Thursday, May 3, 2012

Highlights Fantasy Reunion Day 5

Today was a busy day, and I can hardly keep my eyes open as I type this.  After a productive morning writing, I had the group critique of my manuscript this afternoon.  This year, we were instructed to send in fifteen pages of a manuscript for the entire group to critique.  I sent in my WIP middle grade novel, "Pirate Ferret" about, well, a pirate ferret.  Considering it's my first draft, I was pleasantly shocked that everyone really enjoyed it and had a lot of positive feedback.  I also walked away filled with lots of great ideas to think about as I write and revise.  Group critiques are such an awesome learning experience, and you never know what wonderful insights you'll gain about your manuscript.  I highly recommend you partake in them every chance you get.  :) 

I finally went for a walk today, too!  It was very lovely.

Our group workshop today was a lesson on language.  Language is very important to think about as you revise.  We chatted about how to take the vague and squishy language in your book and instead make it vivid and direct.

To illustrate this, we studied a poem called "At the Bait Shop" by Ted Kooser:

Part barn, part boxcar, part of a chicken shed,
Part leaking water, something partly dead,
Part pop machine, part gas pump, part a chair
Leaned back against the wall, and sleeping there
Part-owner Herman Runner, mostly fat,
Hip-waders, undershirt, tattoos, and hat.

When you read this, you notice a really neat thing: although the poem is called "At the Bait Shop," there is no bait in the poem.  But with his careful word choices, Kooser doesn't need the word "bait" to convey a precise picture of a bait shop.  (How cool is that?)

We then practiced this technique in our manuscripts, studying each sentence and rewriting them more concisely or cutting words completely.  Take a sentence such as, "The sound of wailing cats outside Allie's bedroom window gave her a headache, making it hard for her to do her math homework."  While that's a grammatically acceptable sentence, it works so much better as, "A cat wailed outside Allie's window.  She slammed her math book shut and grabbed her headache medicine."  By choosing meaningful words and writing as concisely as possible, the sentences positively affect elements like character and tone, thus creating a better story.  It may involve cutting some of your dear words, but you'll be happy you did in the end.  :)

With all of today's brain-stuffing, there was plenty of belly-stuffing too.  Breakfast was cheese blintzes with oatmeal and breakfast ham.  Lunch included hamburgers with all the fixin's, homemade coleslaw, deviled-egg potato salad, and Mexican-chocolate pudding for dessert.  Our evening appetizer was chips with guacamole and salsa.  Dinner entailed fresh mozzarella and tomato pizza, Italian vegetables, and brown sugar pound-cake cupcakes with maple icing for dessert.  (It was so nice today, we even got to eat dinner outside!) 

Time for me to go to bed before I fall asleep at my computer.... 

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