Getting published is a real be-yatch! Hear about my ups, downs and a few random rants in between.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

P's Perspective: Final notes & Series Workshop

So my 20-month old just kicked the PC and clicked it off in the midst of my post. And I'm starting over from scratch.

How many of us know the pain of having to re-write an email or blog from scratch? Obviously the original post was perfect. The second time around it's purely functional!

So I'll get right to it...

Francine Pascal's CREATING THE SERIES workshop was relatively insightful, though it would have been nice to have some solid points to follow. It was obvious she wasn't quite as comfortable leading such a large group - she indicated as much several times both today and yesterday in her keynote.

So, perhaps things would have been a little more structured if she had been dealing with the 20 or so people she had originally expected, versus the 50+ in the room.

Unfortunately, because she didn't offer any hard and fast rules to follow, my notes are a tad scattered.

What was kind of funny, was twice she made a comment that made it clear she wasn't about to disclose any real idea nuggets that any of the attendees might take and create a series from. I'd have to say it was the first time I heard any writer vocalize, plain and clear, "Hey, we're all competitors here, so I'll share but not too much."

What she did share with us was the original proposal she created for the FEARLESS series. And she read from the original proposal for the SWEET VALLEY HIGH series. Both helped to emphasize that if you are proposing a series how in-depth your proposal should be, so the publisher visualizes the world you're offering.

Her advice was geared toward the writer proposing a series that someone else will write, because the focus was on how to develop the proposal vs. how to churn out the books.

Now, here's what's interesting...and I hope I'm not the only one who felt like "duh" when I heard it.

An attendee voiced that she had a series idea but that an agent, publisher or some industry insider told her not to mention that it was a series. Instead make the book stand alone and then mention there's a "possibility" of this being a series.

We've probably all heard that.

Francine's answer was what made me feel like an idiot - for not realizing it on my own.

Francine told her - what you're talking about is a sequel, not a series.

She said Paula Danziger's AMBER BROWN books were not series books but sequels, and prequels and sequels to the sequel.

When asked what was HARRY POTTER, she conceded it was a series, although not in the traditional packaged sense like SWEET VALLEY. I should point out that she hemmed and hawed a bit before calling it a series. I think because she really was talking packaged series. Naturally HP is not.

Her definition of series - an entire fictional world brought down to your characters. Different characters are in front of the lens within any given book - even if there may be one MC that appears each time. And these books come out at a much faster rate.

Also, series work is propelled by a theme. SWEET VALLEY HIGH's theme was love and relationships. It was the common thread throughout each book and each book took place at the high school.

Being dead honest, I really did not think about the difference until she pointed it out.

I get that there are other series out there and that multiple authors write them. Still, it did not occur to me that certain books are better defined as sequels. I think I kind of used the terms interchangeably.

Anyway, some actual notes:

*She sold SVH via a proposal that outlined each character with background, the "bible" of settings within the world of Sweet Valley and plot points for books 1-6.

*She discussed seeding and how she'd weave enough about each character in one book, while leaving just enough mystery so that there would be more to discover in the next.

*Her process for SVH was very structured because she was sometimes churning out 5 or 6 books a month!!!

*She said that once the series grew in popularity she used movies, newspaper clippings and her own experiences to help develop plot points

*FEARLESS was a series she proposed with no intent of ever writing because she said it was not really the type of writing she did.

Her advice: Putting a character's entire worth into a two lines is a powerful way to sell a series concept.

Example: Gaia is a 13 year old born without the fear gene (FEARLESS)

Finally, even though I was so ready to go home, I did stay for Nikki Giovanni's closing key note. Glad I did.

Nikki is a really no holds barred speaker. I've heard that before. But seeing it for myself was still quite amazing.

Her keynote was tied in with her new book, ROSA, about Rosa Parks. She spoke candidly about the civil rights movement and how some elements of the book came together based on her own talks with Rosa Parks and the Illustrator's visits to Montgomery, Alabama.

There were lots of shocked gasps and I could feel more than a few people cringe as she spoke about Emmet Till and the state of his body after being beaten.

Like I said, powerful, candid and no rules apply.

I'd recommend this conference. It was pricey (my check book is still hollering uncle) and exhausting (and this without me going out drinking and cavorting). But the information will serve me well as I move forward in my journey to publication. And I hope it helps others!

So who's on deck next? Anyone going to the SCBWI Summer con?


Blogger Disco Mermaids said...

Thanks for the awesome info! But you did make me a little jealous, I must admit, since I was not able to attend.

Will we be seeing you at the L.A. conference?

- Jay

3:56 PM

Blogger Pam Calvert said...

I think her definition is "hers". :-) An editor at Zonderkidz asked me to propose a series for my novel and it would fit with the "sequel" definition this author gave. So, don't feel dumb!

7:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was initially taken aback that Francine Pascal wouldn't share any random sample ideas as well. But I thought about it and she's in a fairly unique place among writers.

Newbies are often concerned that editors or other writers are going to steal their ideas. We reassure them that writers already have too many ideas and not enough time. No point stealing other people's ideas. The other thing newbies are told is that ideas are a dime a dozen, it's how to express them that counts.

But Francine's job is to come up with ideas -- as many ideas as she can -- and get other people to ghost-write them. So for her, ideas ARE money. She isn't tossing the crowd the leftover ideas that she doesn't have time to write because with a stable of ghost-writers, she can write all of them if she wants to.

1:05 PM

Blogger Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness said...

Hey Jay. I don't know about heading out to Cali, though the thought has jogged across my mind. Trying to raise the airfare alone will have me panhandling in the streets!

Anon, you bring up some very valid points. I never thought about the fact that ideas are Francine Pascale's bread and butter. Guess I'd be a little close-mouthed too.

4:58 AM


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