Revision

You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a few weeks.

I apologize.

I’ve been trudging through the messy (and glorious) bog of revision.

Yes, I’m revising this book for the 800th time!

Asleep on laptop

Yes, I’ve added 20,000 new words to the manuscript.

words

Yes, I’ve changed the entire format of the novel from vignettes to traditional prose.

Paper head Typing

Yes, I’ve mastered the ability to turn caffeine into pages!

Writing with Coffee

And yes, sometimes the story takes over…

typing fast

… forcing one to neglect her blog.

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You’re writers. You get it.

All of this is to say, thanks for hanging in there. I will be posting more articles soon.

In the meantime, happy revising!

5 Tools to Survive as a Writer

“Don’t tell me what I want to hear. Tell me what is intolerable to bear alone that we must hide it in a story.” – Libba Bray

In all her guts, glory, humor, and wisdom the fabulous and charismatic Libba Bray spoke at the 2011 LA SCBWI Conference. During her keynote speech she shared the devastating story of writing a 560 page novel and having to throw it out and start over. If she wasn’t your hero before, she might be now. The following are her tips on how to write it all wrong and survive.

A little Backstory:

  • Libba wrote a 560 page novel all wrong…
  • It’s okay! Embrace the suck!
  • When she discovered the 560 page novel she wrote was all wrong she began to freak out and feared it wasn’t good enough.
  • She got a 12 page single spaced letter from her editor confirming that everything about it was wrong.
  • She did a 900 page revision of the book and only 100 pages of the original 560 were kept in that revision.
  • Find the real imbued with honesty, emotion, and truth. Her novel needed to be true to itself and it wasn’t.

 Libba Bray’s Five Tools to Survive as a Writer:

1) Gather Your Tools for Survival

  • “The voice is in there, we just had to find the right tools to find it.”
  • Your book is in there!
  • Use playlists to help you find it.
  • Go to your local café to find a comfort zone.
  • Do you have a reward system? Find yours.

2) Avoid the Quicksand

  • Beware of your irrational fear telling you “no one wants to read this book.” Or “what if my ex-boyfriend read this and realizes he’s the base for the asshole in my story?”
  • Breathe deeply!
  • That thing you are writing is AWESOME! (That message was on a postcard that Holly Black sent out to her writing friends).
  • Be your own thing and not a trend.
  • You are safe in the writing cave. No voices are allowed in the cave (the negative voices telling you you’re not good enough).
  • Readers are not trends, they want a well written story told from your soul.

3) Perfect Wants to Vote You Off the Island

  • Perfect wants to vote you off the island, but better wants to make an alliance.
  • Lower your standards!
  • Realize that you can’t make a book that is perfect. Perfect = Failure.
  • You just have to make it better.
  • Do it in small steps. Make that little bit of dialog better, or change that metaphor.

4) Explore the Whole Island

  • Sometimes you need a change of format.
  • Change the POV, format, tense, etc.
  • Form is function – this is what the architects tell us.

5) In Case of Emergency – Break Glass!

  • Writing is freakin’ scary!
  • Writing is vulnerable. It’s intimacy with a reader, and the possibility of failure and rejection.
  • We often write it wrong, because we think that’s what others want and we are afraid to show who we really are.
  • All writing holds our DNA, our bones and blood – a part of ourselves.
  • We are evasive and inarticulate when talking about projects that are emotionally autobiographical.
  • “Don’t tell me what I want to hear. Tell me what is intolerable to bear alone that we must hide it in a story.”
  • Find the part that hurts. The story you needed to tell.
  • Like us, stories have an adolescence that is awkward and gawky and pimply. It needs time to grow.

Other Great Advice from Libba Bray:

Libba Bray is the author books for Young Adults, including Going Bovine and the Gemma Doyle Series: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. In 2010 she was awarded the Michael L. Printz award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

Putting Together the Puzzle: Judy Blume and the Writing Process

The amazing JUDY BLUME was a surprise guest at the 40th anniversary SCBWI Conference this summer! What a treat! She sat down with SCBWI President Lin Oliver to talk shop, and all us attendees got a little insight into the brilliant Blume and her writing process.

