Monday, September 22, 2014

Gifts from John Bemis-- Part I

Congratulations to Linda Andersen who won a copy of Steering Toward Normal by Rebecca Petruck.

Two weeks ago I attended the Table Rock Writers Retreat in Wildacres, NC and participated in John Claude Bemis' class on Writing for Children and Young Adults. It was an inspriational week that left me excited and raring to dig into draft #4 of Half-Truths. In this post I share some of what I learned in John's class.  Next week I'll share highlights from a talk he gave to the whole group, "What Creative People Can Learn from Children" as well as a chance to win an autographed copy of The Prince Who Fell from the Sky.

 John surrounded by his appreciative students. 
#1. It takes a lot of drafts and revision before a book is published. Of course I knew this already, but when I looked at John's brainstorming notes for The Nine Pound Hammer and the editorial letter he received outlining the work he needed to do on the manuscript PLUS the marked up manuscript--I was encouraged. Here was a man who has successfully published four books and his first novel needed a lot of work. A light clicked on. If he could do it, so could I.

#2. Lillie's opening chapter needed to start by showing her doing an important action that grips the reader.

#3. Make sure that there will be consequences for both Lillie and Kate that will make my readers worry about them and care for them. 

#4. Give action and bold choices to dramatize the girls' journeys. 

#5. Think about how the universal desires and anxieties that all children/young adults experience will speak to my readers.

#6. Always think: "Why will readers care about my story?"

#7. Identify what I love in a story. These are elements I will want to include in my own book.

#8. List qualities about my two protagonists which my readers will find appealing. Incorporating these qualities into my story will create sympathetic characters. 

#9. Insert tension by creating stakes for the characters throughout the book.

#10. Play Apples to Apples when you get stuck and need to find out more about your character. (NOTE: It really works!)

There are TONS more that I learned but you'll have to excuse me. Draft #4's outline is tapping her foot and waiting for me to return to work.


Linda A. said...

I know this was a great experience. I've taken a class that John taught. He's terrific. Thanks for sharing some of the things you learned with us. Enjoy your next rewrite!

Linda A. said...

Thanks so much for drawing my name for the copy of Rebecca Petruck's book, Steering Toward Normal. Lucky me!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, linda. And I didn't draw your Did!

Linda Phillips said...

Hooray for John and all the wisdom he imparted to you and the rest of us. And here's hoping your next draft is THE ONE!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Apples to Apples - hmmm - you forgot to tell me about that.

Love your excitement for digging in.

Rosi said...

Lots of good tips here. Thanks for sharing what you learned.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks friends. Yes, Joyce--I'll have to show you how it works!

Anonymous said...

Okay, one, I <3 Apples to Apples! :) Two, what a concise, awesome checklist! Thanks for compiling a week into such an easy-to-use form.

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Congratulations, Linda.
Thanks for having the contest, Carol. It was good to see you at the conference. Good luck with your next draft of your book.


Donna McDine said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful writer's retreat experience. I love Apples to Apples. Never thought about using it in writer's block. Thanks a bunch!

Carol Baldwin said...

Donna and Rebecca-- you'll be surprised at what playing APples to Apples will bring out for your character! Just ask a question about your character, pick a card, and see where your mind goes! ANd thanks Joan, you are such a good supporter for other writers!

Sandra Warren said...

Informative and interesting as usual, Carol. Thanks for sharing these tips. The retreat sounded wonderful.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sandra. You should consider going sometime! Missed you at the conference.

Anonymous said...

I took a class with John at Central Carolina Community College this year, and it was also awesome. He has a wonderful gift for teaching.

Carol Baldwin said...

Obviously I agree, Chris. I hope you'll come back to my blog next week and enter to win an autographed copy of The Prince Who Fell From the Sky!

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