Cheryl Klein stops by to talk about her new book - Second Sight, An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults.
For those of you who have not heard Cheryl speak - I'm sorry :( because you are missing out. The woman is brilliant and every time we talk, I have so many "aha" moments.
I've had the pleasure of being on faculty with Cheryl and she was as fun and engaging as she is smart.
A personal tidbit I learned - she loves music. Like goes to concerts all the time. That's how cool she is.
Anyway, never fear, now all of her best, amazing talks are in this book.
This will be a 2- part interview with a giveaway on Part 2.
Hi Cheryl, tell us about yourself.
Hi Shelli. I’m a narrative nerd of long standing: I love stories of all kinds—true, false, books, film, theatre, biographies, for children, for adults—and thinking about how a good story works or why the bad ones don’t. I’m lucky enough to get to work with lots of brilliant writers and stories in my job as a senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. And I have a book coming out that brings together all the writing I’ve done over the years about plots, character, voice, and all those other great components of written stories. The title is Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults, but thinking about it now, I really could have called it The Collected Narrative Dorkery of Cheryl Klein.
What made you finally decide to do this book (besides all the begging we have done!)
Ever since I started putting a good number of my writing talks on my website, people had been asking me when I was going to publish a real book on writing. And while I love editing other people’s books, I thought it sounded pretty awesome to have a whole book of my own.
You talk a lot about plotting in this book. What do you find is the biggest problem writers have with plotting?
The writers are so close to the characters and understand so much of their backstory and thoughts that actions and plot developments that seem hugely significant to them (“them” meaning “the characters and writers”) only make the reader say “Um, what just happened there . . . ?” A lot of the work I do with my authors focuses on building in the backstory and character development that makes the action in the book matter as much to the reader as it does to the writer.
I've heard you say voice is so critical to you loving a book. What do you find is the biggest problem writers have with voice?
I’d say it’s either that the voice isn’t distinctive—that it sounds like a hundred other narrative voices already out there, with no particular personality or beauty to distinguish it from anything else; or that the voice too-obviously broadcasts everything the character is feeling, oncoming plot developments, other characters’ true natures, etc., etc., without regard for proper pacing of the information or emotional flow.
The book touches on how to write from various POVs. What can a writer do to write an effective 3rd person vs 1st person character?
A first-person narrator has to do three things effectively: (1) tell the story; (2) be believable and compelling as the voice of that particular character; and (3) bring a personality and richness to the story beyond mere factual narration—some imagination, charm, or elegance. In third person, (2) is removed, so all the voice has to do is tell the story well.
Was this enough for you? No? Cheryl will be back Monday with Part 2 - talk about a cliffhanger :)
In the meantime, what questions do you have for Cheryl?
Check out the other Bookanista posts: