Working on the first packet
My sister, Stef, said she was disappointed that I didn't include some kind of conclusion to all my posts about the first residency at Vermont College last month. I told her that's because I didn't see the end of the residency as any sort of conclusion. It was only the beginning of a whole lot of work. Plus I was tired.
For the last two weeks I've been reading, reading, reading, and writing, writing, writing. My 20 pages of creative work are just about ready. Some of it's still on paper, so I have to type it in today (packet's due tomorrow).
I also have to write a brief synopsis of the first nine chapters for my advisor. She read the first two chapters in workshop during the residency but wants to know what happens inbetween those chapters and where she'll start reading in chapter 10 (she graciously allowed me to keep going on my YA mystery). Frankly I think much of that inbetween stuff will end up in the dumpster. It's a lot of back story, but as someone in my workshop said, I need to tell myself the story first. Then I can go back and prune judiciously.
Besides the creative stuff I have to turn in two short essays of 2-3 pages. That's not much room. Trying to figure out how to focus on such a small topic that I can cover it adequately has occupied significant mental energy.
I've been reading the first couple of chapters of YA and middle grade mystery novels. One of my essays is about effective openings. I've narrowed that down specifically to detective series openings. I'm comparing the first novel in a humorous mystery series by M. E. Rabb (the Missing Persons series) to the second to see how she handles the introduction of the "detective" main character and the main story problem/mystery. The standard writing advice is to hook readers on the first page, but I think series mysteries have the additional obligation of hooking readers on their detective.
The other essay has a vaguer direction right now. I've been amazed at how hard it is to find series mysteries for teens in the library and the book store. Where are they all? And how do we decide what's a mystery anyway? These are some questions I'm thinking about and trying to answer in 2-3 pages. Maybe I'll jar something loose when I go running this morning.