Judy Blume’s Thoughts on Her Writing Process:

Typewriter vs. Computer:

  • Before computers she used to write through a first draft (start to finish). She’d get the draft done. But with a computer she doesn’t do that anymore. Now she can go back and keep revising. That’s bad in her opinion. It was better before when she’d go through a whole draft first.
  • When she wrote on a typewriter she would do five drafts and then send it to her editor.

On  Writing First Drafts:

  • “I’m a terrible first draft writer! I’m a reviser!”
  • The first draft is about finding the pieces to the puzzle. The second draft is putting it together. And you go on from there.

On Revision:

  • She likes to print out and scribble all over her drafts with a pen.
  • It took her 23 drafts to write the book “Summer Sisters”. She didn’t feel like she knew what she was writing. It took her three years to write and it was so painful she said “I’m never doing this again.”
  • She says she’s never really understood the creative process, but she has enough faith (after 40 years) that it will come to her again.

On Plotting:

  • “I’m so sucky at plot! It’s not how the story comes to me.”
  • Her son says she’s the least analytical person he knows.

How to Start a Book:

  • When she gets an idea she lets it percolate for a long long time before writing.
  • She says she knows she will start a book on the day something different happens. Sometimes she has to write pages and pages and pages before that moment and the real book starts.

When You Know It’s Working:

  • “I love it when I laugh out loud. I cry a lot. If I’m writing a sexy scene and I’m not turned on it’s not working!”
  • The stuff that’s gonna work is what’s coming from deep deep inside.

Judy Blume is one of the most widely read authors of juvenile and teen fiction. Her many books include: Tiger Eyes, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, Blubber, Forever, The Fudge Series, and Just as Long as We’re Together. Her novels have exceeded sales of 80 million and have been translated into 31 languages.

Quote of the Week: Annie Dillard

“On plenty of days the writer can write three or four pages, and on plenty of other days he concludes he must throw them away.” ~ Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author. She is best known for her narrative prose in both fiction and non-fiction. She has published two novels, poetry, essays, prose, literary criticism, and a memoir.

What I Learned from Assistant Editor Sara Sargent

A few days ago I spoke about what I learned from editor Jessica Garrison (Dial Books), at the SCBWI 2010 NY Writer’s Intensive. Today I’ll share what I learned from my second critique with assistant editor Sara Sargent. In case you didn’t read the previous post, at the event authors were given the opportunity to sit down at a round table with an Editor (and 10 other authors) to get feedback on the first 500 words of his/her manuscript. The neat thing about this type of set-up is not only do you get personal feedback, but you also learn from what the editor says to others.

What I Learned from Sara Sargent:

  • Decide who your main character is.
  • Good books have scenes with a mix of action, dialog, and what’s in the character’s head.
  • Pacing is important.
  • Middle grade and teen books need to include the following three things: Family, Friends, and School.
  • When contacting an agent/editor only pitch one book.
  • Any character introduced in the first one or two pages should end up having a sizable presence throughout the rest of your book.

Tips For Writers From Sara’s Point of View:

