Tag Archives: plot

To reel in your audience, you need to start with good bait

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the eighth in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 8: “You have to ask yourself what makes your story unique.”

The eighth session I attend was with Linda Camacho (@LindaRandom), the self-same intrepid agent with Prospect Agency who had kindly critiqued my work earlier in the day. The session was about how to stand out in the YA market, and I’ll give you the high level right here up front: there’s not one single right answer.

She gave us a variety of examples that taught various lessons, all of which add up to a standout story. One of her points that stuck with me especially was when she asked us to think of what makes our writing unique. “If the answer is ‘nothing,’” she said, “how can you tell the story in a different way?”

I think what especially struck me was that I hadn’t really thought about changing my writing for the market. I’d thought about telling the story I had to tell. But, from a pragmatic point of view, she’s totally right. A story that sounds just like all the other stories is hardly going to catch the attention of a publisher or reader.

The thing that makes your story different is the thing that’s going to draw your audience in.

Long story short:

Bait the hook. Unique characters, interesting points of view, a question that pulls you into the story – all are important pieces of the puzzle when you’re coming up with a concept that will catch the eye of your audience. You still need to write what you’re passionate about, but maybe be aware of your value proposition – why would someone trade their time and money for your story?

Result: I still plan to tell my story my way, but maybe ‘my way’ has some elasticity that I could take advantage of. I’ve got to consider what makes me unique, and push the boundaries.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what makes you, and your story, unique.

Happy writing!

Photo of fish by Brenna Hogan on Unsplash
Photo of pumpkins by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

Emotion vs physical action in writing

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the first in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 1: “The way readers connect to your character is through emotion.”

My weekend began with an intensive workshop called Plotlines and Heartlines given by Jill Santopolo (@jillsantopolo), an Editorial Director with Philomel books who also authored the Sparkle Spa series and an adult contemporary novel called The Light We Lost. The main goal of the workshop was to bring our own story ideas and work through the action as well as the emotional journey our main characters

Is she hungry for love, or a sandwich? Make sure readers can connect with your characters’ emotions.

As we worked through the five act plot structure and the emotional arc of our stories, I discovered something very important:

My character had nothing driving her other than my keystrokes. Plot structure isn’t enough. If the protagonist isn’t following a desire then she’s just floating along through the story. Sometimes a character’s deepest desire might be hidden from herself, but as the writer I need to know what’s driving her, and I need to make sure readers know. Turns out, the unspecified desire and drive might be why my story feels so slow in some places.

Result: I knew it deep down, but I put into writing what it is that drives my character. Now I need to go back through and make it apparent to the reader. I need to make sure the emotional arc is tied throughout, and that the reader has reasons to care about the character.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, let me know how you feel about whether your character needs to know her own drive, or just share what’s driving your characters.

Happy writing!