Greetings fellow Monkeys!
Ellen here, and for my blog this week, I’m going to tell you about an amazing writing opportunity, the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. (here)
It’s the belief of the Nevada Mentor Program that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to work one on one with a successful professional. Nevada SCBWI is committed to giving our members the best opportunity to improve their writing and illustrating skills and to get closer to their goals of seeing their works published, or published at a higher level. After being accepted (and only about 20 folks are) you and two others are teamed up with a Mentor. Last year there were nine well-published professional children’s book and illustrators to act as mentors.
I’ve come away from the Mentor Program each time with information that has helped me strengthen my writing craft. Not only did I have another pair of eyes reading my novel, picking up on plot and character issues, but also someone to share my story with. New ideas were generated. I learned from Suzy that it’s okay to dig and rip and revise over and over . . . and over and over. Suzy has a system to highlight plot, action, dialogue, etc., which helps her see, in full color, how the different sections of her text are working. Terri, on the other hand, focuses on getting inside a character’s skin. Characters must experience setting and conflict from the inside out. Your character must grow with the story. He/she must be believable. They must have a strong voice.
My last Mentor Retreat ended a few weeks ago. With everything fresh in my mind, I began revision. I needed to work on the plot. I needed an event to demonstrate conflict between my protagonist and his father. I needed to rip my book apart. I wanted to avoid becoming overwhelmed. I wondered how best to revise.
As an English teacher, I decided to “teach” my book to myself. My first assignment was to summarize each chapter. As I began, I paid special attention to plot progression and character interaction. I highlighted these places. This enabled me to find the best place in the plot to add the new event I wanted, a sword fight between the protagonist and his father. I thought about the relationship between these two characters and decided I needed to strengthen their voices. Like Terri said, I needed to get inside their skin.
I found a simple character chart that I had used in class. Three columns, the character, the trait and evidence of that trait revealed through thoughts, dialogue and actions of the character. I learned from Terri to give your protagonist three dominant traits, one being a negative one. As your character deals with conflict, he/she must cope with all three character traits, and in the end, even the negative trait becomes helpful.
I color-coded the protagonist and other characters, paying special attention to their interaction with each other. I plastered myself to the protagonist and listened to his voice in everyday life, and during conflict. I felt his raw emotion. I experienced his world.
When I finished, the fog of revision cleared. My summaries and charts became my road map. I felt more confident in tackling a major revision.
Thank you, Suzy and Terri! Discussing my work with you, having you help me see the positive and the negative, helped my writing become stronger.
The mentor program does not guarantee publication, but if you enjoy mingling with others that have a passion for writing, and if you like the thought of an adventure, then head on out to Nevada!