In 2002 I went to a summer school at California State Uni at Fresno. It was two weeks devoted to children's writing, with tutors such as Janet Wong, Bruce Coville and Pam Munoz Ryan, among others. A fabulous two weeks, during which I learned much and was inspired to later write my first verse novel for children.
I also wrote 7,500 words of a YA novel while I was there, and workshopped some of it. The greatest surprise to me was when Alexandria LaFaye, the course leader, told me, "You write well but with not enough variety and style - look at the actual words and sentences you are using." So my next question was - how? How can you do that using a method that will then change and enhance your own writing?
As a class, we did some close reading, examining two pieces of writing, word by word. I have since researched this more and developed it into a method I use with my second year classes. But I also worked out a method of how to use it on my own writing, and do this also with classes. Each time, I test a piece of my own writing and am always very interested to see what comes out of it.
I'm reminded of all this by a post on a blog called Lit Agent X, where X lays out the common elements of bad writing, i.e. writing that is not yet publishable.
Go to http://raleva31.livejournal.com/ and have a look at the entry "Not ready for representation...?"
I plan to show this to my students, as it's a really good list of the kinds of stuff we see all the time, yet find it hard to "pin down". Although maybe that's because we see it over and over, and just haven't had the time to compile it as a list. Whereas this agent has offered information that cuts to the core of what is going wrong.
Thanks, Agent X!