This week spent at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference has been a great experience for me. In my class with Cheri Pray Earl, we worked on how to break out of the Murky Middles of our novels in progress. Middles can become hard when you are writing because if you have any weakness in a character’s development, plot, world-building, or anything else, this is when the story can
really fall apart (see, I learned something – again – Kill the “-ly” words.). So We learned how to fix the early parts of the novel, and ask the hard questions about character needs, motivations, and voice. We learned to make sure we answered other difficult questions: Who is the real antagonist? How fulfilling is the climax? Have you tied up all the loose ends by the end of the book? I felt myself growing in skill everyday and love that I can see new strengths and weaknesses in my writing. I’m optimistic that I can move forward into stronger writing skills.
Cheri’s class was also a great opportunity to make a bunch of new writer friends, and I hope to keep in touch with them and cheer them on in their future writing careers. I LOVE HAVING WRITER FRIENDS. They help me keep going when I get tempted to power down. Plus, I love the way their minds work.
I was astonished to hear of the level of discouragement experienced in a couple of the other classes. It saddens me to hear of people who felt like they were treated thoughtlessly in critique sessions and told that their hard work was worthless or that they were unworthy to be there. Seriously? What bottom-dweller does that? We should be all about encouraging and helping one another over the bumps and gravel of learning to write and survive the writing/critique/revision/edit/revision/submit process. If someone has a problem or weakness in any of those areas, as fellow writers, we should be encouraging them along and reminding them that the best things exact a price, but that the prize goes to the ones who DON”T QUIT even when someone tells them they should. (Caveat: If you are crazy enough to submit for the “Cold, Hard, Reads” session, you’d darn tootin’ better have thick skin. No one comes out of that unstrafed. For real, people, what do you expect from a session that comes with a warning notice*???)
*For the “Cold, Hard Readings” breakout session, Cheri will choose up to five, first-two novel pages written by conference participants (chosen in advance) and critique/discuss—in front of a large group—the detailed strengths and weaknesses of each. The experience in Cheri’s breakout session will be something like coming out of a public bathroom with your dress tucked up into your nylons…lots of fun. A group discussion will follow the critiques.