Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Post-Conference Post

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):

  1. Write a one-line summary of the Action Plot of your book.
  2. List the first ten meaningful things your main character says or does.
  3. Write the flap copy.
  4. Create a chapter-by-chapter outline (or scene-by-scene, if you prefer).
  5. Run the Plot Checklist (see "The Essentials of Plot" on my website for details).
  6. Answer the question "What is it about?" with a one-sentence thesis statement for your book.
  7. 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.)
  8. Read the manuscript aloud.
  9. Keep a copy of everything.
  10. Give it time.


  1. I have a new advertising slogan for you, since I missed my in-laws' Thanksgiving dinner to attend the conference:

    Cheryl Klein: Better Than Turkey

    (Not that I would have had turkey anyway, since they're German and like to serve schnitzel and rouladen instead. But the point still stands!)

  2. I, too, have an advertizing slogan for you:

    Cheryl Klein: Just as nice -- or nicer -- in person

    Okay. So I need to work on my revision a bit to make it sing, but you get the idea.

    Still beaming from a great conference.

  3. Cheryl! Welcome back!

    What does TRUCK stand for again?

    I have to say that I read your list and gave out a great tired sigh, feeling a bit like Frodo having to climb Mount Doom. What a lot of frickin’ WORK! However, I did swipe and copy the list, pasted it in my writing tips folder, then trotted off to do something else. (Procrastination has been my word of the week.)
    Then I received an email from a fourth grade girl in Thailand telling me about the Scholastic book fair and how excited she was about it. She sent pictures of a gift certificate she won to buy books with. It maybe, just a little, made me remember that this isn’t “work” as in stall mucking, but more of a high calling, the kind of stuff that is a delight and a privilege to do. It is still work but it is good work, if you know what I mean.

    So my slogan is, “Cheryl Klein = Using her superpowers for good”

    Keep on saving the Free Book World.


    P.S. We had our SCBWI Editor’s Day out here in OC and the wicked and witty Abigail McAden from Scholastic made me want to read teen girl fiction for the first time ever, a considerable feat.