Thursday, January 20, 2011

SCBWI FL Regional Conference Day 1: Novel Intensive

This was my fourth SCBWI FL conference, and I swear they get better every time.  I absolutely ADORE the Florida SCBWI chapter, and our Regional Advisor, Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld, gets AMAZING speakers.

The first day of the conference, I attended the Novel Intensive, lead by Joyce Sweeney, Erin Murphy, and Krista Marino (here is a link to everyone's bios). 

The day started with Erin Murphy talking about obstacles.  She had us imagine our ideal writing life, and then think about what obstacles keep us from that writing life.  Some of those obstacles are unavoidable, but some can be altered or adjusted.  She also had us write down resources we have to support our writing, both within ourselves (strengths/talents), and outside of ourselves (support systems).  Erin told us about a blog her clients are doing called Emu's Debuts, where some of her debut clients are going to blog about their experience from being agented to holding a published book in their hands.  Check it out!

Next, Joyce Sweeney tackled the scene.  She gave a fantastic example of the importance of staying in scene and avoiding narrative, as well as how every scene should have a full arc, just like the entire novel: orient the reader, inciting event, rising tension, turning point, raising the stakes, climax, & resolution and promise.  It was very eye-opening, and something I will be using to pick my WIP apart. :)

Then Krista Marino talked about voice.  She gave a list of elements that contribute to voice: diction, perspective, characterization, and dialogue.  She emphasized that a great story needs voice and plot, and that an authentic teen voice/perspective is key.  She gave the example of two movies which demonstrate the difference between teen and adult perspectives: 17 Again, and Big.  She said, "When you're young, everything feels like the end of the world."  And, "Your goal [as a writer] needs to be to erase your worldliness."  Finally, Krista emphasized the importance of inner monologue.  She said many of her editorial notes focus on this.  She wants to always know what the protagonist's thoughts and reactions are to what is happening to him/her.

At the end of the session, Erin Murphy talked about revision.  She emphasized getting distance and objectivity before starting a revision, and she gave some tricks some of her clients use to see big pictures in their manuscripts: shrunken manuscript (print four or more pages per sheet and lay them out on the floor), color coding for different story elements, using a spreadsheet to keep track of different elements and/or character arcs.  She also recommended making an outline after you write (if you're a pantser), changing the font and layout when you revise, read it out loud, keep a Dead Babies file for things you may need to cut but love too much to delete fully, and make or find checklists that work for you.

And that was the Novel Intensive!  They also read everyone's first page and critiqued them.  If you ever have an opportunity to listen to a first pages session, you should.  It's very eye-opening to hear agents' and editors' first reactions to a first page.

What did you think? Did you read anything here you hadn't heard before?  Don't forget to enter my Book Giveaway, and comment here to get an extra entry.  I'll be blogging about the second day of the conference tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Larissa :)


  1. The Novel Intensive was very good and I learned so much. I always love hearing reactions from First Pages, you can always find something to apply to your own work.

    SCBWI Florida conference --- fabulous as usual.

    Plus, it was so great seeing you again. :)

  2. Karen! You are the best! Check back tomorrow because I have an awesome pic of you from the dinner.

  3. Sounds like so much fun!! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I heard this conference was great. I'm glad you took away so much from it.

    I love Krista Marino. I've had critiques done by her before. Her insights were invaluable!

    Can't wait to read more about the conference.