Sunday, July 29, 2012

School's Out

Remember how I mentioned I was taking a class, Writing and Selling the Young Adult Novel, taught by the incredibly talented Mandy Hubbard?  Well, I survived and it ended up being a great experience.  Made some new friends, met a whole bunch of amazing writers, and most importantly, I learned a lot.

First, I learned that I can work under a deadline.  I've talked about it before, but when it comes to writing, I channel the spirit of the turtle.  I don't do NaNoWriMo, I do NaNoSloMo.  It was a four-week class and for the first three weeks, we had to turn in 2,500 words every Friday.  That's approximately 10 pages, double-spaced.

Now I know plenty of people who can do 2,500 words in one day.  I've heard tales of some people being able to do that in a couple of hours.  Those people are cyborgs.  But I'm not that person, and that's OK.  The thing is, Beautiful Medusa is very much a work in progress.  As in, when I started the class, I had written 5 pages, and they were not good pages (you didn't have to have a completed manuscript to take the class, about a quarter of us had next to nothing when we started).  So while turning in 2,500 words once a week might not be a big deal to some, for me, it was terrifying.  I had to write it all pretty much from scratch and to make it worse, the way Beautiful Medusa is structured, most of the scenes I was afraid to write, the gut-wrenching scenes that utterly destroy the character, happen in the first few chapters.

In other words, it was a daunting task, but with a deadline hanging over me, somehow I got it done.  And by 'somehow,' I mean with the help of lots of caffeine and Noodles & Co.  I was worried the deadline would make me panic, but instead, it helped me focus.  I honestly believe it would've taken me months just to get up the courage to write those scenes, but I did it because I had to.

This is me standing atop Mt. "Yeah, I Rocked That"

Second, I learned to slow down.  I've been trying to 'hook' my readers by immediately diving into the action.  I was also afraid I'd lose their attention if I got bogged down in too much description of what my character was going through.  In the immortal words of St. Lolcat, "Writing.  Ur doin' it wrong."  If you throw an action scene at your readers too early, yeah, you'll have stuff happening, but your readers won't be able to connect with the main character.  And if you skip what your character is feeling, readers won't ever be able to connect.  With the help of Mandy and my awesome critique group, I think I got better at exploring my character's emotions, while not going overboard, and doing it by showing, not telling.  What really gets me is that I love to delve into what my characters are feeling, but I was convinced my readers would get bored, so I cut it out.  Yes, I am silly.    

There's so much other stuff I learned:  Tips on how to make characters more memorable.  What makes a really great opening, etc.  The good news is that I believe Mandy will be holding this class again in the fall, so if you were interested and missed it the first time, you'll have another chance.  I'd highly recommend it.  

PS-While I was writing this post, one of my friends tweeted, "Another 6,000 words today..."  Yegads!  What model of cylon are you???