10 February 2010

Making the Shift

Just recently I went to a Mentoring Workshop given by the NJSCBWI. This was part of my New Year's resolution to invest more in my career by seeking out these professional writing thingys and attending them (and guess what -they're tax deductible).

The mentoring workshop went like this - you send in 30 pages of your manuscript, and an editor or agent, whoever is attending the workhop, gets them and reads them over and gives you notes. That kind of input is priceless.

You also give your pages to the other writers in your group for them to critique as well, which is also very useful, especially since most of the other people who sign up for such things aren't clueless newbies.

So I submit my pages and wait. I get an editor from Penguin/Putnam Young Readers. I am so nervous - what if she totally hates what I've written? What if it's total crap? I'm ready to listen to her critique, because I want this book - a YA historical fantasy, currently titled Smoke and Mirrors -to be the best one I've written. I want this book to have an agent and a hardcover NYC deal.

She gave me terrific notes, all written up for me to keep. She loved my synopsis, called it 'excellent' but too long. Okay, I can fix that. She liked the story, liked the characters. Warned me against making my villain a caricature (which I talked about here a couple of months ago; I guess I hadn't done enough softening), and staying too close to the original Fairy Tale. She wanted me to lose the very thing that had inspired the story in the first place, but there was a good reason for it. I scribbled notes on her notes, nodding and agreeing. She didn't say the writing was bad, in fact she said that all the changes she wanted she said I was "totally capable" of making. I like confidence!

Her biggest criticism was that it didn't seem to read like YA, but more like tween. Which is what I usually write, so it wasn't surprising. What she was really saying is it needs more, um, "older" ideas about relationships. In short, sex it up a little.

That doesn't mean turn it into a red light special, of course, but after thinking about it, I could see what she meant. There needs to be a different kind of meat for YA's to sink their teeth into, and it doesn't have to be overt. It's not just 'sex', but sexual tension, a little edge to the story.

It's strange to write it, but on the other hand, in certain places it's coming naturally as I revise. Just a matter of sticking myself into the head of seventeen year olds instead of fifteen year olds. No matter it's late 19th century - teenagers are teenagers. Actually it's MORE interesting, because I have to remember all the mores of that time period, which lends itself to increased tension. Add in the romantic triangle I've got going, and this book is ready to explode.

It's rather exciting, and yes I mean that :P

Yanno, I actually could get used to this. It's kind of fun, and even a little freeing. I won't be writing Romance any time soon, though. I'm not ready for that.

I'm planning on attending the annual NJSCBWI conference. I wonder what I'll learn next.
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