Last weekend I spent three days at the beautiful C.O.D. Ranch in Oracle, Arizona retreating with fellow writers. It was fabulous spending three days in the company of 23 others with such a passion for writing and literature for young people. We learned not only from Kirby Larson, Newberry Honor award winner and Kendra Levin, Associate Editor at Viking Press, but also from each other.
Kendra gave us many great ideas that weekend, and it was helpful to get an editor's perspective. Kendra is also a life coach coach and her creative visualization exercises were very helpful. But Kendra's presentation Sunday morning on revision was my favorite part of the weekend's material.
You see, I knew that my MS for Emily's House needed major work. And after workshopping it all weekend, I had ideas of the areas that needed work. But I was feeling overwhelmed. There was so much to do! Where to start?
Kendra laid out a step-by-step process and that framework helps me feel less overwhelmed. If you are really stuck, contact Kendra for her writer coaching services. She can help you get on track and provide guidance for the revision process.
I will share with you one thing that I had tried to do (as recommended by books and others) but I had been unable to do successfully: Pare it all down to one sentence.
Pare down what? In one sentence, what your novel really about. Who is your book about? What does he/she have to do before the book ends? What is the goal of the character?
Here's what I came up with for my one sentence description for Emily's House:
What if a teenage girl must destroy a runaway black hole to save the ones she loves?
I had been trying to do this - come up with the one sentence description - for months and came up short every time. Having spent over three years with this project and written over 94,000 words, it was hard to whittle it to a one sentence description.
What is the point of this? This one sentence leaves out a lot of important stuff about the story of course. The point for me was to see the basic skeleton of the story structure. We know who she is (a teenage girl) and what she must do before the story ends (destroy a black hole) and what her goal/motivation is (save her loved ones). That's it in one sentence!
We did additional exercises that took this one sentence and then plumped it up to a synopsis. And all of those exercises provided me a deeper insight into what my story was really about and what in those 315 pages is important. Now, when I go in and revise again, I'm ready to "kill my darlings" because I can now see how some of those scenes are just not important to the story.
If you are editing a manuscript and haven't done this exercise yet, try it.
Kendra Levin, Associate Editor at Viking Press
with attendee Brian Herrera
SCBWI-AZ Members Dawn Dixon and Sharon
Here are some of the books written by the retreaters:
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