  • Don’t waste your time sending queries to editors. Always look to get an agent first! This is because of: 1)Liability on the editor’s part. 2) Your work will be in the slush pile and that’s the last concern for an editor. 3) Editors rely on agent submissions. 4) Agents are looking for talent, actively!
  • Even if an editor has expressed interest in your book (say at an SCBWI critique etc.) that actually doesn’t hold that much weight for an agent.
  • An editors attention is harder to get than an agents.
  • Sara couldn’t think of a single author on their list at Balzer + Bray that was found through the slush pile. It just doesn’t happen from her point of view.
  • Always read submission guidelines carefully!
  • The reason the picture book market is down is because publishers don’t know what a successful picture book will be. Should they play safe? Should the book be quirky? The market is so fickle they really have no idea what will work and sell.
  • Editors are sick of paranormal and vampire books! This is mostly because the books that they see are lacking in “World Building.” A successful book has a lot to do with really fleshing out your world. The world must be vivid with clear rules. Most books submitted are lacking in this department and that’s why they are sick of them. Create your own world! Make it rich.
  • Author platform can be very important. This is something like your website, your blog, your twitter account, etc. If you have some impressive stats please do share this in your query letter. Mention things like how many people visit your blog per day, etc. However anything under 300 visits per day is not very impressive in her book.
  • Blazer and Bray does all types of Kids books from PB to YA. However, Harper Teen may be better for Teen submissions. But Blazer and Bray does look for more literary books and less commercial books, while Harper Teen is more commercial.
  • Be careful sticking with an idea too long if it is not working. Sometimes you need to walk away.

Sara Sargent joined Balzer + Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins Children’s Books, in 2009. She previously held positions at the Waxman Literary Agency and Miramax Books. Sara is looking to acquire YA and middle-grade novels with romantic, dystopian, and coming-of-age themes; she is admittedly partial to nerdy protagonists and stories about summer camp.

What I Learned from Editor Jessica Garrison

I participated in the 2010 NY SCBWI Writer’s Intensive. This is a great opportunity where  authors get to sit down at a round table with an Editor and get feedback on the first 500 words of his/her manuscript. The neat thing about this type of set-up is not only do you get personal feedback, but you also learn from what the editor says to others. I had the pleasure of sharing my work with and learning from two Children’s Book editors. Today I’ll share what I learned from my first critique with editor Jessica Dandino Garrison from Dial Books for Young Readers.

What I Learned from Editor Jessica Garrison:

  • Restraint is important in prose. Be careful of putting in too much.
  • These days if your character is age 14 the book becomes YA automatically.
  • A sense of place is important.
  • It’s really hard to do anthropomorphic stories in the 8-12 age range. It works for movies, but it doesn’t really work for books. Under the age of 8 it’s okay.
  • Picture books have fewer words these days than in the past. Jess wants a picture book to be under 1000 words. A 400 word picture book is a bonus! Less is more!!
  • Build the story through mystery rather than setting everything out. Introductory paragraphs that tell too much can be a problem because it’s important to care about the character first.
  • For Jess, picture books need to have a narrative.
  • According to Jess you may use art notes if they’re really necessary for the story. Be minimal with them. MINIMAL! The best way to present them is to put them directly in the manuscript (not the query) and put them in brackets at a 10pt font, and blue.
  • It can be smart to not send your picture book dummy to an editor but mention in your query letter that you are an illustrator and send samples. This gives the editor options should they like your story but possibly not your art. Of course if you’re married to the idea of illustrating your book then send the dummy.
  • If you want your book to back-list you should avoid current references. That will help it to become more timeless.
  • What does metaphor say about your main character?

Career Tips and Advice from Jessica:

  • For tips on writing a good query go and read jacket flaps, it will teach you how to sum up your story in a short way.
  • To educate yourself look at the difference between independent stores and big chain stores. Become more educated about where your book fits on the book shelf. Know who your audience is. Barnes and Noble are the books that kids buy (aimed toward the kids) while independent stores can often be geared more toward the parents. Barnes and Noble are often about concept books.

A Little Bit About Jessica and What She’s Looking For:

  • Jessica doesn’t spend much time on queries, she really prefers pages. She’s all about the manuscript. But do put some important info in the query – info about you as a writer, plot synopsis, etc.
  • Jess is looking for visceral books, but likes everything (PB up through YA). She does like historical fiction but it needs a contemporary twist or edge.
  • Jess likes concept books, but often wants them to go further.

