Going From Good to Great–Revising a YA novel: SCBWI Highlights

The final SCBWI intensive workshop I attended was one of the best workshops at the conference. Deborah Halverson “edited children’s books for ten years—until she climbed over the desk and tried out the author’s chair on the other side. Now she is the award-winning author of the teen novels.”

She gave us the top 10 markers for larger mistakes in manuscripts and actual fixes for them. Her talk added more tools to my revision toolbox because she presented tangible, actionable things that I could apply to my manuscript.

One of the most important ones is “Stop Looking” and this relates to voice.

Is there is a lot of stares, looks, and smiles filling narrative beats in your manuscript?

Then you may have a tendency toward generic action and passive voice.

To diagnose this issue, do a search and count (this can be done with the control+F function in Word) of all the times you use words like:

  • Look
  • Stare
  • Gaze
  • Smile
  • Feel
  • Thought
  • Frown
  • Laugh
  • Turn to
  • Nodded

Everytime you use “feel” or “thought” you are telling the reader not showing them. You want to let the reader be the judge of what is happening.

This is the most common problem for new writers.

So how do you fix this problem?

  • You fill scenes with action.
    • Have characters interacting with setting props.
      • Make interactions specific and unique–change a hair flip to spearing an apple.
    • Make scene messier–instead of sitting around chatting have them hunting or at dance class. Give them something to do that’s interesting while they talk.
    • Use dynamic language–instead of sitting in a chair lounge in it.

If you’d like to learn more about her revision techniques, you can check out her book Writing YA Fiction for Dummies. You can also read her responses and ask her questions at Dear Editor.

This entry was posted in Conferences, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Going From Good to Great–Revising a YA novel: SCBWI Highlights

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.