Giving immediate feedback without the benefit of having a print copy isn’t the easiest thing to do, but Kate and Lee did an excellent job, and they were very good sports about it all. Seven works were read the first night, and I jotted down some comments and suggestions from Kate and Lee, which I’ve summarized below:
Watch point of view
Avoid telling rather than showing
Dialogue should be distinct and real
Parse exposition out slowly
An object can convey the mood of a piece
Put yourself in the reader’s position and ask: Why should I care?
Root your stories in something reader can relate to
Don’t overwhelm with information all at once
Sprinkle information throughout novel
Reader should connect with main character
Character should be authentic
Dialogue shouldn’t sound embellished or affected
Prefers writing with a distinct cadence, lyrical, literary
“Voice is the key!”
Stories need a sense of urgency
Get at a dramatic point
It’s okay to have a little bit of mystery at first
Give a sense of place
Don’t be an “Irwin the explainer” with overdone exposition
Stories need conflict, drama
What is your story about?
Why is it compelling?
Why is it entertaining?
Don’t need sex scenes or car crashes (to be compelling)
Do need emotional truth, conflict, drama
Opening page is your “query letter”
Don’t have the main character thinking too much out loud in the opening
“Story is conflict.”
Give a sense of choreography of scene, especially in fantasies
Don’t overwhelm reader with details at the beginning
Ground your reader
Focus more on character and emotion and less on phrases
Don’t be too in love with your writing
Stay with what’s true
“Exposition is the death of good writing.”
There you have it, advice from two experts who know what it takes to get published. Over the next week or so I will post more of what I learned at the MWG conference, so stay tuned!