Coming Soon:

Feedback and insight from my second critique with Assistant Editor Sara Sargent of Balzer & Bray.

Jessica Dandino Garrison is an editor for Dial Books for Young Readers. She is looking for picture books, chapter books, tween and teen fiction with commercial appeal and literary heft – in other words, rich, emotionally true, character–driven stories with great hooks. Jessica has edited The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt, Panda & Polar Bear, Acorns Everywhere, Spin the bottle, and Doggone Dogs, among others.

Just Listen: Getting a Professional Critique

A lot of conferences offer special opportunities to have your work read by an agent or editor. This exciting opportunity can be invaluable, but it can also be nerve wracking and in some cases down-right confusing. How much weight do you give one person’s opinion? What if you get conflicting feedback? What if they don’t like it?

To settle the nerves of fearful authors about to be critiqued at the2010 SCBWI Writer’s Intensive in New York, three gracious editors dispelled some fears on how to take advice from a professional. So if you have a critique coming up soon (from a professional or a friend) put these ideas into the back of your mind before you decide to throw in the towel:

What are editor’s Courtney Bongiolatti (Simon and Schuester), Nancy Conescu (Little Brown), and Michelle Nagler (Bloomsbury) looking for in the opening of a critique submission?

  • That first attention grabbing sentence.
  • Are they interested in the character.
  • Not only does the book seem good, but does it have market potential and would it sell.

How Should An Author Respond During A Critique?

  • Just Listen – The editors and agents are expert readers (this is what they do for a living) so take in what they say and listen, there will be something worth wild there.
  • Editors are looking at your submission (and the submissions they receive from you in their office) as the first draft. Therefore they think of this as a work in progress. So don’t be surprised to get feedback of a constructive nature.
  • Think about feedback as the good friend who’s willing to tell you that you have spinach in your teeth. You may have a beautiful smile, but no one will notice the smile if there’s spinach in your teeth. The point here is to improve the work so that everyone sees what is best in the work and what will make it shine.

What Should You Do After Your Critique?

  • After you get your feedback you should check out a great SCBWI article by Linda Sue Park called “The Give and Take Critique” which is located in the resource library of SCBWI.org (Under publication guide). Or read this article here: Linda Sue Park’s Website
  • Sleep on it and think about it later. Don’t go revising everything the next day. Wait and see what resonates with you.

About the Editors:

Courtney Bongiolatti is the Associate Editor at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. She has edited Private and Privilege by Kate Brian, the Seven Habits books, and the Wee Little series with Lauren Thompson. She is looking to acquire mostly boy middle-grade and literary and commercial teen fiction right now.

Nancy Conescu, an Editor at Little Brown, is looking for literary and commercial middle grade fiction, edgy YA fiction, inventive and non-traditional picture books, and projects testing creative boundaries. She is intrigued by dark humor, satire, and character-driven narratives. She has worked with Stephenie Meyer, Holly Hobbie, Julie Anne Peters, Todd Parr, Mary Ann Hoberman, and Trenton Lee Stewart. Her recent acquisitions are School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari and The Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy by Michelle Zink. Upcoming titles include Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley and Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut! by Paul Feig. Her recently published titles are the Vampirates books by Justin Somper, This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis, Chloe Doe by Suzanne Phillips, and New Socks by Bob Shea.

Michelle H. Nagler is the editorial director at Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books. She oversees a diverse list ranging from picture books through teen. As an acquisitions editor, she has a special fondness for commercial YA and middle grade fiction, and is a passionate advocate for books that truly make children want to read. Recent projects include:  Need, Captivate, Boys are Dogs, Our Children Can Soar, Girls Acting Catty, and Too Purpley! Previously, Michelle helped establish the teen list at Simon Pulse.

Ten Ways to Upgrade Your Manuscript (Part Two)

And now, ladies and gentleman, it is time for our final five tips and tricks on how to upgrade your manuscript! Please be sure to get Maralys Willis’ first five tips here: Ten Ways to Upgrade Your Manuscript (Part One).

