Category Archives: Writing

Rethinking Revision

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One of the best sessions I attended at this year’s NESCBWI conference was Kate Messner’s workship entitled “Real Revision: Big Picture and Line by Line.” Messner is an engaging speaker — probably because of her background as a middle school teacher — but the main reason this workshop earns a “Best of 2013” rating from me is because it was filled with usable tips, guidelines, and insight into the somewhat daunting process of novel revision. Read the rest of this entry

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NESCBWI13!

I finished up classes for the semester on Thursday evening and rolled right on into the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Springfield, MA. I always think “oh, I’ll have time to blog during the conference,” but then I talk to people and do things and can’t squeeze it in the way I want.

So, while I am about to run downstairs for breakfast before the day’s activities begin, I’ll satisfy myself by leaving you with a thirty-second snapshot of yesterday:

  • First workshop session, on using setting to structure fiction with Jeannine Atkins: Did a lot of writing exercises on setting and discovered some really nice details to use in the revisions of the opening of The Spy Novel that I am currently struggling with. Tip: look for little details you can mirror or echo on the first page and the last page of your story.
  • Second workshop session, guided sensory writing with Dawn Metcalf: spent the time sniffing mystery scents and then writing using the scent as a prompt. I wrote about driving through Hershey, Pennsylvania; being sick; a friend who wears nail polish in colors that change every day; and so on. Tip: If you’re stuck, try smelling things to get your sensory memory working.
  • Edgy YA Panel with Scott Blagden, Adah Nuchi, Carter Hasegawa, and Rubin Pfeffer: fascinating discussion about whether kids “self-curate” and read what they’re ready for without censorship. I’ll plan another blog post on that for another day, because what they had to say was interesting. Tip: Write what you’re comfortable writing, let the voice shine through, and someone will find a home for your work.

That’s all for now, folks! Now…must…have…coffee…

On Being a Juggler

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These days, it’s all about keeping the balls in the air. Right now, those balls are: Read the rest of this entry

Voice, Thundersnow, and the Power of Experience

Science educator Katie Slivensky blogged this morning about Thundersnow. You see, here in New England we are bracing for a blizzard. Oh, it’s snowing. The wind is a-blowing. My laundry and dishes are a-going (in case we lose power and/or water). And I have plenty of canned food, bread and milk. (I’m short on cat food, though, so it looks like I might be sacrificing some cans of tuna over the weekend…) Apparently, we have at least a couple of feet of the white stuff headed our way in a serious storm. This storm might include Thundersnow, which Katie explains quite nicely (head on over there and read it…I’ll wait).

Cool, right? Especially the 8-bit Nintendo-looking diagram? So I’m going to get back to Thundersnow in a minute. But first, some background: Read the rest of this entry

New Year, New Rules

Busy Schedule

If you’ve been waiting for new posts on this blog, you’ve been waiting a long time. I’m truly sorry about that. I tend to overextend myself and since I’m also a perfectionist, things like putting together blog posts get shunted to the side.

Since I’ve realized that with my current schedule I can’t possibly Read the rest of this entry

LA SCBWI Conference!

I’m currently at the LA Summer Conference of SCBWI. Full of great speakers and workshops. Check out my twitter feed for snippets of wisdom from authors, agents, and editors. (@lisa_palin)

Haven’t You Been Working on That a While?

I just completed a real live draft of my current W-I-P, a draft that is much farther along than a first draft but not a final draft yet, a draft that I hope is one round of hard revision away from being submission-ready. A few months ago, I was telling a very close friend about my plans to get this draft in place by now, and she said, “Haven’t you been working on that book for a while?” Read the rest of this entry

Naming Places

On Monday, we talked a little about naming characters. What about the other names in your stories? What about names of buildings, streets, companies? Sometimes choosing these names is even more difficult than naming characters, because place names and business names carry an even heavier weight of history and tradition in their meaning. Read the rest of this entry

I Dub Thee…

My current W-I-P involves multiple characters with multiple names, because they have secret identities. (Yes, I’m writing a very exciting book.) This has caused all kinds of problems during the writing process. I had the primary name for the characters — in other words, the name by which they are introduced to the reader — but I had not chosen the other names. In fact, I spent a lot of time worried that revealing the other names would just confuse the reader, and so I questioned whether it was even necessary, and then avoided thinking about it for a long time. Unfortunately, all that did was cement their primary names in my mind, which made choosing secret names even harder. Read the rest of this entry

Milestones That Aren’t

Last Friday was my birthday. It was a moderately significantly numbered birthday, and by that I mean it wasn’t a major milestone (like, say, 21 or 30 or 50) but it wasn’t a filler birthday, either. Even so, while there was a bit of fanfare (I have great friends), it didn’t feel as significant to me as I thought it should.

This all got me thinking about milestones that my characters face, or could face, during the course of their journey, and how they experience them. Since I write young adult, there are some significant birthday possibilities, of course, but so much more than just that: getting a driver’s license; senior prom; getting into college; graduation; moving out. Then, of course, there are all the “firsts”: the first time you drive a car, the first time you call someone your boyfriend, the first time you stand up to an adult, the first time you sneak out of the house, the first time you realize you have something unique to say and there might just be some people in the world who want to hear you say it. Read the rest of this entry