s attention and make them want to read your second scene.

§  Example of a first sentence in a scene: “I stole a body.”           

§  Example of a first sentence in a scene: “The house did not want her there.” 

§  Intrigue the heck out of the reader with your first scene.  

§  A great first scene starts the story in the right place. Otherwise, you can confuse your reader.  

§  A scene only matters within the context of its plot. 

§  Think about the promise that you made to your reader and keep that promise throughout the scene that you write. 

§  It’s like a puzzle: every scene has to be in its place in order for the plot to be complete. 

§  Every scene needs a goal and every scene advances your story. 

§  Do not start with back story. Give the reader only what they absolutely need. No info dump. Integrate this throughout the novel instead. 

§  Your first scene is not about a lot of details about your character. You don’t have to introduce ALL of your characters. You will bog down the reader with too many details. 

§  Your story needs to have momentum and tension from the very first scene.

More on scenes to come.
Old-fashioned stove in Albuquerque

"No matter how much formal education you've had, it's best to read as many classics as possible and keep abreast of today's popular reading, especially in the area to which you hope to contribute." -- Writing Tip from Writer's Digest Weekly Planner

Monday, September 19, 2011

Writing tips for picture books

A success! We just had our annual SCBWI-SWTX (San Antonio Chapter) conference in our lovely city of San Antonio. Attendance was good and everyone seemed to have gotten something out of the conference and critiques by editors and agents from New York and California. Some comments from the editors on picture books:

                  §  A book has to mean something to a child.

§  Voice – Story has to be told in a way that feels new and original. Unique voice.

§  Use clever, evocative language.

§  Narrative arc – what’s going to happen next?

§  Not all books have narrative arc, i.e., concept books.

§  Pacing – what keeps the reader turning the pages.

§  Are characters memorable and relatable?

§  Word count should be around 250 – 1000 words.

Captive audience

Conference Luncheon

River Walk
If you're a writer or illustrator and wish to join the local San Antonio SCBWI chapter, contact our Regional Advisor for details.

Next time: First scenes in middle grade and young adult fiction. 

"Membership in a national professional writing group or organization can help you establish a professional image as it increases your visibility." -- Writing Tip from Writer's Digest Weekly Planner 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Illustrations

For illustrators and writers alike, you might want to see the gorgeous book illustrations in  Elizabeth Bluemle’s post, “Overlooked by the Caldecott,” published in the Publishers Weekly, Shelf Talker blog. 

What is the Caldecott? According to the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” 

To learn about the history behind this medal and the criteria for awarding the Caldecott, visit the Randolph Caldecott Medal ALSC link. 

In the meantime, enjoy the beautiful art of those illustrators mentioned in Bluemle’s article.


“Know yourself. Listen to a lot of music. Don’t whine. Maintain your sense of humor; indulge your sense of play. Persist, persist, persist.”Kathleen Krull

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Traditional versus vanity presses

Have you ever thought about self publishing your book? These days, more and more writers are thinking about it. What are the risks? What are the pros and cons? How much does it cost? The questions go on and on. Harold Underdown addresses this issue in his article, “Between Publishers and Vanity Presses: Opportunities and Dangers in the Twilight Zone.” He lists the options you, as a writer, have. He points out the difference in publishing with traditional presses and vanity presses. He doesn’t condemn or endorse either one, but leaves the decision up to the writer. What he does offer are the options that are available. Interesting read.  

The Texas Book Festival (Austin, Texas)  is coming up on October 22-23, 2011. For a preview of the author lineup, visit the link above. I've been a featured author there twice and have really enjoyed the event. Attend if you can. Well worth it.

"I want to write a book that will be read from beginning to end with a mounting sense of anticipation and discovery--read willingly, with a feeling of genuine pleasure." -- Russell Freedman

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Audio recordings of books

If you enjoy listening to authors and illustrators discuss the creative process in bringing their books to life, I recommend the Teaching Books link. The nine books on this list (link) are award-winning books, i.e., 2011 Newbery Medal winner, Moon over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool. I read this book when it came out and loved it. Of course, I am partial to historical fiction. Another book on the list, is 2011 Pura Belpré Award winner, The Dreamer, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, one of my favorite authors. The audio recordings include excerpts from the books read by the authors themselves. Enjoy.

It's nice to walk into a bookstore and see your books on display!

"If you doodle enough, the characters begin to take over themselves--after a year and a half or so." -- Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Editing Symbols

Do you know some of the editing symbols that go with the territory? For instance, if an editor or someone in your critique group goes over your manuscript and scribbles all those strange-looking squiggles all over your pages, would you know what they meant for your editing process? Most writers know, but just in case you don’t, this post, How to Revise Your Work (& Awesome Editing Symbols You Should Know), by Brian A. Klems on the Writer’s Digest blog is informative but also a fun read because he adds some of his own editing symbols to the well-known ones. Have fun.

Out in the Hill Country

"No matter what your writing life brings, believe in yourself and keep moving forward. Most writers cycle between periods of self-doubt and periods of confidence." --Writing Tip from Writer's Digest Weekly Planner