TEN WAYS TO UPGRADE YOUR MANUSCRIPT (PART TWO)

6. Upgrade All Dialog

The beauty of being a writer is we have time to make our characters wittier than we are. Or more cutting. Or more concise. Or more brilliant. Or better informed. All characters in books must say interesting things. Nobody can afford to be boring. Good dialog get that way by constant upgrading…sometimes over and over.

Characters never say dull, boring things we hear at the grocery store everyday. Dialog is not real life. Real life dialog is boring. Book dialog is the best of us. It is the best of what people say. Use exposition to get through introductions and good-byes. You want to catch attention with your dialog, and you have the power to make your character’s dialog interesting.

7. Get Rid of Most “As” Sentences.

Don’t string your sentences together with “as.” This construction quickly becomes noticeable. An “as” sentence is when you are using two sentences or actions and gluing them together with the word “as.”  In most “as” sentences, both halves of the sentence are weakened.

Example: “I walked the dog as Joe got the mail.”

8. Use Action Tags for Dialog … Carefully.

Instead of the constant use of “said” (luckily, and invisible word), tie your dialog to some bit of action on the part of the protagonists. Action tags eliminate the need for most other identifying tags. But be cautious, you don’t want a tag to become an obvious thing. Too many can become intrusive.

Start with the premise that every character has his own paragraph. He owns it. Anything he says or does in that paragraph belongs to him. If he DOES something, there’s no need to identify him again when he SAYS something.

Example: “John sat in his room looking miserable. ‘Seems like every one of my friends is gone.’”

Example: “The Spanish Consul stopped abruptly. Turning, he wheeled toward Dinah Shore with his face radiant and his arms outstretched, the quintessential adoring Spaniard. ‘Ah…Dinah! Dinah!’ He swept her hand up to his lips.”

9. For Dramatic Effect, Include Pause for Reaction Time

All dramatic scenes need statements of lesser importance throughout the scene – to slow down the action, to give the reader (and the scene’s characters) time to react. These pauses are always statements of lesser importance. The reader hardly notices them. Yet they are vital for keeping the reader’s attention locked in the scene.

Such “reaction” time beats might include an observation about the passage of time; a sentence about the strangeness of the setting; a sentence about background sounds; a sentence about the expression on a character’s face; a sentence about someone tapping his fingers, or drumming his shoes; a sentence about somebody moving in the background, a sentence about the weather; a sentence about someone tugging on his clothing.

10. Make Your Dramatic Scenes Long … And Longer.

All truly dramatic scenes are long.

It’s impossible to get meaningful drama out of a paragraph, or even a page. Most dramatic scenes in most good books go on for pages. Ten printed pages, at least, seems to be the minimum. Scenes are enlarged by the inclusion of a thousand small details (per the suggestion in #9). Many of the details won’t be important, yet they contribute to the overall drama.

Your dramatic scenes must also have heart-stopping events.

Think about the books you’ve loved, you always know those dramatic scenes when you see them. They’re about danger, passion, murder, betrayal, sabotage, death, etc. Remember, most readers read novels for the sheer emotional pleasure of their dramatic scenes. Readers also relish these moments more in books than in movies because we can slow them down and read them at our pace.

Check Out Other Great Advice From Maralys Willis:

Maralys Willis is the author of twelve books and memoirs including Higher Than Eagles, a  poignant memoir about her son’s tragic hang gliding accident. She is also a college-level teacher of creative writing and novel writing, and her most recent book is the acclaimed “How To” book on writing novels entitled: Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead

This seminar was presented on March 20th, 2010 by the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC). Learn more about IWOSC events and membership at: www.iwosc.org


Ten Ways to Upgrade Your Manuscript (Part One)

Aside from the huge issues of plot, characterization, and theme, dozens of small devices line in wait, ready to make a manuscript better. Simply by applying the following techniques, authors have moved their manuscripts from good to publishable. The following methods, shared by author Maralys Willis at the IWOSC seminar in March, and are applicable to both fiction and non-fiction. Most are so simple you could call them “tricks.”

