Master Mondays, Week Two: The YA Novel Class Recap

Master Mondays, Week Two: The YA Novel Class Recap

Figure 1. Carrie, why are so dumb about plot? I mean, we really need to sit and talk about this. Stop looking at my biceps. I'm trying to make a point.

Figure 1. Carrie, why are you so dumb about plot? I mean, we really need to sit and talk about this. Stop looking at my biceps. I’m trying to make a point.


 TL;DR version

In this week’s class we talked about plot. And Jellicoe Road. And writing habits. And we did mind-maps. And ate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. And then closed with some meditations about voice.


Plot Thoughts

I regret that I can’t articulate better about plot. I just…can’t. It comes from the character, for me, so it’s sort of reveals itself along with the character revealing himself. Which is kind of a big soup sandwich. I feel hopelessly at a loss at how to explain how I do it. Or don’t do it, as some readers might say.

The original draft of Sex & Violence followed a very middle grade story arc. Character has bad things happen, but makes friends and with the Love of a Good Woman, he overcomes his enemies and gets the girl! Reconnects with his father! Fixes his brain! Yay!

So, obviously that sucked. Because it’s very much an ending that doesn’t make sense. And that my dear boy Evan didn’t earn. Maybe he’ll get the girl, but not that girl, and not then.

I’d been advised to show some sort of “improvement” in his stature. Some gaining of strength and mastery over his fears. And that could happen, but not in the original ARC. He couldn’t get everything he wanted. My very keen editor said it best: “You gave Evan an ending he didn’t earn.”

So going back to revise those plot points involved me finding an ending he deserved. That matched what he learned. That brought him some distance, yes, but not all the way to the completion or triumph.

I have to stop talking about my own book now. It’s giving me hives as it gave me hives talking about it in class. And I’m only typing now. Clearly I have problems.

Let’s Discuss Prologues: *sighs* 

We talked about prologues and their problems. Good lord. I need someone smarter than me to weigh in on this. I don’t like prologues; Sex & Violence has a prologue. Sometimes I like prologues, though. Here are a few examples:

– Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely
– Donna Tartt’s The Secret History
– Elizabeth Fama’s Monstrous Beauty

We didn’t even get to epilogues. It was hard to pin down The Prologue Problem. Some people said they skipped them outright. Some people wondered why they couldn’t just be a shorter chapter 1. I mentioned how someone had once told me – was it Christa Desir? – that boy narrated books needed prologues, because people think boys like prologues. What? How could anyone know that? “I have a penis, therefore I like prologues?”

I just don’t know why they exist.  Would someone just tell us already?!

 Class Log (thanks, Piyali!)

Okay, here’s the class log and the books mentioned:

1. Announcements: shout-out to Twin Cities Book Festival (October 11) and Juliann Rich & Rachel Gold’s joint launch party at Addendum Books (September 27); Molly Backes, author of The Princesses of Iowa, will be our guest speaker next class 9/29 – come listen to Molly and Julie Schumacher on Sunday, 9/28 at the Loft for the Second Story YA Reading Series

2. Discussed Heather Beatty’s “Manifesto of a Workshopper” which was provided by her spouse, Keith Willenson.

3. Personal folders handed out: book recommendations, writing, context as writers within YA

4. Mind-map exercise

5. Writer’s Practice words: discussion of the concept of the writer’s commute, as mentioned by author Sara Ryan on Sara Zarr’s This Creative Life podcast. Discussion of “re-entry” rituals and habits that help us get back into the story. We started a long list, which I hope to add to as the class goes on – will post!

6. Jellicoe Road, chaps 1-3 discussion.

7. Plot: Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, elements of plot, 3-act structure, The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker, summary v. scene, discussion of how plot evolves.

8. Closing question: What are we talking about when we talk about “voice”?

Books/Authors referenced:

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
Against Workshopping Manuscripts by Carol Bly and Cynthia Loveland
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill
The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker
Save The Cat by Blake Snyder
The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness











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