Tuesday, 10 May 2011

SCBWI Masterclass

On Saturday I went to a SCBWI Masterclass called The Revision Game led by Sara Grant, who works for Working Partners and is an author too, her book Dark Parties is out later this year, and I can't wait to read it.

Before we even went to the workshop, Sara set us homework. She asked us to write about why we are writing the novel we are, what is keeping us interested in it, the premise of it, its controlling idea, a one-line and paragraph pitch, and a movie pitch (which I found hard to work out). I found this really good to do and will do this for each of my future novels in time to come. It helps you to work out what your book is all about and how you can pitch it to everyone.

Here is what I learnt at the workshop. Do macro editing first before the nitty gritting of checking spelling etc. Write the blurb and controlling idea etc first - I will do.

Then we got to writing about our novels - we had to take copies of the first 2 chapters with us. Going through them we had to write: the actions, the importance of the chapter, the length of the chapter and the timeline to each one.

Then Sara said that she had heard that 10% of a novel should read as the who, what, when and where and the other 90% be the how. The journey of the hero/heroine should be shown by the first 10 pages.
The beginning of the novel should be connected to the climax, and the climax should be in by 85-90% of the novel. Does the climax inc the best character? Is the climax making the point you want to make of the novel? Does it reveal points you want to make about the novel to the reader? (Here I made a note to change something in my book Georgina).

Then wordcloud was mentioned. I don't think I will be doing this unless I have time for procrastination.

Then it was work time. We got our highlighters and pencils out. Sara circles her characters' names and then goes through them asking, do the sound the same and look the same? Eg do they have the same colour eyes the whole way through. Ask yourself why do the need to be there? Why are they important? Are they compelling? Write down a list of what you learn about the characters in 2 pages. Is it enough for the reader to continue reading about them>

What is the emotional story of the character?

Highlighting time - we had to highlight different aspects of the novel eg. green for setting and description, pink for dialogue, box each scene, circle names, purple for flashback/background etc. I found this very useful and have decided to do this for all my other novels before I even get to revision and have one draft. For Georgina I am going to do all my revisions than do this.
You then need to ask yourselves, do the scenes build on each other? Are they changing? Do they push forward the theme and story?
You should start scene at first poss moment and end early as poss. Don't give info but experience. Are you orienting your reader to each scene? Is there enough action? (You can find this out once you have highlighted these bits).
You must have good reason to use flashback.
Does your chapter endings leave the reader thinking? Do they have a cliff hanger? Give the reader a question?
Try to leave out bits that readers skip? I think this means the exposition, which I found out means bits telling the story. Let the reader connect the dots.
Don't say that he/she is starting something, make them do it.

Oh and one thing I did learn which has bugged me for ages - the difference between lie and lay. These I found out are Sara's common mistakes. Lie is for person and lay is for object, so you lie down on the bed, and you lay the table.

All in all, I really enjoyed the day and learnt lots, despite having a stomach upset during the day. Thanks Sara.

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