Tuesday, June 4, 2013

On Writing and Editing

I found it extremely instructive to have both a writer and editor leading this workshop: Sharing our Hope. Kristi Holl has written a boatload of books and over the years has amassed a wealth of knowledge on how to write books, during good times and bad, even during the most uncertain of times. She puts her faith in God and lets Him guide her. Her honesty was so uplifting. It made me cry because I also write during difficult times and sometimes it takes a lot of courage to put words on the page. She is one of the first people who wrote a book on the writing life -- Writer's First Aid. Her blog is one of the most helpful because it teaches writers how to have a writing life, how to sustain it. I highly recommend it. I discovered Kristi through ICL and she's been a great blessing. Her books on the writing life and techniques are worth every penny. So go check them out on her website.

Kristi spoke on characters -- strong, believable, and flawed characters. She spoke about creating ordinary but complex and unique characters. She hit the nail on the head with "interesting." By the way, she commented that she receives many manuscripts with a character having one brown eye and one blue. We laughed about it. Although I wanted to interrupt her very much to talk about my cat, I exhibited tremendous self-control. You can see why ...
So, characters: they must have strong goals, worthy goals, with high stakes. This doesn't mean that every character has to save the world, but we need to think of what the consequences are if the main character does not get what he or she wants. I call it the "So what?" factor. Kristi recommends that we examine the motives of each of our characters. And don't make the character do something on page 50 just because the plot demands it. The plot -- the what happens -- should grow organically out of the characters' strength and weaknesses.

She recommends Creating Characters that Kids will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin. I have not read it, but I've read many of Alphin's books and they are a delight. Paula is holding one of her books that she edited: Ghost Cadet. I must also mention now that she has her own publishing company: Boxing Day Books. I've had the pleasure of owning some of these books, the latest on Rose O'Neill: the Girl who Loved to Draw by Linda Brewster. What a gem of a book. I completely agree with Paula that it needs to be a movie! And Polly Wants a Poem is adorable.

I got to know Paula because she was my editor at Ladybug. I have always appreciated her astute advice. She is logical, thoughtful, and leaves no stones unturned. A writer's best friend. She asks the tough questions that writers must answer, and because of her, I'm a better writer. I've been so blessed in the editor department, and Paula is one of the best. If you need a book doctor, check out her services. She'll grill you, and make you work hard, but you'll be happy.

Paula spoke about the business of writing -- the editor's perspective -- because to get to your intended audience, you have to think about the others -- the editors, the parents who buy books for children. She asked us to think about this quote:

In Essentials, Unity
In Non-essentials, Liberty
In all things, Charity.

We spoke about the essentials. What in our life is non-negotiable? That will be the bedrock of our writing. What are we flexible about? It can open up possibilities.

We discussed the why of this workshop. And it is to share our hope that no matter how dark this world might be at times, there is goodness. It is a Christian worldview. Although this workshop was designed for people of all faiths, we were all Christian. We confess Jesus Christ to be Lord and God, and this unity brought us closer. We could open up and discuss why we write, how faith informs our writing. And of course, how we can plant seeds of faith in others, give hope to young readers in a world that often glorifies the anti-hero.

We discussed the various markets -- secular, religious, inspirational, and crossover. What's odd is that what is called "crossover" now used to the be the norm.

This is getting to be a long post. I have much more to share, but I'll circle back to writing and editing and say this. After meeting these two women whom I've known from afar, I am struck by how well their personalities match their professions. Kristi is emotional, with a great desire to share, and she brings that to her writing. The bottom line is that we read to feel. And Paula, reserved and private, brings her logic to the revision process. Both women are passionate about what they do. And as writers, we need both qualities.

Ciao meow. Only for now.


Faith E. Hough said...

Thank you for sharing this! It sounds like you had a marvelous, inspiring time!

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Wow, sounds like an amazing workshop, Vijaya. Thanks so much for sharing some of the highlights with us.

KatieC said...

Vijaya, when I read about this workshop taking place a while back, I had wished I could go. I'm glad you got to attend, and that you found it helpful!

Gary Ludlam said...

Lots of good info and links! I am curious, if you don't mind me asking. Have you sent your novel to an editor or "book doctor"? Do you plan to?
God bless your writing!

Marcia said...

Amazing about one brown and one blue eye showing up in mss. I actually knew a little Hmong boy with one deep brown and one BRIGHT blue eye. Gorgeous. And my husband's got one green and one gray. Just sayin'. :)

"What in our life is nonnegotiable? That will be the bedrock of our writing." Beautiful quote!

Mirka Breen said...

Good intelligent and generous post, like all your posts, Vijaya.

I'm still tickled by the Author-holding-published-books photos. I was forced to take one of these, but they still look goofy to me. Your ladies don't look the least bit ruffled by it, though.

Having intelligent mentors is one of our journey's golden tickets.

Vijaya said...

I'm hoping that all of you will have a chance to go to a Christian-based writing workshop ... the atmosphere is much different. The first time was at Write2Ignite and the presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable. I cried. It was the same here.

Marcia, I didn't realize that 2-color eyes were so common until Kristi mentioned it. That's cool about your husband.

Mirka, these ladies had ton more books that they'd either written (K) or edited (P) but it would've been hard to get all those books in the photo ... I love books with their mommies/midwives.

Gary, I rely upon critique groups -- you learn so much by giving and receiving them. Because I write for magazines and educational companies, I've learned a lot "on the job." Working with a good freelance editor can help you get your writing up several notches fast.