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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Value of Notes

A zillion years ago, I went to one of the very first "whole novel" workshops sponsored by the HIGHLIGHTS FOUNDATION. Carolyn Coman led the entire thing, with help from her husband Stephen Roxburgh.

The workshop was SEEING INTO YOUR STORY.

I have an entire legal pad filled with notes.
Obviously, my story needed a whole lot of seeing into.

But some of the notes reflect exactly the same things my now editor, Andrea Pinkney, told me when I began revising THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.

Which, by the way, was what I worked on during that long weekend in Honesdale with Carolyn.
Back when I barely had a rough draft.

And the main character's name was Shelton. (now Theo)
And his uncle's name was Chester. (now Raymond)

I had no clue what the time period was though I thought it was the present.

The baseball player the kids loved was Mickey Mantle. (now Henry Aaron)

Don't even ask.

Some of the advice Carolyn gave me.
1. Make a bigger deal of the piano scenes.
2. Shelton doesn't have to be quite as sad if his parents died a long time ago and he's been living in a happy situation ever since.

Some of the excellent, quick tips I wrote, filling my entire legal pad.

1. If possible, have characters already knowing each other. Introductions are difficult.
2. Re: PACING. Err on the side of brevity. You can always add. But your potential editor or agent may get bogged down.

Some of the exercises we did (the ones I liked. I'm not crazy about all writing exercises...):

Who were the voices that made you laugh in your childhood, or in the present?
What were some of the expressions you grew up with?  * (see below for answers)

I wonder how many of my writer friends have attended a Highlights Foundation Workshop?
Did you learn as much as I did?

Here we are in our class photo. All those years ago.
The beginning of a great journey that thankfully turned into a book.
Coming, January 2015.

Answer to *
1. Hotter than a depot stove.
2. That ole' peckerwood. (My childhood word's meaning is totally not what some of the current slang dictionaries say it means...)
3. If you don't behave, I'm getting a switch off that switch tree.

I wasn't blogging back in those days, but you can read about some of my Highlights writer friends HERE.


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Love this, Augusta! I had no idea this book had such a long history. Did you start Glory before or after this one?

Rosi said...

Thanks for sharing this. I didn't have as many notes after last fall's Whole Novel Workshop as you had from yours, but I sure did learn a lot. And it was such a wonderful group of people.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Marvelous, Augusta! So many gems here. The advice about introductions is terrific! I am realizing anew how leaping right into a scene works so much better than getting the character there!

My WIP has a character named Theo - hmmm, maybe I should change it to Shelton.

Augusta Scattergood said...

Joyce, LOL about the name. Shelton- or whatever his various names were- just didn't work for me.
One of my favorite "name" stories comes from Cynthia Lord. When she needs a name for a supporting character, she pulls up the Honor Roll list from the local paper of where she's setting her story and picks a real person. Maybe she varies it a little. And I suspect it's a name of a character who's lovable!
Caroline- Poor Glory languished in a bottom drawer for a while. And that's when I started "Destiny." Hmm. Just not realized I know my two books as Destiny and Glory. There must be a message somewhere!

Augusta Scattergood said...

Correction: Just NOW realized.

Stacey said...

"Err on the side of brevity." I like that. I heard so many people talk about the 'economy of words' when I attended my first SCBWI conference back in Feb. Both are sage pieces of advice.