I just got back from the Western NY SCBWI Novel Revision Retreat weekend and boy is my brain tired. 13 talented writers and one talented editor spent the weekend together, finding strategies to revise our novels. Yes, it was super cool! Feel free to be jealous of me for a second (pause for your envy).
OK, maybe you'd be more jealous if I filled you in on some details. This was a small, intensive weekend retreat for writers with completed novels. We took turns sharing our summaries and reading a chapter or section we felt needed work. We presented a question or two on the passage, and our colleagues gave us phenomenally constructive critiques in a group discussion setting.
[Look at how happy we are! Talk about a great retreat. Thanks everyone!]
Our critiques went to the logic of plots, the wording of emotional turning points, the level of tension. It seemed like even when we approached an issue from different angles, we were able to get to the heart of why a particular point came up for discussion. I was so impressed by everyone's intelligence and helping spirit. I'm still processing everything I learned, but I came away with some insights I can share right now:
- Obstacles and conflict are not the same thing. True tension is created when an obstacle is fully integrated into the entire story; otherwise, it might just be an inconvenience.
- There can be such a thing as a shared vision for a story. I want to communicate my vision for my story, and I want an editor with a vision for my story.
- Plain language can be extremely effective, especially in conveying emotion, and every story needs to integrate the main character's emotional journey at every point, in almost every passage. The POV doesn't get to lapse into "observer mode."
- What you enjoy writing makes a difference. Play to your strengths. Yes, definitely stretch and try new things, but I could tell when listening to early drafts of a novel which parts the author had the most fun writing.
- Revising a novel is challenging mental work. There's no guidebook. We each have to approach it differently--and support each other on the way.
I especially want to thank Amy Emm, my SCBWI Regional Coordinator, for putting together a useful, valuable conference that went without a hitch. And I'd also like to give her a shout out for being a fun person to talk craft with (and play Taboo with).There. Now you may be appropriately jealous.
-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer