Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Speaking of rewriting...

Fellow writer/rewriter Elisa pointed out this genius post on YA writer Libba Bray's blog: Writing a Novel, a Love Story.

Read it and you will begin to understand the complex nature of the writer's relationship to their work.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The fricking rewrite continues

Life has been so busy lately, that the rewriting is going very slowly. Rewriting is a very hard thing to organize. There's a million ways to go about it.

Sol Stein compares it to triage and suggests you deal with the bits in most dire need of change first. So that means, sort of, in order:

Filling plot holes and problems
Fleshing out characters
Making sure it all just makes sense, for crying out loud.
Futz with the wording, phrases, sentence structure.
Read it out loud. Check dialogue again.
Proof for grammar.

That's the ideal way for me. But do I stick to my plan? What do you think? I score high as a Random thinker. (I can't find a link to this personality assessment thing that tells you what sort of thinker you are, but it's actually pretty useful. You answer questions and get various scores. Then you plot out the scores on an x/y axis as Random or Linear, then as Concrete or Abstract. I score high in the Concrete Random and Abstract Random quadrants, very low in Concrete Linear, but decently as Abstract Linear.)

So I'm all over the map when I rewrite. Just yesterday I forged ahead with my first big pass (up to Chapter 8!) to fill plot holes and fix up the characters. Then I paused, printed up Chapter 1, and went over the hard copy to fix the wording, phrases, and dialogue. Books are large creatures, like whales. So maybe you can rewrite large portions of its tail while at the same time polishing and sprucing up its head.

Well, that whale metaphor is strange and unweildy. But I'm all about the strange when the mood strikes, so tough.

So how do you rewrite? I'm both organized and messy. I can hold contradictory thoughts in my head at once AND act them out too. Talk about strange and unweildy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Panel Panel

I was part of a panel today consisting of assistants to creative execs. The point was to share info on what we do and how we got where we are, because a lot of assistants want to move into the creative arenas and eventually become creative execs themselves.

By creative execs, I mean the executives in Hollywood who oversee development in film and television and current TV execs. These are the people who mold the scripts that become the films and TV shows you watch.

So the five of us assistants sat in directors chairs in front of about 70 people, talking about what do, what our bosses do, and how we got our jobs. Currents of freezing air whooshed out of the air conditioner. I fought off goosebumps and smiled and told folks that they need to be discreet and be nice to get these jobs, as well as to really work their contacts. I was the only one on the panel without agency experience, so even as I felt a little like an outsider, I think the audience latched onto me as an example they could follow. Afterwards, folks wanted to chat, and the organizers gave us flowers! Who knew answering phones and reading scripts could make people think I was an expert at something?

Friday, August 08, 2008

SCBWI Conference Highlight #1

I'm not a writer of picture books, but when writer/illustrator Yuyi Morales accepted her Golden Kite Award for best picture book illustration, I and 900 others attending the luncheon got teary eyed. Her speech was intensely creative, hilarious, and touching, and I wish I could remember exactly how she managed that.

She talked about trying to find inspiration for her speech, and then, in vivid poetic language, descibed how she went hiking in the hills and found it there. She told us the Peruvian story of Night which, along with her own mother, inspired her to write and illustrate her award winning book. (It's stunning to behold, this book, by the way, all blues, purples, and blacks, but somehow emanates a joyful warmth that we all could see in Yuyi herself.) She spoke of her husband and her son, and then she showed a power point presentation illustrating the thrill she felt at finding out she got the award that literally brought the crowd to their feet in a standing ovation.

Here is a woman who was once a very poor immigrant, with no friends in this country, who has used her creative energy to make a magnificent life for herself, a life where she touches the hearts of children and inspires other writers. Amazing what art can do.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Wisdom from Horst

At the SCBWI conference, prolific and best-selling author Margaret Peterson Haddix (of The Shadow Children and Missing series) talked about trying to stay in touch with your inner teen and told us a funny story about learning to ski.

Her wise old German ski instructor told her: "You will go in the direction you are looking."

And she realized how true this was for so many other parts of life, not just for skiing. Horst was right! So try to look in the direction you most WANT to go. See if it works.

(I heard another great quote during Sarah Pennypacker's acceptance speech at the Golden Kite Awards - something from my favorite author EB White saying that whenever he writes, he realizes how much he just loves human beings. Now I want to find the quote, because I completely recognize what he's talking about. The best writers write from a love for humanity. Just my humble opinion. But at least Sarah Pennypacker and EB White agree with me!)

Monday, August 04, 2008


I took Friday off work and attended three out of four days of the big SCBWI conference here in LA. (SCBWI = Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, an international organization I belong to.) I went last year for the first time, and it was fantastic.

This year was also wonderful, although a bit less useful to me overall than last year. I think I'm sort of getting then hang of this stuff, and am no longer quite a newbie! Weirdness.

I'll report in more detail as my brains de-scramble, but if you are at all interested in writing for kids and have the time and money, I urge you to attend one of these conferences. They are valuable for their huge infusion of inspiration (I cried during two, count em, TWO speeches) and practical knowledge. For me, the best parts were meeting some nice fellow writers and getting to know more about a couple of interesting agents that did workshops there. Attending the conference automatically gives you more of an "in" with agents and editors who teach there. It's no guarantee they'll take you on, but it sure can't hurt!