Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Some Writer Stuff

Yesterday I was talking about Tanya Lee Stone's article in VOYA. Stone included a paragraph on theme that caught my eye because I happened to be thinking about theme, anyway.

"I also toned down two of Nicolette's scenes," Stone said, "in instances where my editor and I eventually agreed that the explicitness might 'distract the reader from my weightier themes,' as she put it. It is important to note, however, that it was only well after the characters' stories had been written and I was into the revision process that I allowed myself the objectivity to look at my themes in the first place. If I had done so from the outset of writing, I believe that it would have been detrimental to the book."

I'm pretty sure I don't spend much time thinking about themes when I'm writing, either. I notice it with great satisfaction somewhere down the line--well down the line. But I wonder if maybe I should be thinking about theme from the outset. Maybe being conscious of a bigger plan from the getgo would help to keep the story on-task.

Over the last couple of years I've noticed YA books that seem to try to merge two different stories--a story of grief mixed with a story about abuse, a story about a kid no one notices mixed with another family's generational story. Were the authors aware of what theme or themes they were working with? If not, would they have been able to develop more of a story from their original situation if they had considered theme?

Am I thinking too much?

I've talked about how I often wonder if I should go to graduate school. I also often wonder if I should get an agent. This interview with agent Erin Murphy is one of the most informative pieces I can recall reading on the subject. I usually find reading about agents dull. Years ago I bought a book on the subject. I don't think I ever opened it.

Murphy mentioned that when writers contact her, they should let her know if they are members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. For years I heard that being a member of the SCBWI would help writers get editors' attention. But I thought, nah, that can't be true.

However, when I was at the Whispering Pines retreat last month, the editors speaking there said that writers who are members of SCBWI should put that on the outside of their submissions. Evidently the feeling is that writers who make the effort to join a writers' organization have a little higher level of commitment and perhaps have attended conferences and workshops that may have had a positive impact on their writing. They aren't just jotting down the first thing that comes into their heads and sending it off to an editor.

I didn't join the SCBWI until after I'd had a couple of books published. I always do things backwards. Always.

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