Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 2, 2010

20 Writing Tips from Jane Yolen

  

Twenty Writing Tips From Jane Yolen

The amazing Jane Yolen ended the SCBWI Winters Conference in New York City this past weekend and shared 20 Writing Tips with us.  She felt they could also be used by the illustrators in the audience.

 

 Here’s the list: 

  1. No exclamation points.
  2. Easy on the adverbs.
  3. Don’t let your characters float by giving them endless dialogue.
  4. Have fun.
  5. BIC – Butt in chair.  HOP – Heart on Page.
  6. P not F – Passion not fashion.  Write what you like.
  7. Remember your story does not have to have a happy ending – just a meaningful ending.
  8. Fall through your story.  Bury yourself in your work.
  9. You don’t have to be the best, just be the best you can be,
  10. Find the right word.
  11. First lines should portend what is going to happen.
  12. Exercise your creative muscle everyday.  If you write one page everyday, you will have written 365 pages, more than you need for a novel or 73 picture books.
  13. Every artist nurtures and nurtures create.
  14. Truth – we all need an editor. Love the process. Don’t get caught up letting rejection get you down.
  15. Money flows towards the author, not the other way around.  Don’t pay for book reviews, agent readings, etc.
  16. Don’t miss the small things in your writing.  Don’t ignore the landscape.
  17. Read what you have written out loud.
  18. Writers block is all in your mind.  Read newspapers, magazines – watch a movie, go shopping, don’t read someone elses book, because you can get stuck in their voice or characters.
  19. Realize there are going to be projects you never complete.
  20. Even while you are working on a project, write little things, doodle on artwork on paper.  These can work like the sorbet between meal courses to cleanse your palette.

I must point out I did my best trying to write it down as Jane talked, but she had a lot of extra things to say about each one.  Hope what I did get helps you.

Kathy


Responses

  1. Brilliant. Loved it, especially the sorbet between courses. My favorite is the Calvados sorbet with mint 🙂 Very helpful list, thanks.
    Brigitte

    Like

    • Brigitte,

      Thanks for the note. I wish you could have been there to hear her talk, she made a lot of other points that i couldn’t get down.

      Kathy

      Like

  2. This is an incredible list, I will definitely keep it when editing my current book before publishing. Thanks.

    Like

    • Glad I took notes to share. I wish I could have gotten mmore down.

      Kathy

      Like

  3. I read one of her books last fall, “Take Joy,” and loved it!

    Chris B.

    Like

    • Chris,

      I bought her picture book, “Scarecrows Dance.” The artwork is beautiful and so are the words. I’ll have to look to read some of her other books, except I have about 20 books sitting on my nightstand to read.

      Kathy

      Like

  4. Thank you again, Kathy. Yolen is one of my favorites. I envy you hearing her in person.

    Like

    • Yousei,

      You should think about attending our June conference. You would have a great time and I’d love to meet you.

      Kathy

      Like

      • Have details–when and where–yet? I need to start working on my husband to get $$$ and time away. 😉 (I’d love to meet you too.)

        Like

  5. How true are these top 20 tips? It’s not the first time I’ve heard Butt in Chair, and Jane Yolen is so right. Thanks for sharing these – they really are critical to all of us.
    Jeanne

    Like

    • Jeanne,

      I’m going to keep thinking butt in the chair and hope that life lets me get there.

      Kathy

      Like

  6. Yolen spoke at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference in 2008. Her talk was a lovely blend of practicality and true encouragement.

    It was so good to see this list!

    Like

    • Sarah,

      I am going to try to get Jane to attend one of our New Jersey conferences. She really is a lovely, talented woman.

      Kathy

      Like

  7. Excellent list. Some are hard to do sometimes, which is what makes them valuable. Loved her #18 Writer’s Block cure – shopping cures everything! (oops, no exclamation marks).

    Like

    • Rebecca,

      Jane asked for a show of hands of the writers who had faced writers block and not many hands went up. She said she didn’t believe us. I thought about that and I think I understand what the true definition is. I think writer’s block is when you don’t know where to go with your story. Not that you do not have any ideas of things to write about. I can always start writing something, but it is writer’s block that makes me from completing all the stories. Of course, life jumps in the way, too.

      Kathy

      Like

  8. Information from you is always welcome.

    Like

    • Totty,

      Thanks so much for you short, but encouraging note. It helps keep me going.

      Kathy

      Like

  9. Thanks Kathy, for reporting what Jane had to share. I love her books. I will do my best to keep on, but it is difficult when I make dumb mistakes.

    Like

    • Mary,

      Just remember that you are moving forward when you make mistakes.

      Kathy

      Like

  10. Jane has a great writing book. Lots of good tips like this. Afraid I don’t have it in front of me for the title.

    anita

    Like

    • Anita,

      I will have to look on amazon to find it. Did you hear about Amazon taking off the buy button on Harcount-Mifflin books? Boy they are really playing hard ball.

      Kathy

      Like

      • Actually, Kathy, I read about the negotiations with Macmillan. Is Harcourt-Mifflin with them?
        Donna

        Like

  11. This is great! I am going to print these out and hang them on my writing corkboard. Thanks!
    I especially like number 5 and number 7.

    Like

    • Eliza,

      Sorry it took me all week to get back to you. The conference really put me hind on everything. It was great to hear Jane talk.

      Kathy

      Like

  12. Lovin’ this list 🙂 I agree with all of them except the first–“NO” exclamation points?!!!!!! LOL I agree not to overuse them, but they exist for a reason, imo 🙂 Thanks, Kathy!
    Donna

    Like

    • Donna,

      Actually, I don’t think she meant that we should eliiminate them all together. I just think she meant to cut them back – way back.

      Kathy

      Like

  13. Kathy — As always —THANKS! I printed out Jane Yolen’s list and have it hanging next to my computer. Jerry Spinelli also told me to cut way back on exclamation points — it’s a hard habit to break — especially for children’s writers — almost as bad as cutting out sugar!!! (ooops — there I go again…)
    Connie

    Like

  14. Thank you for the tips. These are all very good.

    Like

    • David,

      My Pleasure. Hope it helps.

      Kathy

      Like


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