Thursday, April 2, 2020

#SCBWIdigital Launches with Kate Messner's "Big Picture Revision for Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels"

As a member benefit during this global health crisis, SCBWI has organized a series of eight free workshops - today, April 2, 2020, was the first, and it was taught by Kate Messner.

A screen shot of Kate Messner beginning her #SCBWIdigital workshop from her home.

Kate is a former TV news reporter and middle school English teacher, and her award-winning books span genres and categories. Kate is
“passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder, too.” 
Her titles include award-winning picture books like Over and Under the Pond, Up in the Garden and Down in the DirtThe Brilliant Deep, and How to Read a Story; novels that tackle real-world issues like Breakout, All the Answers, and The Seventh Wish; mysteries and thrillers like Capture the Flag, Eye of the Storm, and Wake Up Missing; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series; and the popular Ranger in Time chapter book series about a time-traveling search and rescue dog.

Who attended? As Lin Oliver shared in her introduction, just on today's digital workshop “We are 3,000 people strong.” And she encourages all of us to know that we're part of this wonderful community.

Kate starts out by sharing that, in this extraordinary time,
“Expecting normal productivity in a period that isn't normal just isn't going to work out. Be kind to yourself.”
Her first 3-minute exercise is for each of us to write two sentences about our current work-in-progress:

The first is to answer "My book is about ___________________."

This is the cover copy.

The second is to answer "But underneath that, it's really about ________________."

This is the heart of the story.

As an example, Kate shares that for her book The Seventh Wish, her first answer is:

"My book is about an Irish dancer who catches a wish-granting fish."

Her second answer is:

"But underneath that, it's really about accepting the things we can't change instead of holding on to wishes."

A screen shot of one of Kate's very helpful slides.

The next exercise was about finding your character's knot, the thing that makes them tick. Example: For Harry Potter, his knot was "what happened with his parents," and his being "desperate for their love."

Kate advised us to consider not just our protagonist's knot, but our antagonist's knot as well. It's what drives their actions and motivations, too.

There are more revision exercises, covering point of view and narrative distance, and with the use of multiple examples, we're urged to have the structure we choose serve our story.

Kate also answers attendee questions, including 'How do you know when your manuscript is ready to submit?," and offers ideas for getting back into a manuscript that you've put aside.

There's so much more, including multiple ways to use (and select) mentor texts, and Kate's favorite revision tool, "The Big Picture Story Chart."

It's a session packed (PACKED!) with great information, exercises, and tips to get us revising our middle grade and young adult manuscripts.

Thank you, Kate!

Stay safe, all.

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