Friday, April 15, 2011

Five Things I've Learned...

I'll confess--I'm kind of a Writer's Conference Junkie. (Pretty sure you've guessed that, given that I've been at 3 over the last 2 months).

Yes, they're expensive, and exhausting, and every time I book one I start to think: do I really need/want to do this? But the answer is always: Yes. Because I always walk away having learned something. So I thought I'd use today's post for sort of a fancy Friday Five, and share my five favorite  things I've taken away from my recent conferences, since you guys couldn't be at the conferences with me.

1. From an editor: Remember that characters don't speak to reveal. They speak to conceal. Real people rarely say exactly what they're thinking. Characters shouldn't either. 

2. From an author: Go through your draft--even one you think is done--with the goal of finding seven unnecessary words to cut from each page. You will always find them--probably more than that. 

3. From an editor: When you read your draft, constantly ask yourself: why am I telling the reader this? And why am I telling the reader this now? If you don't have good answers to those questions, trim the line or scene and move it to the point where the reader NEEDS to know that.

4. From an author: Take one of your chapters and highlight every adverb, every adjective, and every preposition. Let yourself see where they all are--and how many of them there are. Then ask yourself with each and every one of them if it really needs to be there. Odds are, some of them can be cut.

5. From an editor: Editors will put every single element of your world to the test. Try to do the same thing. Poke it for holes. Question everything. Don't ever take anything for granted, thinking people won't notice. Push yourself to fix any problem, even small, subtle ones.

Some of that may be reminders for you--some of it was a reminder for me. But there's SO much to keep in mind as you write/revise, it's hard to keep track of everything. And these were things I hadn't been focusing on. I am now, and my pages are *hopefully* getting cleaner and tighter in the process. I'll know soon enough.

And that's the other, main thing I take away from these conferences: there is ALWAYS more to learn.  No matter how long we've been writing, or how many books we have under our belt, we can always find new tips and tricks. And we always need reminders.

I promise I'll share more of what I learned in future posts. But I think that's enough food for thought for today. Hope you guys enjoyed.

What about you? Any of you have a favorite piece of writing advice you want to share? Please, lay it on me in the comments. I love hearing everyone's tips and tricks.

Have a great weekend!

35 comments:

  1. Those are all terrific tips! I like the finding 7 words per page and the new way to look at subtext. Characters look to conceal. I like that.

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  2. "Characters speak to conceal not reveal..." Wow! That's so simple, yet so easily missed.

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  3. Wow, this is awesome. Some I knew (and do). Some I should know but apparently didn't.

    Conferences are addictive. You're lucky, Shannon, to get to go to so many.

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  4. Yeah, that "speak to conceal" thing is great!

    I'm afraid I don't have anything great to add. Except how important it is to watch people in order to see how they "really" act. I'm a hard-corce people watcher.

    ~JD

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  5. Thank you for sharing these tips. I hope to go to my first conference soon. And I guess a tip I picked up for a writing mentor is the concept of less is more.

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  6. Thanks for those tips! Very helpful simple reminders of what to look for.

    I keep a list of over-used words handy.

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  7. You are just too gorgeous to share these really really really wise and sage advice here! Thank you!!!

    Take care
    x

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  8. Such great stuff, Shannon! I ADORE writers' conferences, and I haven't been to one since October!! Eek!

    One of the best things that I learned in a manuscript critique was this:

    "What is the worst thing that can happen to your main character?? Got it? Okay, now do it to her."

    sf

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  9. Great tips, thank you so much for sharing! Especially number 1. I've never thought about that, and it is so true! (or should be) Thanks :)

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  10. Great reminders, Shannon. Thanks~!

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  11. This is editing gold! I'm copying this right now.

    Thanks Shannon. What conference are you going to next? ;)

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  12. Great tips!! I just did an "ly" search of my MS and deleted a lot of unnecessary adverbs!

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  13. Thanks for the tips. It's true that there's so much to be looking for when you revise.

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  14. I went to SCBWI's Spring Spirit conference a couple weeks ago and an author there said to "Figure out what the character doesn't want to have happen, and then throw it at him/her."

    Trying to keep that in mind as I work on my WIP.

    Thanks for the tips!

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  15. Awesome shared advice! #1 really stuck with me. I've never heard this said like this before. Definite ah-ha moment.

    Thanks! Have a great weekend :)

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  16. That's great advice. Off the top of my head, I'd say to make sure no one is perfect. Everyone needs their own flaw and their own ticks. It's realistic.

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  17. I have a question: I was told by a critque partner that editors don't want adverbs but there are times when I can't figure out how not to use one. Are adverbs bad? Or should they just be limited?

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  18. Sara: Adverbs are kind of a personal thing for people. Some are more bothered by them than others. But for the most part, you want to keep them to a minimum. Of course you're allowed to have SOME. I mean, they're a legitimate grammatical element. But you want to make sure you really need them, instead of just needing a stronger verb. And you want to make sure you don't have too many of them because that usually means you don't need all of them.

    Hope that answers your question.

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  19. Wow. Bookmarking this post. Most excellent advice!

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  20. Wow. I'm bookmarking this post as well. Especially since I'm editing my MS this weekend :)

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  21. These. Are. Fantastic. I particularly like the tip about finding 7 extra words. In crafting pitches I've been realising how many extras I have!

    Love the tips from conferences--here in Australia it's so hard to get to them. I've just found one in September that I can't wait to sign up for.

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  22. This is so generous of you Shannon, thank you!

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  23. Ooooo, this is good stuff! Thanks for sharing with us, #1. :-)

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  24. "Characters speak to conceal..." That's a great tip I haven't really thought about before, but so true!

    I've got my first conference of the year coming at the end of the month and I can't wait to learn new tips and tricks of the writing trade! If my budget and paid vaca allowed - I'd probably be a conference junkie, too!

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  25. AWESOME tips. I should glue them to my forehead. ;)

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  26. Love these tips - especially #1, which I haven't thought about much before.

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  27. #1 and #3 really hit home for me. Finding that balance of what the reader knows about the character, and what the character is actually saying, can be a great way to provide tension or momentum for the story. As for revealing what the reader needs to know at that moment, I realize this is an issue I had with a section in one of my early chapters. It worked, but not in the place I put it. Why bring up something that won't be an issue for the character until later? I did it to introduce a character that later would die, but now I'm thinking maybe the character shouldn't even be there since she's only a device to give more depth to MC.

    So much to consider! Thanks for the tips, and I may link this on my own blog. Thanks!

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  28. THis is such a great list. Thanks, Shannon!

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  29. Love, love love that first one. Thanks so much for sharing this, Shannon!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  30. I love your thoughts, your insights, and your sheer open honesty. Thank you again for sharing a piece of your world.

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