Monday, April 14, 2008


At the Raleigh SCBWI Schmooze this past weekend Author Francis O'Roark Dowell shared with us on the topic "what I didn't know I didn't know." She detailed what she's learned from writing seven MG novels and working through the process with a publisher. Her tips to "write every day" and to remember that "even with an hour a day you can write a novel," were encouraging to those of us whose writing time is often squelched by the busyness of daily living.

Francis suggested that "whenever you make a plot or characterization choice -- make sure you also imagine what it would be like if you did the opposite." And that had us all thinking.

Hmmm. Are my characters complex enough? What if my shy character was outgoing, or my snobby character always looked out for the underdog?..

And I, being in the middle of the second draft of my current novel (P.O.C.L,) desperately appreciated Francis' reminder that novel revisions are extremely important, but that they are not always going to be fun. "Sometimes it just really feels like walking through mud."

It's helpful to hear that from an award winning author. It gives the rest of us courage to know that when we find mud and yuck in our own manuscripts we just need to plow right on through it, and we'll come out all right in the end!

As always, the surroundings at Quail Ridge books were inspiring. Thanks Carol, Rosemary, Rene, and all! Many of us perused the book store, picking up Fancis' very popular books like Dovey Coe, Chicken Boy, Phineas L. Macguire...Erupts!, and the Secret Language of Girls -- and getting them signed.

And there was comaraderie, as members of at least 3 local children's writing critique groups came together, along with several new writers and poets who want to get more involved in the children's writing scene. We were even lucky enough to have several people under the age of 14 on hand!

So, we ate, drank (wine, Chick Fil-a, and cheesecake, of course,) conversed, and were merry. Overall it was a very helpful event -- thank you, Francis! And it was great to greet some new faces and to catch up on the writing lives of old friends!
Now I look forward to the Chapel Hill YA Editors' Retreat this coming weekend. Onward and upward, novelists!


Jo said...

It was just wonderful seeing you again and meeting fellow writers! I wish you all the best in your writing journey, Janelle!

Bish Denham said...

You seem a busy girl, Janelle, and having fun too! Keep up the good work.

C.R. Evers said...

Hey! I must have been taking notes on something else on the

characterization choice -- make sure you also imagine what it would be like if you did the opposite."

part. Somehow I missed that. I'm glad you wrote it down. That's a good thing to think about!


Ian Sands said...

She talked a lot about her re-writes. Wouldn't it have been interesting to see one of her passages before and after???


Janelle said...

Ah yes. Perhaps we should ask her.