Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Barty and Friends

So Barty came back from Vermont yesterday!

My manuscript, along with 10 others, came back to me bound in a booklet. My job is to read the other 10 and prepare for a discussion/critique. And this is the way that we all learn: by reading other works-in-progress, and seeing what works and what doesn't, and discussing the manuscripts as a group led by one of the instructors at Vermont.

This is no different from the kind of literary analysis we all learn in high school and college, really, except that we are looking for specific things - character development, plot, description, voice - and trying to help strengthen one another's manuscripts.

In fact, literary analysis is a big part of the Vermont program. The applications requires a literary analysis essay. I found it a lot of fun to write - I looked at the middle grade book Clementine which some critics suggested was "plotless" and discussed what I viewed as the plot. I chose that topic because I thought it might help Barty! Well, if it did, it evidently wasn't enough.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to my homework.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Latest Thoughts

Now that I have this fantastic new race-car in my grip (high-speed internet, that is), I can actually think about blogging.

I'm starting the MFA program at Vermont College next month, and I'm both nervous and excited. Nervous because new things always challenge me; excited because I have definite goals in mind, as a writer and as a person.

A few weeks back, I had to send 20 pages of a manuscript that I was still working on, but had no intention of working on after sending in the 20 pages. Happily for me, I'd been struggling with a middle grade "boy" book for 6 months, and Alyssa (my agent) told me that, once again, I'd missed the mark - great voice, she said, terrific character, but poor pacing/plotting. And there you have my struggle as a writer: plotting.

So, when Kathi Appelt, whom I know here in Texas, encouraged me to apply to Vermont, I decided I needed it - I need to be guided in this plotting thing. After all, what makes a story great? What drives you on as a reader? A great plot.

(Speaking of which, I just finished Kathi's THE UNDERNEATH, and it is one of the best books I've read in years. I'd lobby for a Newbery for her, if I could.) And there's an example of master plotting technique, right there: fast paced, holds your attention, constant threat that is realistic, and true, deep emotion.

So, off Barty went to Vermont, to see what he can see!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Free at last!

Okay, this may sound dumb, but I finally have high speed internet! Which means I can actually write a blog from home! Which means maybe I'll write more often.

It's like this new freedom - being able to link to the outside world from my house.

I want to mention that I've joined a marvelous group of fellow writers, all of whom have debut novels coming out (as I do, at the moment) in 2009. The group is 2k9, and we're soon to have a website. So far what I've seen of the books looks fantastic, and I'll link to websites, etc., as soon as I can.

At least, I'm hoping my novel comes out in 2009. I'm still waiting to hear from my editor (what is called the"editorial letter"), and I hope it comes soon, so that I can polish and revise and refine and make FAITHFUL the best possible novel.