Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Craft exercises

Hello! If you're here for the first time via Write On Con, welcome! (And if you're a faithful reader, I like you a lot, too. Thanks for being here.)

Over at Write On Con HQ today, I waxed lengthy and opinionated about the importance of craft in a writer's life. (It read something along the lines of the below, but with more words, and a particular focus on craft).

You can read the whole post (and a lot of other great posts, too!) over there. But if you're here now, ready to turn abstract thoughts about craft into reality for your own writing, I thought a few practical craft-developing exercises might help. So, read on! Tweak, adapt, and adopt as you see fit for your own needs and own goals: And then write on!

1. Pick an ordinary object, or an ordinary view, or an everyday experience. Now describe it using five analogies or phrases that are entirely fresh, not clich├ęs or familiar ideas. In other words, create an image that's entirely new, out of your words and perspective, and give it to one of your characters to speak.

2. Read a book that you admire aloud. Pay special attention to what’s NOT in the text as well as what is. Return to your own writing and see, as a result of your study, what you can remove and how the reader might actually benefit as a result—from a more compelling pace, from a more streamlined plot, from tighter writing, from more suspense.

3. Find a book that achieves some of the same things you’re trying to achieve in your own work. Take it apart. Dissect it. Turn it into a chapter-by-chapter outline, or even a scene-by-scene outline. Then study that outline to pieces, noting things like when subplots are introduced and woven in and resolved, and where the action rises and falls (and how often it does each), and the balance of dialogue and prose, and the sort of emotion each chapter opens and closes with, and where in the story's telling unexpected things happen and how that affects the overall pace, and the arc of each key character’s growth across the book.
     Don’t try to do all this in a day. Spend days on it, even weeks. Use it as a warm-up exercise before your day’s writing. Or stop writing for a little while, and devote yourself to this study intensely: whatever works for you. But eventually, go back to your own book, armed with new knowledge, with the ability to better master your own craft having studied another’s mastery.

4. Try writing from a different point of view than you’ve ever tried before; a different voice than ever before; a character who on the surface shares nothing in common with you. What might that previously untried-voice or perspective make fresh in your writing, set free in your writing? What will you learn from your foreign-seeming character, as a writer, and as a person?

5. Share what you know: leave some of your own favorite craft-developing practices in the comments below so that others can try them, too!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hello, August

I've come to accept--and so rather hope you have, too--that in the summer this blog is mostly about being out frolicking and avoiding too many deep thoughts. (Shouldn't we all be doing that, in summer?) But I'm pausing the summer funtimes (and sweating!) to pass along a few links:

1. Soon-to-be-published author Claire LeGrand has a fun blog series up in which she asks fellow writers and publishing folk about one of their favorite books as a middle grade reader. You can read my entry over there now (AND enter to win a giveaway for an advance readers' copy of Kathryn Fitzmaurice's next novel, Destiny, Rewritten.)

2. Speaking of Destiny, Rewritten and the spectacular Kathryn Fitzmaurice, want a sneak peek at the cover of its cover? (It's out in March 2013!) She revealed it recently, over on her blog. Go take a peek; our designers have really outdone themselves!

3. I L-O-V-E-D listening to this recent edition of This American Life (the segment is called "South of Unicorns," and suspect many of the bookish among you (especially fantasy-lovers) will feel the same way.

4. SLOTH. OLYMPICS. The pictures will slay you with cuteness.

5. Write On Con, the 100% totally free, totally online, totally awesome 2-day conference for Children's & YA writers is fast approaching--it's August 14th & 15th. In its third year, this conference is designed especially for those who can't get away from home for an in-person conference, or who just need an inspiration boost. It makes use of lots of digital tools to present dynamic offerings from publishing peeps, literary agents, authors, illustrators, and more, and though some of the presentations and forum offerings are most valuable during the actual days of the con, if you can't make it then, lots of the content will be archived.
     As we've done for the past two years, editor friend Martha Mihalick and agent pal Holly Root and I will be doing a video, in which we answer YOUR questions. Which means we very much want to hear YOUR questions that you'd like answered about kidlit, publishing, YA, cute baby animals....etc! The best way to get your question to us is on Twitter, using the hashtag #askhmm, but if Twitter's not your thing, you can leave your question here in the comments section, too. Either way, we're only taking questions through THIS WEDNESDAY AT MIDNIGHT, so don't dally!

Back to frolicking!