Sunday, April 11, 2010

Question of the Day #522

Yesterday, the hilarious, self-proclaimed vixen, Libba Bray, spoke at SCBWI's So Cal Writer's Day. She mused about the writing process, her non-linear thinking, and gave us a list of 10 things to remember when writing. This is my favorite:

"If it doesn't scare you at least a little bit to write your story, there are no stakes. If there are no stakes, it's not worth writing."

An audience member then asked if she was referring to stakes for the main character or stakes for the writer. She answered, "both."

That hit me my right in my (bursting with reasons to procrastinate) forehead. My main character is in a lot of pain. She's a well-guarded, defensive, wounded girl. And it's scary for me, as a writer, to knock down her walls and get to her raw center. Scary, because I'll have to feel the emotions she's having and also scary because in some ways, I don't want to hurt her.

A few years ago, at SCBWI's winter conference in New York, I had the privilege of attending a presentation by Katherine Paterson, author of one of my favorite books as a child, Bridge to Terabithia. (Spoiler Alert! If you have not read this book and would like to, stop reading.) She said that when it was time to write the scene in which Leslie Burke dies, she scrubbed the kitchen floors, washed all the bedding in her home, reorganized closets and did everything she possibly could to avoid feeling that pain.

She, the amazing Katherine Paterson, was afraid to write.

That makes me feel a little better. Because there are days when the stakes feel so high that all I can do is clean the house.

But today, after being reminded that two great authors are indeed, great, because they faced their fears, I will finish this post, turn to page 36 of my work in progress and write.

What high stakes do you need to hurdle?



  1. I soooooo wanted to be there to hear Libba Bray. I knew it would be inspiring.
    I'm trying to make myself raise the stakes on the ending chapters I am tackling. I just threw one unexpected event at my character and I know I need another that is going to hurt. I'm gearing up to write it. If I don't get fierce in the writing, how can my character? *inhale*

  2. When I was teaching Greek Mythology of University of Regina, I cleaned my desk, filed my papers, did the dishes, vacuumed the rugs, etc. before finally sitting down to read and grade all the essays. Marking was definitely the hardest part of that job! I had to really "gear myself up" to do it.

  3. Raising the stakes with my basketball/ghost story by putting it in verse. I have doubts every step of the slow path. Verse for upper MG (tween) or YA aimed at a male audience is not the best charted area.

  4. It was an awesome day for sure. I enjoyed all of the speakers and the various kicks in the butt. Still reeling and approaching the writing with a bit of trepidation for what I am about to do to my characters. But I will do it.


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