Friday, June 27, 2008


Plenary session, Martha Mihalick, editor at Greenwillow.

She looks for books with a strong voice, unusual plot and/or exciting concept. She asks, “Is it fresh?”

Encountering a book is like going on a first date . . . You don’t want the person to tell you their entire life story in the first few minutes. The opening line is the first date.

A good beginning creates expectations. There’s just enough info so that you care, but you have to keep reading in order to get your questions answered. It includes the whole story without giving anything away.

Different elements may be dominant in a work (voice, plot). Which is dominant determines the type of story.

Example: Lily books. The situations and emotions are universal, but it is told with such great specificity that it can be only Lily that it is happening to.

Your beginning is your chance to connect with readers.
Ask, have you begun in the right place?
Know what makes your story interesting and make sure that that’s in the opening.
Ground your reader while intriguing them without over-explaining.
Begin with authority.
Create expectations.
Be specific: tell YOUR story.
What is your point of connection?
Go beneath the surface.

Ann Dee Ellis, “How to Find Your Voice, or, in the Words of a Rejection Letter, How Not to Write Like an Adult Trying Very Hard to Sound Like a Teenager”

Rule #1. Stop Worrying about:
your mom
the teenage kid you know
your editor
how bad the last sentence was

Just get lost in authentic story. Just write. Let yourself go. Readers connect to honesty and openness.

Rule #2. Know your main character. How?
put them in scenes
character sketch

Rule #3. Use details. Concrete, solid.
Much more useful than current slang.
Go through ms. and trim, trim, trim. Show, not tell. Less is more.

Rule #4. Believe in yourself and have fun.


William Morris said...

What are the Lily books?

I only know the Lilly books by Kevin Henkes (which are great). But it sounds like you might be referencing a series for older children.

Darlene said...

Yes, those are the ones she meant.

William Morris said...

Cool. They are very good. My daughter loves them.

Melinda said...

Hey Darlene,

I created a link to your blog, too. I'm actually thrilled to be a part of your blog roll. I'm not even kidding. You are an amazing writer. I have admired from a distance. I am so glad that we are friends.