SCBWI Novel Retreat

I just got back from a fabulous weekend in Ashton, Idaho, squashed in a cozy cabin with 15 or so other writers and the bodaciously awesome Emma Dryden, an editor from New York. It was so much fun getting to know new writers, hearing their works and getting awesome feedback not only on my own material, but hearing suggestions on other people's work that I can apply to mine.

We were split into groups of four and I have to say, we had the coolest group. Go Wildcats! ;)

Emma read our first pages and gave critique, and everyone laughed at the title of my ms: Where Are Boys From, Uranus? After reading a segment to Emma and a few other writers, Emma had only one suggestion on my opening pages--I repeated the word "start". Then she was like, "I have nothing else to say, this is really appealing, and I want to know what happens." (Or at least something very similar). Eee! Hooray. So now thanks to the Wildcats and Emma's suggestions, I know exactly what to do with my ms and will hopefully have it ready really soon!

Top Tips From the Weekend:

-Emma suggested to create a questionnaire for your characters (especially MC). Their likes, dislikes. Their favorite things. Where they go when they're alone, their biggest secret, their definition of home, etc. Things that don't necessarily need to go into your novel, but will help make your characters more real.

-Agents will wait for you, so if you get an agent request, you can take a few days (or a few weeks) to make sure you don't rush and blow your chances by having something not as ready as it could/should be.

-Concise writing is better than wordy and flowery. Emma said she likes clean, tight writing where one word can say what two or three could, or one tight scene does what two weaker scenes would.

-Sighs are a weak action, and having your character freeze is cliche.

-Emma frequently referred us to Harold Underdown's website as a reference resource. I haven't checked it out yet, but I will!

-In a query letter, adapt it to each agent you query, and any hints you can give (comp titles) of where your ms will be placed is beneficial. Also, Emma said to add the notion that you're looking for a partner for your writing career, that you have other works in progress.

Anyway, hooray, it was a fabulous weekend! Pictures to come (hopefully)!! :D

21 comments

The Golden Eagle said...

It sounds like it was a great weekend! :)

Thanks for sharing the advice.

E.R. King said...

I'm glad you had a great weekend. Thank you for sharing all you learned!

Abby said...

Cortney is sounds like a wonderful retreat! I love the title for your MS too! It sounds amazing. This is such a great post. I think I need to bookmark it!

Joanna said...

How encouraging, Cortney. I also love Harold's website and he has a Facebook page for it too, where he often discusses new stuff. He and Emma are well worth following on twitter too.

Thanks for sharing some of the weekend insights with us. Good luck to getting that MS to the next stage.

Angelina C. Hansen said...

Emma is awesome. What a fabulous experience you had. Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer Groepl said...

Thanks for sharing. It sounds like a great retreat. :)

Deana said...

This sounds fabulous! Yeah for you on your ms too!!

Maeve Frazier said...

Sounds great! I am off to a retreat myself! Have a great weekend.

Ms Saba (aka Teacher007.5) said...

Sounds like you had a ton of fun! Great tips! Thanks for sharing them.

Marcy said...

Courtney, I’ve tried to comment on both of your blogs several times, but blogger wasn't allowing me to. I've seen some suggestions about changing my privacy settings, and hope that this will work now. Anyway, it sounds like your writer’s conference was wonderful, and I look forward to reading your novel some day! It sounds like you've had a wonderful times at your recent writer's conference, and I love the ideas you’ve shared at Mind Writer http://themindwriters.blogspot.com/ Thanks for sharing what you learned, and I hope to read your novels someday soon! P.S. Thanks for your comments on my blog.)

Cortney said...

Thanks, everybody, it really was a fantastic weekend! Marcy, I'm not sure why you had trouble, but I'm glad you finally made it through! I'll look over my security settings and make sure everything is savvy. :D

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Late getting to the conversation - sorry! - but how totally fabulous that Emma liked your work! She is amazing, and very well known, so that is a real compliment - congratulations! Good luck getting your book finished up!

Lynda R Young said...

Sounds like a fabulous weekend. Thanks for sharing these tips.

Maeve Frazier said...

What a great weekend! Sounds like you got a lot out of it. luck getting your book finished.

Rachel Morgan said...

That is fantastic, what a great opportunity for you! And thanks for sharing what you've learned. I'm also going to check out that website.

Michelle Merrill said...

Lucky! Sounds like you had a great time. And way to go on your first page! Thanks for the tips.

Gail Shepherd said...

Great advice. I've actually wondered if it's ok to delay a bit before sending on a request--whether it looks like you're not on top of things if you wait to give your ms one more read. Good to know this is fine. The retreat sounds like a blast!

Lauren F. Boyd said...

Hey, Cortney! Thanks for sharing what you learned from this retreat. It's always helpful to hear what an editor or agent says about the business. And I've read some articles from Harold Underdown's site and would recommend the site as well. It's so informative and tailored to children's book writers!

And thanks for commenting on my blog! It's great to see you!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Oh, my goodness. That retreat sounds heavenly! You got a lot done, AND you learned a lot. AND you got to do it while hanging out with a bunch of cool writers! What could be better?

Melissa Sugar said...

It sounds like you had an exciting weekend. I just dropped by from the "pay it forward" blogfest & I am so glad that I did. I will definitely be back to read more after visiting some more blogs for the blogfest.

It is nice to meet you.
Melissa

Heather said...

That retreat sounds like so much fun! What a great opportunity, and you piqued Emma's interest, awesome!

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