Sunday, March 04, 2012

Cheryl Klein 2012 Revision Workshop: Spokane, WA SCBWI

Four of us from the Moscow, Idaho area drove to Spokane yesterday for a day-long workshop on revision with Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein, sponsored by SCBWI.

The workshop did not disappoint. If Cheryl ever comes to your area, don't hesitate to attend this workshop.

However, in the event that that is not a possibility for you, you can glean 80% of what she had to say from her book, Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults. This is mostly a compilation of blog posts she had written over several years when she was known in the blogosphere as Brooklyn Arden. She drew heavily from it in her presentation.

I would have to say that if you've been studying the craft and techniques of writing for a while, not much of what she had to say will be new to you, however, a refresher is always good.

If you are new to studying the craft of writing, you will probably come away with your head spinning from information overload.

I especially liked her explanations for the numerous uses of BOOKMAPS. She is extremely left-brained, extremely analytical, as you might expect an editor to be.

There was one new piece of information, one missing piece from my "Understanding the Craft of Writing Puzzle" that she did answer for me. I have always wondered where, exactly, a manuscript should begin. She gave the example (which is typical of my own book) of a young adult who is in the process of moving to a new town. Where should the story open? When the young person gets the news that the family will be moving? As the family is on the road, moving to their new home? Driving into the driveway of the new home? The first day of school? A week later?

Her response was a simple, slap yourself upside your cheek and wonder why you never had that figured out before: You begin it where the protagonist comes in contact with whatever your overarching story is about.

If your overarching story involves conflict between two people, your first scene is where those two people meet and conflict. If it's about a mystery, it's where the person who is to solve the mystery comes on scene and gets the first clue or bit of necessary information. If it's a love story, it's when the hero and heroine meet.

The first scene ends where the protagonist is faced with a choice that determines the next action step in the story.


  1. Sounds like you had a great time!


  2. Yes, I thought this information about when to begin a story was amazingly helpful! I'm going to begin with my current Chapter 3 and then (maybe) do some flashbacks...

  3. Good common sense advice but easy to not think about until someone like this author comes along and points it out. Thanks for sharing. I actually have a friend who's working on a YA novel now and I will be sure to share this tidbit of wisdom with him.


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