On Saturday, I watched a Belt Test at my sons’ Tae Kwon Do studio. Students were asked to name the most important thing they’d learned in the past six months. For me, it is learning to write a pitch. I'm certainly not a Black Belt pitch writer, but at least I’m no longer stumbling aimlessly around the query letter mat.
1. Float like a butterfly. I started by writing the voiceover script for a book trailer. This exercise gave me one very good sentence, and it reminded me why I liked my WIP - which I'd mostly forgotten in the pitched battle of writing pitches.
A lot of writers hate writing exercises, so if you fall into that category, just click to the next blog in your Google reader. I find writing exercises most useful in the initial stages of writing because they help me get to know new characters. This is the exercise I brought to Write Night. We concentrated on first person point of view, although it would also work for third person narration.
1. Choose a character, and list his or her name, age, gender and time period. Also write something the character wants but does not or cannot have. Have your character describe what he or she wants. Include details and the reasons why your character wants it. Concentrate on voice.
2. Repeat with a different character who wants the same thing. Make sure the voice is different.
3. Write a scene in which the two characters interact about what they want. Choose one point of view, but make sure the personality of the other character shows.
After Jeremy went out to dinner with some friends, he said, “The quesadilla was horrible. It was filled with vegetables like Brussels sprouts.”
Quesadillas with Brussels sprouts?
It’s an interesting theory.
Sam is taking Korean in college. For a homework assignment, he had to go to a Korean grocery and ask the proprietor a few questions in Korean. While he was there, he decided to stock his dorm room larder. He bought lots of goodies including …
The instrument in the photo is a Sousaphone. This member of the tuba family weighs 35 pounds and the large bell can act as a sail on windy days.
As an ongoing service to other YA writers who may not have ready access to teenage conversations, and to assuage my eavesdropping guilt, I'll provide a transcript of a Sousaphone-related conversation.
Cast of Characters:
J = Jeremy of teen driving fame
S = female section leader of the tuba section
N = tall and skinny freshman Sousaphone player
Mr. ___ = band director
J: That wind was bad today. I was worried about N. I was worried about you too. I saw you moving.
S: I fell over once when I was a freshman.
J: You did?
S: Yeah. And people marched over me. Mr. ___ didn't notice and I had to yell so he'd stop the band. Then I couldn't get up because the Sousaphone was on top of me. Mr. ___ pulled me up, then I almost overbalanced and fell the other way, but he ran around and caught me.
J: That's terrible.
S: And when I got home my mom said, "Your pants are muddy. I'm mad at you." I can never tell if she means it.
Harold Underdown spoke about turning off the literary critics in our heads and focusing on the emotional impact of writing. The exercise is simple and tremendously powerful.
Read a few lines of writing. Jot down what you are feeling. Repeat with the next section of writing. See how your emotions change.
This technique is terrific for revising your own work and for analyzing other people's writing. It's fun to do as a group because reactions vary so much.
The hard part is quieting that internal literary critic. In the first example Harold gave (The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston), the scene opens with a boy riding a train by himself, and outside it's raining. My first reaction was: Oh no another sad scene in the rain. Tired metaphor. But when I forced the literary critic to sit down and shut up, I realized it wasn't a sad scene, and the rain was simply part of the setting.
Last week, I promised conference reports here on this blog. My brain (and my house) are still pretty cluttered, but I hope to distill a few drops of wisdom to present here in the next few days. Unfortunately, something seems to be wrong with my camera or my eyes because most of the pictures I took are out of focus.
The conference organizers did a marvelous job. I know how much effort goes into planning an event like this.
Today I'm heading out for the SCBWI-MI fall conference. It's supposed to rain all weekend, but I'll be inside learning how to improve my craft, right? I plan to bring my camera and notebook, and with any luck, a few conference-related posts will appear here next week.
We showed up at the driving school with all the necessary paperwork. Then there were forms to sign. As Jeremy scrawled his name, the examiner said, “That says you won’t be alone in a car with a girl until you’re 30.” Jeremy was so nervous, he didn’t even look up.
The road test went pretty well, although I won’t dwell on that frightening left turn in front of an oncoming truck. We drove a long way on the highway, the one driving experience Jeremy has had little of. When we finally returned to the driving school, the examiner recited such a litany of “things you need to work on” that Jeremy and I both thought he failed.
But he passed.
Then the examiner said, “Mom, you did a good job.” I sat up straighter, thinking he was going to compliment my driving instruction. “You didn’t scream,” he said.
On the way home, Jeremy had to drive along a tricky stretch of roadway where two lanes suddenly become one. Me: Let that trailer go ahead of you. Jeremy: I just passed my driving test, so I must have some level of ability, but you’re going to baby me forever. Me: I still baby Sam. Jeremy: sigh