So Your Character Walks Into A Plot Hole… And Other Common Traps To Avoid Manuscripts

Originally Published: May 2014

by K. Marcus

Brett Wright, an associate editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, prefaced his May 13th SCBWI Professional Series talk with why books are abandoned.  Wright shared some statistics from (See link below).

“28% [of readers] stop reading within the first 50-100 pages.  It is really important to grab the reader right away and keep them enthralled” and said “most of the story should be in place in the first 30 pages…everything and everyone should be introduced in the beginning otherwise it is like it came out of nowhere.” (more…)

Man On Wire: The Importance Of Narrative Tension

Originally Published: February 2014

by K. Marcus

seanmcarthyMAN ON WIRE, the documentary about Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974 was used by Sean McCarthy, owner of the Sean McCarthy Literary Agency, as a metaphor for planning and creating narrative tension in the manuscript.

McCarthy focused on the manuscript’s first three chapters as those are read by agents and editors. This was a presentation from the traveling SCBWI Roadshow in Tarrytown on February 8, 2014.

Petit took 5 years to plan his high-wire walk.  While McCarthy is not suggesting authors and illustrators take that long, he did stress that preplanning plotting, pacing, external/internal conflict, motivation, stakes and character development is more favorable “than forcing it in later.”  In the first three chapters, it is necessary to “lay hints and groundwork for those reveals later on.”  There should be “one conflict at the beginning and it should be resolved at the end.” (more…)

A Story In 1,000 Words Or Less

Originally Posted: January 2014

by Lauren Shapiro

“It’s hard to write a story in 1000 words or less, preferably a lot less, that has character development, conflict, and rising action,” said Deirdre Jones, Assistant Editor at Little Brown Brooks for Young Readers. “But,” she says, “it can be done.”  At the SCBWI meeting on November 12th, she presented her theory as to how. (more…)

Picture Books: From Beginning To End

Originally Posted: January 2013

by Melanie Hope Greenberg

Allison Wortche, Associate Editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, began the October 9 lecture in the Tuesday Professional Series by stating that, “Young children have short attention spans. Authors must take them on a 32-page journey. Sometimes it helps the pacing to think of having 15 or 16 different mini-chapters.” She quoted from author Denise Leograndis: “Good writing has a flow, a balance, a rhythm that our brains appreciate. Writing reads well when it’s paced well.”


Passwords To Plot: The Secret Of Nancy Drew Mysteries

Originally Posted: March 6, 2010

by Emily Goodman

Author Chris Eboch discussed tools for fast-paced plotting in an information-packed talk called “What I Learned from Nancy Drew,” at the SCBWI-Metro New York Professional Series lecture on February 2, 2010.

Eboch, author of the Haunted series of middle grade ghost stories and other books, said the most important features of a plot are to get off to a fast start, to pack the middle full of action, and to use cliffhanger chapter endings.

“A fast start grabs the editor’s and reader’s attention and keeps them reading past page one,” said Eboch. She likes to start a book when the main problem is already under way, even if the main character doesn’t know it yet, and introduce the problem to solve as soon as possible. Then she works in the back story. (more…)