Here are a few pointers from Libba:
- Be the giraffe: Don’t jump to the obvious. Dig deeper for the unexpected.
- Find the cracks. Let the light in: Allow the characters be fully human. Let them have flaws. Allow them to make mistakes – not placing them in harm’s way, but for on the path of painful truth.
- Stay away from trends: Danger, Will Robinson. Danger! Don’t stray to far from your story where you can’t hear your characters whisper. No sure thing exists, in the world of writing, except what is deep down in your heart. Make it as true as you possibly can, then dig deeper.
- First you jump off the cliff, then you build your wings: Take the fear in. Welcome it. It’s your compass. Go ahead. Jump. Experience the terror of the fall. Trust in your work, and wait for the wind to help you soar.
Alvina Ling, Senior Editor, Little Brown
Alvina spoke about Literary Novels. She shared the distinction between commercial and literary.
- Literary fiction: characters focus, description, beauty of the language.
- Commercial fiction: adventure, plot, story gets to the point quickly, less character-driven
“I love meaty tragic books that make me cry, make me think, and offer hope.”
As a literary editor, Alvin is looking for books to fall in love with, savor every word. Literary fiction steeps in relationships, characters, development of internal struggle. Literary fiction is quieter than the commercial fiction; more about the writing, less about the plot. Both should be well-written.
Literary books may not sell well, but hopefully get a good review.
Ben Schrank, Publisher, Razorbill
Ben shared insights on the teen fiction market.
- Don’t “windmill-write” — too much info to set the stage, where words are thrown to the wind.
- All stories have been told before. Tell them in new ways.
- Teen readers need the cafeteria connection — real life issues.
- Combination of voice and concept important.
“I can almost scratch a manuscript to see if it’s something I’ve never seen before.”
The real pleasure of being a writer is writing, not publishing:
“If you write a good book, it should find it’s way to the market.”
Authors: it pays to be nice:
- If you behave badly with your writers group, they won’t give you good feedback.
- If you behave badly with your agent, He/she may not pitch to editor.
- If you behave badly with your editor, he/she may not not push book forward to publication. And so on….
Arianne Lewin, Senior Editor, Disney/Hyperion
Arianne shared insights on the YA fantasy market.
What she’s looking for:
- Baseline: quality writing, plot line, character development.
- World-building: Craft fantasy world focused on people and stories. Story must stay personal to the main character.
- Concept: idea must be workable, fit into a logical structure. Characters can’t suddenly discover new powers to solve problems in the plot.
- Rules: Scope out all the rules of the fantasy world. Understand them and how the characters would interact in this new world.
“Fantasy stories can’t be an excuse for the characters to stare at the world and wonder.”
Good story-tellers unfold the world without exposition. Find an organic way to introduce information. Start at a pivotal moment in the story, but decide what is the pivotal moment for your character.
Common mistake of new writers: too aggressive with fantasy elements. They cram everything into the story. The dragon saving an elf in vampire land won’t ever work.
The end game: “What are the stakes that create tension for your readers? Make sure your reader can relate to them.”
Whew! Another big day. Mary Poppins on Broadway awaits. Tootles.