I met Daniel Lazar (very briefly) and chatted with him about nancy_v -- which made him smile. He said, "Well, I haven't sold her book yet--"
"It's only been a couple of months," I interrupted.
"Yeah, but it's a great book!"
I got to meet Krista Marino, and we talked about Jennifer Lynn Barnes's books -- Krista's excited about the books Jen is working on right now -- that was neat for me to hear (her enthusiasm and how much she loves her work and her authors).
Krista Marino -- Read & Critique
- don't include facts and information in your story without some kind of context (reason why it's there)
-the form of your novel is almost as important as the words (form including POV, organization of the text, and tense)
- MG is very underpublished right now!
- first person present tense isn't good for reflective novels
- a casual narrative style makes the book seem older
- seeming inconsistencies in characters or plot HAVE to be explained
- don't drop characters; finish a scene before bringing up new questions
- use your descriptive passages to further the story or character
- start the book in such a way that the reader starts with his/her feet on the ground, already feeling a part of the story
Kristin Nelson -- Buy This Book
This was a workshop (which was really enlightening) that illustrated what can happen in an editorial meeting. Various authors were chosen to pitch their books to a 'board' (I was Director of Special Sales). We went through four books, and it was fascinating to see how the editors have to think (including marketing, publicity, and even the B&N rep).
Some general things we, as writers, can be aware of:
- It's important these days to have some kind of web presence.
- A platform is also helpful -- eg: working in the schools; belonging to writers' societies that support your type of stories; public speaking skills/experience; teaching in your past -- all these give you a 'plus' when the board is considering how you can help promote your own book
- THIS IS A BUSINESS! Yes, write well...but be aware that if your books won't make money, they won't get published. Aim for either Library buy-ins or a strong media tie (examples they gave were books that librarians want in their sections because they've won awards or because they can be used in classrooms; and books that will create buzz on places like 'myspace')
- also, definitely look for comparable works and make sure you choose books that are successful :)
The Big Black Moment -- Debra Dixon
This is all about emotional growth, not the plot.
- our characters come into the book with baggage -- we, as authors, need to know exactly what that baggage is, and which aspect of the baggage we're going to force them to deal with
- she thinks of this in terms of GMC (Goals Motivation Conflict)
- the BBM is where the character HAS to make a choice (all is lost or all is won)
- as authors, we must give our characters the opportunity to face their fears/hopes/failures
- *if our character could face the BBM at the beginning of the book and make the right choice, then we've failed -- there has to be growth
Beginning of the story:
- choose our character's weapons (how does the character get through daily life? What are his/her patterns of behavior? How do they cope?) -- *These will govern our characters actions and dictate the resolution of the story!
- conflict = character growth -- active characters get the readers involved in their choices (ie, the readers will guess what the character will do, and keep reading to see if they're right or not)
- don't give your characters easy choices -- TEST them!
- as the author, we HAVE to know our character's pattern of behavior!
- the beginning of the story is where we (as the author) set the stage for the BBM -- and we have to add in every detail that prepares for the choice the character will make (support every action, every thought)
- force your character to change -- set up their skills then take away the safety net and make them deal with something that directly challenges their weaknesses
- the author is promising to deliver something -- don't change your promise as you go, be consistent and continue building
- make sure every scene builds this promise -- the plot itself is chosen to fulfill the promise
- commit to one character -- follow that character's struggles and growth (this is the character who changes and struggles the most -- and hopefully the one to whom most readers will relate the most)
- POV and scene selection are all chosen to illuminate this character's growth
- middles might slow down because the author is afraid to hit the character hard enough
- use the other characters/situations to SHOW the character's fears/hang-ups/secrets/etc -- and to point out things you want the reader to know
- each scene is somehow moving toward the BBM (producing/building anticipation)
- scenes pull into out so the character has to deal with his/her baggage
- keep the characters consistent -- set the stage for them to change -- make sure the problems they face build to the point where they CAN change without being inconsistent
- make sure what they learn makes sense later (and vice versa: the person they become is supported by what they've learned)
- character has to move forward -- don't give her/her any way to escape the BBM
- maintain tension with a moment of crisis(*) where the reader can breathe (usually the character continues to carry baggage -- continues to be in denial)
- (*) gray moment: near the end of the middle (or close to the beginning of the end)
- time to make everything clear (the author must know that the BBM is coming and make it obvious so the reader knows too -- and can anticipate)
- because the hero/heroine must face their fears, the fears must be clear
- BBM: HAPPENS, isn't narrative -- the character can also anticipate this, but they can't avoid it
- plot crisis creates/reveals BBM -- then the character growth resolves the plot crisis
- reader should be a split second ahead of the character (Oh, I know what's going to happen), which means the issues must be clear
- the promise the author made to the reader is fulfilled through all of this (eg don't add silly humor to a suspense -- don't put death in a light-hearted story)
- they must stay in character, therefore prepare them to be able to do this
- the Beginning, Middle, and End bring complete understanding of the MC
- the MC must have SELF-REALIZATION -- don't have any other characters give this to them
- the character now has a new tool (or new tools/weapons) with which he/she can deal/cope
- characters we don't like should be punished somehow (or readers won't have empathy for them -- or feel a resolution)
I loved this because I've not heard many satisfactory explanations -- Think of a spectrum, with CF on one end, GF in the middle, and LF at the opposite end:
Commercial Fiction - (genre fiction) - gives us hope for change
General Fiction - (like Pat Conroy, Alice Hoffman) - gives the hope through lusher language
Literary Fiction - (like Jodi Piccoult) - illuminates issues without promising hope for change
Well, I hope these benefit you a little ;) I know it's not as good as being there, but this is as close as I could get!