Saturday I had the opportunity to attend a great class on novel writing. It was led by the talented Carol Lynch Williams, whose latest release is the well-reviewed, The Chosen One, and Cheri Pray Earl, who has a few books coming out this year.
Perhaps the best thing about this class were the assignments that we had to complete beforehand: writing bios for our MC (highly recomended, btw) and completing an outline for our novel (which was great, because now I have the final stages mapped out). Even though I knew where I was headed, it's great to have it all on paper. It seems like finishing should almost be effortless.
We talked about lots of stuff. One topic centered on voice and the fact that all award-winning books are effortless to read. Sarah, Plain and Tall is one good example (among many). When asked how she wrote that book, Patricia MacLachlan said she took out all the words that didn't matter.
My favorite quote of the day was, "The mystery of life is how we respond." Which is why we, as authors, need to know our characters so well.
For me, to putting this insight into action means, writing those character bios for all my characters, even though I think I already know them fairly well in my head. Then, even after that's done, I think I'll go back and expand them as I finish and rewrite.
Carol and Cheri used many books for examples. (One shall go unnamed.) Some of those included:
This is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis
Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis
The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by Ann Cannon
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
On Writing by Stephen King
You can learn more about their classes and see a list of must-read books at http://www.thefirststory.org/.