Friday, 3 June 2011

Retreat Day 2 & 3

On the Saturday, the second day, the first session was writing time. Now I don't normally write in the morning but at lunch time, but I think because I had already worked out what I wanted to work on over the weekend (description) I knew what I wanted to do and I did it. I worked on 2 chapters of Allie over an hour and a half, writing descriptions of Allie, her friends and teachers. Then describing the magic the school can do - shimmering walls and floors and bins. Had great fun doing that. Then it was coffee, and I had herbal tea, then it was Candy talking about exposition. What it is (explanation), and ways of how to turn it into story. We learnt that a story is designed to interest and amuse, it's never about you but your audience. How to unfold and set-up and reveal in the story. The different acts in the story - act 1 is to pose a question that'll keep the reader reading. How you pose it is the craft of the story. Act 2 is tension risiing. High point of story, and the rug-pulling momement, the climax. How you reveal the answers is the secret to taming exposition, which is story in the wrong place. So you have to find out where the right place is. Act 3 is the inevitable and unexpected. Give the audience what it wants but not the way they expect it.
Then she gave us exercises which we all wrote down. One of them I used later on in a second writing session: Description into action. Where you describe something by either action, reaction or sensation. I am now describing things with feelings or reaction from Allie in the way of questions. There were other exercises such as Rules of Magic, The world's flat.
Then she gave us a check list of things to think about when you have done the first draft. What do you want to say? Is something happening? Do we need to know this now? (is there a better place later on) Are my characters explaining their world? were some.
During this talk I made several notes to change things in Allie later on, which I did and will still do in later chapters.

We had lunch, then came a talk by author Tommy Donbavand, who is really funny. He talked about how horror came into his life at the age of 12 reading a horror book which scared him to bits. How he came to be a clown, then an actor then realising he could entertain children he started writing children's book about a spooky street, which has been v successful. Then came the fun stuff. One of his main characters is a girl mummy, and he got 2 teams of 3 up the front, and 2 people had to wrap the other in toilet paper like a mummy in one minute. What a laugh.

After that was more writing time and I got another 2 chapters revised. Then dinner and socialising. I didn't sleep well and I never do in a strange place.

Sunday we had more writing time, then a talk by Janetta Otter-Barry of Frances Lincoln Books. She talked about what books they do from pre-school to teens, showing us slides of what they were like. She answered questions, and yes she'd like to see middle-grade with magical elements (that was from me). She had lots of her books there, and I bought 4 in the end. I asked her later on if she'd be interested in what I was writing and she said yes. So once I am happy with the first 3 chapters of Allie I will send it to her.
Lunch was next with a nice roast chicken and more writing time and another 2 chapters revised. Not everyone stayed until the end but I did to get more writing done. All in all I got 8 chapters revised over the weekend, and now I need to keep the momentum up. More writing tomorrow I think, well typing up what I've revised anyway.

I had a great time and love the combination of talks, socialising and writing time. It was very productive for me. Thanks Sue.

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