Sunday, August 23, 2009

Words of Advice I Got from The Top

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I had the great opportunity to attend the Highlights Chautauqua Writers Retreat last summer (08). We spent a whole week working and eating and chatting with some really amazing children's authors and editors.

I was extra lucky because I was given the chance to mentor under Patti Gauch (VP Philomel/Penguin Publishing).

For real!

Anyway, I was just going through her notes that she scribbled on the side of my manuscript on our last meeting and thought I'd pass them along to you.


She wrote:



"If you revise, check for:

texture, proper nouns and analogy

pull your threads through

make it yours by the words you choose

for every 8-10 scenes, 2 should be high drama...lead into them slowly

check your set ups once your chapter is done

earn the climax"

That's it. Straight from the mouth of someone who has spent years and years working with authors and editors. The VP of Philomel/Penguin!



Questions: Great advice, no? Have you heard it all before? Is there anything new or helpful here? Or, is it just a good reminder? Which is your favorite?

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37 comments:

lucent1 said...

I like, "pull your threads through". I think I do it, but it's a good reminder. Things like that make the reader feel smart...you know, to go back and recognize the why of our writing.

Sherry Dale Rogers said...

I agree, I like "Pull your threads through." I would love to say I heard all of this from a great source personally but it is a really good reminder.

Robyn Campbell said...

I really, really love the reminder that "for every 8-10 scenes, 2 should be high drama... lead into them slowly." That last part is the part I think we forget sometimes. Great advice, Tess. I would LOOOVE to go to the Chautauqua writers retreat. I had thought in early spring I might apply to go, but life got in the way. Maybe someday, huh? :)

Stephanie Faris said...

I think we could always learn more, no matter how many workshops we've attended. I'm learning every day! One thing about workshops, though, that's more important than anything is they inspire you to go home and WRITE. I always get more writing done in the days following a conference than any other time.

storyqueen said...

"...lead into them slowly." I like that.

Shelley

Tess said...

lucent1: yes, that is a good one. We like to make our readers feel smart, right?

Sherry: thanks for coming by this am, especially w/ all you have going on these days! Like I noted above, this particular piece of advice helps the reader feel involved...so important!

Robyn: welcome back! hope you enjoyed your week off. I had never heard of this particular ratio before but I think there is something to it...

Stephanie: yes! The best residual of any conference, I would agree.

Storyqueen: I just giggle everytime I see your name. Storyqueen. It's perfect :D. And, 'lead into them slowly' is a good one.

Michelle said...

Patti's way of putting all of that is different from what I've heard before. I like the drama ratio. And just the language of "pull your threads through." Beautifully said.

Lisa and Laura said...

Wow, great advice. "Earn your climax." That gives me something to think about. Thanks for sharing this!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I love earn the climax. I read on a blog the other day (don't remember where/who???) and the person wrote to think of something/someone and make it come alive. The words make it come alive really spoke to me as wisdom.
~ Wendy

Danyelle said...

Great stuff! I like the earn the climax part. I always feel cheated when I don't feel like the book follows through on its promise.

Tess said...

Michelle: yes, she said things beautifully and sometimes so forthright it hurt a little (but that's a different story ;) )

Lisa/Laura: it's a good one, for sure.

Wendy: I like 'make it come alive'. It is wise, I'd agree.

Danyelle: me too! That drives me crazy in a book...when the throw the climax at you w/out really earning it. Often, I don't buy it because I haven't been led to that point. Good things to think about.

Scott said...

Good reminders. Thanks.

S

JKB said...

What fantastic advice!!! I will bookmark this post and make a note of her advice! Beautiful!!

T. Anne said...

Oooh I love that advice! Must go write that down, thanx!

Cindy said...

I like the 8-10 scenes with 2 high drama and earn the climax. Though writing isn't all about rules, following some basic steps--or at least using them as guidelines--can really help improve a story.

quixotic said...

"make it yours by the words you choose"

I love this advice!

Solvang Sherrie said...

What excellent advice! Two high drama for every 8 to 10 scenes, earn the climax -- that alone was worth the price of admission, huh?

