I just got back from my 4th VCFA residency. Woot! Woot! I can’t believe I only have one semester left and then I will have an MFA in writing for kidz! (How time flies!) As always, I’m super inspired from residency and have lots of great tid-bits to share. So without further adieu…
Tid-bits and Sassy Snippets from July 2012 VCFA Residencyin Writing for Children and Young Adults:
- Try revising your manuscript from back to front. We spend so much time on the opening that the ending can get lost when we lose steam.
- Structure is the overall form, and plot is a series of actions.
- Ask your protagonist: “What is the incident (or incidents) in your past that got you believing in a lie? And what is that lie?” The presumption here is that your character has been hurt in the past and because of that event the character has created a “front” which they present to the world. Additionally, they act a certain way, or believe the world is a certain way, because of that lie.
- Load your story events with stakes and symbolism.
- Good vs. evil can be good. But, good vs. good is even better!
- 99% of all art you make will fall short. You only make good work from lots of not-so-good work.
- What’s “not” on the page is just as important as what “is” on the page. Don’t explain things too quickly. Tension is gained in what is held in the gaps.
- Write in service of your characters! Get deep in your character and be with them second by second. A true “moment” is not a feeling you dictate to your character, but something that arises from what they would honestly think, say, or do.
- “A kid will forget a book that reinforces their security, but they’ll never forget a book that introduces them to a truth for the first time.”
- Consider revising like a poet. Take every sentence and analyze it like it’s a line in a poem. Add line breaks, edit, revise, and delete. It will help you to see what is necessary and what is excess.
- Dead parents are not your plot bitch!
- Characterization is the sum of all observable qualities of a human. Character is revealed in the choices (and actions) a human being makes under pressure.
- The protagonist doesn’t have to change in a short story (there may not be time due to length), but the reader must be changed.
- If you lose your way in your novel, go back to the place where you fell in LOVE with your character and begin again there.
- Surprise readers by crafting villains who do not easily fall into the label of “evil”!
- When writing in dual point of view you are doubling the fun, but you are also doubling the trouble.
- Don’t for get that the medium we work in is the reader’s imagination!