I had a thoroughly lovely time at the Michigan SCBWI conference this past weekend. It was very well-organized; the people were nice; the weather and location were gorgeous; and I got through all forty pages of my talk plus some additions plus a few improvisations in sixty-one minutes flat. Take that, irony!
Special shout-outs to Leslie Helakoski for very literally going out of her way to get me to lunch with some friends on Friday; Gail Flynn for excellent organizing; Sandy Carlson, who set a new standard for friendly, cheerful, and selfless editor-assisting; Rosemary Stimola for interesting conversation and a great talk on the agent's role; Lisa Yee, who wasn't there, but who kindly let me use the editorial process for and early drafts from So Totally Emily Ebers as examples in my talk; everyone on this blog who told me what to talk about (I've got another one coming up in April -- any suggestions?); and R. J. Anderson, who I first encountered online in 1999, whose work I've been following since 2002 or thereabouts, and who I finally met this last weekend -- a friendship seven years in the making. My thanks to all!
The ten* TRUCKs from my talk, which will get posted probably toward the end of the month (*yes, I added another one):
- Write a one-line summary of the Action Plot of your book.
- List the first ten meaningful things your main character says or does.
- Write the flap copy.
- Create a chapter-by-chapter outline (or scene-by-scene, if you prefer).
- Run the Plot Checklist (see "The Essentials of Plot" on my website for details).
- Answer the question "What is it about?" with a one-sentence thesis statement for your book.
- Test every sentence against the question "What purpose does this serve?" (Note: This is the new one; it's super-harsh and tough, and may be better performed by an editor than an author. But it is a TRUCK.)
- Read the manuscript aloud.
- Keep a copy of everything.
- Give it time.