This time last week I was catching a train from Winchester to head back home from the SCBWI-BI conference. Can't believe it was a week ago now. Anyway, here is what I learnt at the crit night on the Friday night, and Saturday.
Crit Night: I emailed off the first few chapters of Billy to be crit'd by the others. The chapter structure was right for the age range (6-9), but some of the sentences needed to be restructured. The magical socks was loved by all, yay! Liked the idea, too, of the mother being magical, so will keep that in and add it back from the original version to the current one. But Billy seemed more average than boring. So made me think I needed to change the title to something like Average Archie.
This was followed by Pizza. I had dough balls to start with, then a main meal of chicken and pancetta salad with warm dough sticks. It had chilli bonnets in, which I didn't realise it did until I bit a bit and went, hah. My mouth took 10 mins to recover from that.
First it was the talk by Celia Rees. This is what I learnt. You need to have a really good idea, and make it watertight. Have real characters. A plot that works, no weakness. Celia collects things relating to the current ms she's working on eg magazine images, photos and sticks them on a board for her to see. Gave me an idea to collect photos of things relating to my mss when I'm working on them. Write about real places as it makes it more believable. I made a note of this, because that is what I've done in my latest YA short ebook. Follow your heart and what your passionate about. Celia was a great talker.
Then came Lin Oliver and her Write Humour with Heart. For Middle Grade readers, which she inc 7-9. Be aware of the age range. Readers that have just started reading. Make it more comic adventures of plot.
Her thoughts on writing comedy are:
1. Involves taking risks: Follow your weirdness. Nothing is safe. World has to be consistent in itself so you can write what you like. Keep pushing boundaries.
2. Has to come from the truth. Something we can all recognise. Mine your own embarrassment. Best laughter comes with little empathy. Tinge of another emotion.
3. Involve empathy.
4. Don't try to struggle uphill. Don't make life hard for yourself. Examine the premise.
5. One purpose, one audience. Yourself. Write it to amuse yourself.
1. Think of funny titles
2. Character names (Lin reads obituaries). Made me think I have to have characters with funny names in Billy.
3. Character quirks or professions. Eg things they say or do repeatedly.
4. Use surprise. Banana
5. Incongruity - Think of Arnie in Kindergarten cop where he is big muscly man and is a kid cop
6. Discomfort. Laughing with tears and not out loud. Esp with a baddie.
7.Reversal of roles. Expected role - see scene of it. Eg gourmet chef has to judge a junk food comp.
8. Exaggeration. In langauge and plot. Start with something real.
10. Specifics. Make words more specific. Eg floppy flander. Describe as funny,.
11. Attitude. Way they speak
12 Funny sounding language eg weedwacker.
Make it have rhythm, and be snappy and pacy.
I know we had lunch, then I had my one-to-one appointment. The editor made some of the same comments about Billy that I had the night before. Billy being average more than boring. I was asked if I would be willing to change the scene of school if an editor asked me to and I said yes. I have since had a really good idea to make it more exciting.
I think I will carry on this blog later in the week, as there is so much more to say about Day One.