Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Novel Workshop

Those working on middle grade and young adult fiction got healthy doses of inspiration and instruction from four multi-published novelists at the recent Austin SCBWI Novel workshop.

Varsha Bajaj, author of COUNT ME IN and ABBY SPENCER GOES TO BOLLYWOOD, explored developing characters. “We think of book characters as our best friends, and in our minds they become three-dimensional. Our words have to make them three-dimensional.” She explored strategies and techniques to give characters voice and make sure readers care and connect with them.

Cory Putman Oakes, author of WITCHTOWN, the DINOSAUR BOY series, and the forthcoming SECOND BEST HAUNTED HOTEL ON MERCER STREET, walked attendees through world building using an interactive tour guide strategy. Three keys to make a world believable include: wrinkles, contradictions and weird details.

Nikki Loftin, author of WISH GIRL, NIGHTINGALE’S NEST, and THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY, delved deeply into plot and structure. “Plot is the vehicle of a story, while character is the driver.” For her first two novels, Nikki used plot structures from familiar fairy tales, but for WISH GIRL she developed a unique plot structure. A variety of options exist for this including a three act structure, the Hero’s Journey and the Japanese four-act structure, Kishotenketsu. Nikki also recommended John Truby‘s Anatomy of Story.

Jessica Lee Anderson, author of UNCERTAIN SUMMER, TRUDY, BORDER CROSSING, and CALLI, offered tips and insight for tackling revision. Jessica shared a quote from Katherine Patterson: “You have to be sensitive to get a story out, but you need a hippo hide to seek publication.” Jessica compared revision to mining diamonds, a process that takes time and effort to produce sparkling results.