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Jody Hedlund said...

My favorite is "make it yours by the words you use." That is excellent advice! Plots and story lines can be similar but they way we tell them and the words we use are able to bring them to life like none other!

Lynnette Labelle said...

Neat. You're very lucky to have had that opportunity.

Lynnette Labelle
http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

Tess said...

Scott: thanks for stopping by :)

JKB: seriously? cool!

TAnne: I thought it good, too. I had actually forgotten about it till I recently went digging through old notes. It was a fun find.

Cindy: so true. these are more guidelines, aren't they?

quixotic: that's one of my favorites, too. It is what makes our stories our own.

SolvangSherrie: yes, very worth the admission. I didn't walk away w/ a contract (like I was secretly hoping), but I did learn a lot and grow as a writer. It's all good.

Jody: exactly. Our words, our voice, is what makes our writing unique.

Lynette: I was lucky. No credit to myself...just sheer luck!

Davin Malasarn said...

Texture is an interesting comment, one I sort of understand, but not really. I'd love to learn more about that. I also like the idea of making it yours with the words you choose. I think this is great advice! Thanks for posting it.

FictionGroupie said...

Great insight. Thanks for sharing it.

Yunaleska said...

I think I might to to print this one out and stick it somewhere where I can see it every day! Thanks :)

Shelli said...

thanks tess!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

LOVE the every 8-10 scenes, two should be high drama. that's GREAT advice.

L.T. Elliot said...

Awesome thoughts! How cool is that?!

MG Higgins said...

ALL of these are good tips to keep in mind. I'm with the other commenters on especially liking the high drama every 8 to 10 scenes. I'm going to see if I've got that in my WIP. Thanks for sharing your notes!

Crystal said...

Thanks for posting this, Tess! You ask is this helpful? OMG, Tess, I have to give a resounding YES! To sit and listen and learn from Patti Gauch--these words are, like, sacred! Hope I wasn't being sacrilegious here but, um, you know what I mean, I think. I agree with most everyone else about the every 8-10 scenes, 2 should high drama. I have never heard/been given that advice. Okay, I am now carrying that list with me wherever I go to write!

Thanks for sharing!

Tess said...

Davin: how telling that you picked up on texture. I imagine there is quite a bit of that in your work (at least, that would be my guess from reading your blog posts). What exactly does that mean, anyway? I asked, and she did give some thought. Maybe I'll do a post on just that...hmmm...

Fiction Groupie: sure! hope it got you thinking (it did me!)

Yunaleska: cool! I can't believe I've had these tucked away in a drawer...I'll be putting them up, too.

Shelli: no problem :)

Jeannie: that one seems to be a favorite..I think because it is less commonly heard. It was new to me as well.

LT: it was pretty cool. No credit to myself, mind you, just blank luck. Doesn't happen to me often, so I was happy for the opportunity.

MG: I did that, too! Went back and checked my story. It wasn't perfectly balanced, but overall I think the ratio was there.

Crystal: glad it is helpful and thanks for coming by :) and, no sacrilegeous-ness, you are right...it is uncommon to have advice from someone so steeped in the industry.

PJ Hoover said...

These are all REALLY FANTASTIC pieces of advice. Nice and concise and so useful!
Thanks!

Lady Glamis said...

Wow, great advice! I didn't read the comments, so maybe you already answered this, but what exactly does "texture" mean?

Jill Kemerer said...

I'm a numbers gal, so I really liked the "for every 8-10 scenes, 2 should be high drama."
Thanks for the tips!

Suzanne said...

Great Post!

Texture. I like that one. Many layers of things. Words that can and DO mean more than one thing. I love words.

Kelly H-Y said...

What a fabulous opportunity!! And, thanks for sharing the advice!!!

Kimberly said...

Great post Tess! Your blog posts are always very insightful and informative for me as a writer! Thank you :) I like the idea of making our words our own, because we may follow a style set by authors before us but what makes our writing unique are the words we choose. This is what keeps me on my toes as I am writing, because finding the right words to write is a challenge.

Lazy Writer said...

Thanks! Those are very helpful tips!