TEN WAYS TO UPGRADE YOUR MANUSCRIPT (PART ONE)

1. Always End Your Sentences With a Strong Word.

By saving the strongest word for last, you infuse your manuscript with power. Do this in sentence after sentence, and your whole manuscript will resonate with power and drama. Leave the power in your readers ears. Most well-known authors do this instinctively, but it’s simple for you to do it too.

Example:

(weak) “An outpouring of blood escaped from his wounds.”

(better) “From every wound came and outpouring of blood.”

(strong) “From the back of the room came a scream.”

2. Change The Order of Sentences.

For maximum drama, put the set-up part of the sentence first and what happens last. (Set up means: times, setting, distances, and moods). Description should come first and the action second.

Examples:

(weak) “She walked to school on Mondays.”

(better) “On Mondays she walked to school.”

(weak) “He fell out of the tree after is fingers slipped.”

(better) “His fingers slipped and he fell out of the tree.”

3. Use Simple Paragraphing and Punctuation “Tricks” to Add Drama.

By isolating key words, or key ideas in their own sentences, or their own paragraphs, you highlight them and make the reader notice. Drama follows automatically. White space is appealing and it makes the reader want to keep reading.

Example:

“Jake swallowed the whole chunk of mean without thinking.

And choked.”

Likewise, much-admired authors like Harper Lee use punctuation to add drama. When using a semi-colon – both sides of the semi-colon must be complete sentences. However, this is not true with a colon. When technique starts to stand out, you should start doing something different.

Example of colon: (From To Kill a Mockingbird) “Everybody’s appetite was delicate this morning, except Jem’s: he at his way through three eggs.”

Example of semi-colon: (From To Kill a Mockingbird) “Mr.Tate handed the rifle to Atticus; Jem and I nearly fainted.”

Example of dash: (From Clown in the Truck) “Never mind all those suitcases stuffed with sweaters and jackets, once again the garb-de-jour was shorts-an Alaska neatly customized for Rob!”

Example of ellipses: “He croaked in a scratchy voice, ‘You’re a… whore.”

4. Add Sentence Variety – With Short … or Long … Sentences.

Don’t get trapped in endless, medium-length sentences. Make some sentences short. One word. Just a few words. Then juxtapose sentence fragments with sentences that are very long and and seemingly go on forever, as if the reader had all the time in the world. Pretend he does. This is all about rhythm and pacing.

5. Use Prepositions to Add More Sentence Variety.

Don’t fall into repetitious Subject … Verb … Object patterns. Try starting your sentences with prepositions. They add instant variety. They also add complexity and strengthen the work. Possible prepositions: under, over, from, beneath, into, beyond, within, besides, outside, etc. etc. etc.

Example: “Outside his line of sight, he sense something threatening had crept closer, that if he didn’t turn around immediately, the thing would leap on top of him.”

Prepositions can be chosen arbitrarily. Complex sentences almost always flow from a prepositional start.

Tips 6 through 10 – will be posted in a  second post shortly! Please look for it.

Other Insight and Advice from Maralys Willis:

Maralys Willis is the author of twelve books and memoirs including Higher Than Eagles, a  poignant memoir about her son’s tragic hang gliding accident. She is also a college-level teacher of creative writing and novel writing, and her most recent book is the acclaimed “How To” book on writing novels entitled: Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead

This seminar was presented on March 20th, 2010 by the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC). Learn more about IWOSC events and membership at: www.iwosc.org

What Now? Revision.

Editor Jordan Brown loves revision. This is his job! It’s his job to help an author get his/her vision onto the page. By speaking at the 2009 SCBWI Conference Brown hopes he can also help all of you (would-be authors) to discover your own vision. So if you’re ready to get down to the nitty-gritty of revision – read on!

