After the SCBWI International Conference, I was planning on doing a two-part post with highlights from all the workshops I attended, but I've grown up to be a truly horrible note-taker. In fact, my notes from all the keynote speeches consist of doodles: rabbits, horses, dogs, and even a stray unicorn. Plus one of Arthur A. Levine at the podium.
You'll note that I said "doodle" above, and not "frameable work of art." And let this doodle also serve as exhibit A for why I don't often draw people.
By the fact that I didn't take notes, you might think I didn't get anything out of the keynotes, but you'd be wrong. All the speakers were funny, insightful, and inspirational. And Ruta Sepetys was devastatingly honest. Above all, what came through was their unique voices, and how that unique outlook brought them both roadblocks and successes.
And there were so many good workshops that it was difficult to choose which ones to attend. Nancy Ashcraft Herman, Laurie Dennison, and I took a divide-and-conquer approach, and each went to different workshops, comparing notes later. Except for Jay Asher's "No Bookmarks Allowed: How to Inject Suspense into Your Novel" because all three of us wanted to go to that one! And we left with some great tips on building and maintaining tension.
Some of those tips are going to require more thought on how to subtly incorporate them, but he mentioned that chapter titles are an easy way to foreshadow or plant a red herring. Alternatively, pacing can be manipulated by using dialogue or shorter sentences and paragraphs. Both of these techniques speed things up for the reader. And watch out for suspense killers like forced motivation!
The other workshop that really stood out for me was Sara Wilson Etienne's "Book Trailers: Storyboards, Scripts, Lookbooks, and Everything that Puts the Tease in Teaser". The room it was held in was a little difficult to find and I'm sure that had to do with the small audience. In fact, the group was so small that I wasn't able to yawn as stealthily as I like. If you read this, Sara, I was the one you caught yawning a few times--but it was no reflection on your talk! My medication just makes me sleepy in the afternoon.
But the small audience meant that we were treated to an intimate look into the creation of the fantastic trailer for her book, Harbinger:
Since I'm a photographer (and painted and sketched before I even picked up a still or video camera), I often visualize scenes of my story as if it was a film playing, as I'm drafting the book. So seeing parts of Harbinger come to life really got me excited about this other way to impact readers.
I was so inspired by her simple breakdown of what makes a memorable book trailer that I wrote the entire script for my own future book trailer. My WIP, Crow's Rest, is set in real-life Preston Castle, so I already have a wealth of photographs (and even some video) at my disposal for my trailer. And I have a song picked out, but will need to get permission from the songwriter to use it.
In some ways, it felt like getting way ahead of myself, considering the book isn't even finished. But it also helped cement all the parts of my story that make it unique and worth pursuing. I came away even more determined to finish this book within the next few months, so I can reward myself by getting to play with my book trailer!
If you'd like to see some of Sara's tips on making your own trailer, the good news is that her tips and links will soon be included in the SCBWI Publication Guide, so watch for it!