Posts Tagged ‘dear-editor.com’

Deborah Halverson, editor, author, (and previous Writing on the Sidewalk spotlight star),  gave a fantastic presentation at the San Diego October SCBWI meeting.

Articulate and informative, Deborah gave the audience some concrete tools to use in writing for the young adult reader. Her presentation was a companion talk to go with her new craft book, WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION FOR DUMMIES.

Which has a new book trailer out this week:

In honor of its debut, she is offering a “Free First 20 Pages Critique Giveaway” – I would very much like to win!

On to a few highlights from her talk…

I loved the way she obviously respects adolescent readers and treasures that  very particular developmental stage of life as a time of great feeling and passion. She reminded us oldies in the audience that most teen behaviors and attitudes (of over-reaction and exaggeration as well as grandiose perceptions self, for example) – in other words, the things that make parents nuts – are a natural part of adolescence and growing up.

In writing for teens, we can hope to build vocabulary, open and expand minds and imaginations, and create life-long reading habits; BUT she reminded us why teens read… to be entertained!

As Deborah said, “Show, Don’t Preach.”

A few more tidbits from her talk:

  • Most teens judge-act-react-deal with consequences. They don’t over-analyze the why of what they do.
  • Think big, push hard. This is what teens do – and what authors should do in the books written for them.
  • Know your character’s goal, flaw and strength that will help them overcome their flaw.

I plan to share my thoughts on her craft book later this week. Be sure to check out her Dear Editor blog where she answer a multitude of questions from real live writer-readers. You could get your questions answered too!

Sarah Wones Tomp


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On Saturday our San Diego chapter of the SCBWI featured speaker YA author and editor Deborah Halverson.

Here is Deborah’s Bio information from her blog Dear-Editor.com:

Deborah Halverson is the author of the upcoming “Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies” and has been working with authors—bestsellers, veterans, debut, and aspiring—for over fifteen years. The books she’s edited have garnered awards and rave reviews, and many of the aspiring writers she’s coached have landed agent representation and lucrative book deals.

Deborah walks the walk: She is also the awarding-winning author of two teen novels, Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth (Delacorte/ Random House). With two novels and a decade as an editor with Harcourt Children’s Books under her belt, she is now a freelance editor, author, writing instructor, and founder of the writers’ advice website Dear-Editor.com. Deborah speaks extensively at workshops and conferences for writers. She edits adult fiction and nonfiction while specializing in teen fiction and picture books.

Deborah shared with us ten tests that a novel must pass to prove it’s ready for submission. All of this information will be included in her upcoming book Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies due out in June 2011. While there is no way I can share all of the valuable tips she shared I thought I would share a few.

Test #1- Stop “Looking”

In this test for “voice,” Deborah suggests using a word counting program to search for your most used words in your manuscript and determine if they are more active or passive.

Passive words to look out for are: look, smile, stare, frown, laugh, mean, gaze, feel and thought.

If your manuscript uses these passive words more that all others it’s time to make some changes.

Test #2- The Twist and Drop

For this test you are checking for characterization, to determine if your character has changed or grown during the course of the story.

Ask yourself this question: “If you take your character at the end of the story and place them back in the first chapter will they handle their problems differently?”

I your answer is “no” it’s time to make some changes.

Test #3- The CIP challenge

This test is for concept.

What to do? Create one sentence listing the character, main theme and main problem.

For examples check out the summary sentences in the Library of Congress section at the front of a book. If you can’t write the sentence, it’s time to make some changes.

Test #4- Read with Your Fingers

This test is for plot and characterization.

What to do? Read only the first paragraph of each chapter to see if your story moves along?

The example she used is The Golden Compass by author Phillip Pullman.

Test #5- The “Blah, Blah” Bleck! Check

This test requires you to read through the manuscript checking your passages of dialog making sure that the dialog does not include too much back story or information.

If you are “information dumping” in your dialog re-write it so that you reveal more of your characters feelings and mood.

Test #6- Check your Ases

This test for voice uses the word counting program again to determine how many time you use the word “as” which is an indicator that your writing is too passive (boring).

Test #7- The Scratch and Sniff Test

This test is for setting.

Take 3 chapters and highlight every passage that includes the five senses. Your goal is to try to have three different senses in every scene.

Test #8- The Italics Detector

This is another test for voice.

What to do?  Using the word counting program, search for your use of italics.

Too many italics are a sign that you are trying to use the text instead of your words to convey a point.

Test #9- Check Your Sleeve

This test is looking for emotional resonance and narrative sensibility.

Scan your manuscript for direct statements or feelings. Replace these passages with action or youthful judgments.

Test #10- The Eagle Eyes of Igor Check

This test is for mechanics and the easiest by far.

What to do? Have someone else read your manuscript looking for typo’s, grammar etc…

This is a second set of eyes to try and catch any errors you might have missed. Hire a college student, ask a neighbor or a stranger, but make sure they understand they are only looking for the errors and not changing the plot.

These are only brief descriptions of the information she shared, I believe these will be covered in more detail in her upcoming book. In the meantime if you are searching for more great information from Deborah be sure to check out Dear-Editor.com.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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The writing business is a tricky business. You spend your time plotting, planning and writing your manuscripts then you send it out into the world and wait for a response. Sometimes it  is “NO”, sometimes the response isn’t nearly so clear cut.

What’s an author to do?

How can we cut through the ambiguous responses to better our writing?

Help is on the way.

Author Deborah Halverson has just recently launched www.dear-editor.com, a writer’s advice website, where writers (published or not) can ask questions about writing and publishing, and get direct answers and suggestions. Deborah really knows her stuff, She is the awarding-winning author of two teen novels, Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth (Delacorte/ Random House). With two novels and a decade of experience as an editor with Harcourt Children’s Books, she is now a freelance editor, author, and writing instructor.

While she may not have a golden lasso and ride in an invisible plane. Her insight and advice for writers makes her a super hero any day.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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