“Sometimes you have to go a very long distance out of your way to come back and go a short distance correctly.” – (Unknown Source, but refers to the revision process).

How to Take Critiques and Feedback:

  • When receiving comments on your manuscript you have to make sure the comments speak to the vision that you have, otherwise they are hard to use or useless.
  • Ask yourself – What is the story about? We are not talking about plot here. This is a question about character. Character drives your plot. Focus comments you get toward your character, how does it affect your character?

Plot is Secondary:

  • How much a  reader cares about the plot in your story is relative to how much the character cares about that plot (what is happening).  What is at stake for your character? Put your character into situations and see how they will react.
  • Brown gave an example about plot using Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Brown pointed out that the relative amount of “bad things” or “Ill fortune” that happens to Hamlet throughout the story stays constant. It flat lines. So having ill fortune fall upon your character is not what makes the story interesting or worthwhile. It is how Hamlet deals with and reacts to these situations (good or bad) that makes the story a masterpiece.

Are Things Happening Too Fast?

  • If you receive the comment that things are happening too fast, one reason this may be so is because the scenes don’t do anything unexpected. The scenes seem to go where he expects them to go and don’t go any further to reveal something new and unexpected.  Usually these scenes need an extra beat, an extra moment where in the characters do something you wouldn’t have thought they would do.
  • “If it feels like everything that I expected to have happen, happens, then it feels like nothing has happened.” – Brown. This means things are then moving too quick because he isn’t getting more than he expected. Something needs to be accomplished.

When You Get out the Chain Saw:

  • When doing a large-scale revision be sure to focus on the characters age and make sure the voice matches the age. Then ask yourself if other kids can relate to this character. They will identify with your character through the uniqueness of the character. Specifics are all that matter when it comes to your character.
  • Ask yourself: What does each scene do to increase the stakes of what my character wants? Look for scenes that are repetitive or may accomplish the same things (the same story beats). Be ruthless with your scenes, but always keep them in a folder. Don’t delete the scenes that you cut.

When You Start to Polish:

  • When doing small-scale revision try to cut back on unneeded detail. Keep the essential details.  What is the character fixating on? Use description and dialog to serve the character, and the function of the scene.

Why is Your Story Important?

  • Make the plot important to the character. You must be telling a major formative story for your character. This should be an important part of his/her life. Think about what the most important episode or moment in your characters young life would be – that should be what your story is about.

A Few Other Comments on Revision:

  • When editors/agents say that they are not sure where to place your book on the book shelf, this means that the age of the character does not seem to match the target audience for the book. For example a YA book about a 12 year old.
  • Brown thinks books should be in the first person, or third person limited. However the British seem to be able to do third person omniscient very well.  He also mentioned a very interesting book to check out that is written in second person called You by Charles (Benoit ???) which comes out in the fall of 2010.

A Bit About Jordan Brown and What He is Looking For:

  • Jordan Brown is an editor for two imprints – Walden H. Press and Balzar and Bray at Harper Collins.
  • He publishes middle grade, teen, and character driven work with a great voice.
  • He likes retellings of old stories with a new voice or point of view. Timeless stories told in a new way. He encourages you to think outside the box in regards to format, or how a book is told/put together.
  • He is looking for stories with characters he can connect to.
  • He really likes graphic novels, and middle grade.
  • He really loves the work of Frank Boyce who wrote “Millions.”
  • He edited the book Immortal Fire (the third book in the Cronus chronicles series). He is not usually a fantasy fan, but he really connected to the characters in this book.
  • “Reading is a one-on-one experience that allows your reader to interpret meaning from it.” - Brown

Jordan Brown is an editor at Walden H. Press and Balzar and Bray at Harper Collins. He has edited such books as Touching Snow, Hush, The Star Fraction, and Broken Angel.