Notes From a Writing Workshop

As Co-Regional Director of Florida’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I help organize and attend two fairly large conferences per year. This past weekend, we held our Mid-Year Workshop at Disney World, and I was again astounded at the generosity of our presenters who shared so much of their knowledge.

I couldn’t possibly summarize the whole of what was presented and shared in handouts, but the following is a tiny taste of the advice that resonated with me and might with you as a writer and/or a discerning reader of middle-grade fiction.

From Janice Hardy, author and creator of Fiction University

On avoiding info dumps:

  • Keep the information you need to get across in the point-of-view of a specific character and let that character have an opinion on what he or she is talking about.
  • Let the info be triggered naturally by what’s going on in the scene.
  • Slip the info in during an argument, as people say all kinds of things during a fight, and it’s believable.

Your ultimate plotting test:

If you took a specific scene out, what wouldn’t happen? If nothing would change, then the scene is probably doing nothing to affect the story.

On setting:

  • A well-developed setting grounds readers in that world.
  • Setting provides inherent conflicts and obstacles to struggle with. (If you moved the story or scene to a different location what would change?)

From Agent Michael Stearns, Upstart Crow Literary

 On writing middle grade:

Middle grade stories are often outwardly focused, i.e., things happening to the character can be more important than what happens within the character. Although “that matters very much to the climax of the book, when the outward events trigger an inner change.”

On writing a book:

Write a thousand words a day of your work-in-progress. No more. No less. Stearns says the number can vary a bit, but writing every day makes it easier to enter the “fictive dream.”

From Best-Selling Writer, Lisa Yee

On writing your villain:

Try to show a reason your villain acts the way he/she does. Your villain needs a back story, too.

 

From the Middle Grade Workshop with Lisa Yee, Alexandra Penfold, and Tricia Lin

  • MG fiction has Main Character looking out into the world
  • MG has hopeful perspective
  • MG characters don’t necessarily dissect their feelings; they just feel them

MG years are an age where you want to be an individual, but you also want to belong.

Many thanks to these professionals for sharing their knowledge.

 

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Dorian Cirrone
Dorian Cirrone's most recent middle-grade novel is the award-winning,THE FIRST LAST DAY. She has published several books for children and teens and is the Co-Regional Advisor of SCBWI-Florida. Visit her at www.doriancirrone.com
8 Comments
  1. Thanks to all, I’m on track, ‘cept the part about my MC being hopeful – she is, sort of…

  2. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about scenes, and the test you mention above: if I removed this scene, what would or wouldn’t happen? is a really good one. I wish I could have attended this conference–we have our work conference in Orlando the same week. But I hope I can next year!

  3. Such helpful writing advice. Will heed all these great tips!

  4. Some great reminders of what can work here. But it’s important to remember that the points made are only advice. In a first draft, write from your heart. Save the advice for your revision and see what applies to your story.

  5. Thanks for sharing- this is great information!