I’d like to share a few things I learned from Ilima Todd’s “Writing the Unputdownable Story” lecture from WIFYR last month.
An unputdownable story will have a character you want to follow. He or she doesn’t have to be likeable, but s/he should be relatable, have a complex personality, have faults, and go through some kind of growth.
S/he needs to have a need. A concrete need. As the author you have to make sure s/he doesn’t get it and make it more and more difficult to get as the story progresses. At the end, s/he either gets it or learns that s/he doesn’t need it anymore.
Another element to keep readers reading is tension. Each scene should have conflict, internal or external or both. Let things go wrong for your character. Have characters with conflicting goals, where both can’t win. Or give your characters’ actions unintended consequences.
Stakes. This is an area I was falling short in with my recent drafts. What happens if your character doesn’t acheive his or her goals? There need to be stakes, which should rise throughout the story and series.
These were the big things I took from her lecture. I hope they’re helpful to you.
I’m putting my fingers where my mouth is (yum?) and doing another 10,000 word Camp Nanowrimo this month.
I spent last week at the workshop/conference Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers, which is put on in part by my teacher and friend, Carol Lynch Williams.
It was fun to spend the week with family and friends and absorb all I could. But by that Thursday, I felt overwhelmed, unprepared, and out of place. I considered skipping Friday, but I’m glad I didn’t. I would have missed Jennifer Nielsen’s keynote speech. Listening to her was like being scraped off the floor, set on my feet, dusted off, and handed a bowl of ice cream.
Something like this.
I took no notes, but here’s what I remember:
So what if 81% of Americans want to write a book? You only have to compete with the .01% who actually finish a manuscript.
There’s no one right way to climb the mountain known as writing and publishing. We’re all on the mountain, and we’re all heading for different summits. Writing “The End” on a first draft is one summit, but when you get there you realize it’s not the top of the mountain. Looming above you is another summit called revisions. And so on.
Most importantly, if you are not where you need to be today, climb higher tomorrow.
I thanked her for her speech when I got my copy of The False Prince signed.
I’m on the mountain. If I look down, I can see the switchbacks of rejections for Raven and the Trinketeers. Way behind me are the foothills of all those other unfinished stories. Every time I look up, revisions on Featherfolk appear insurmountable. But I’m going to keep climbing.
Where are you on the mountain? Where are you headed next?