Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Day with Dessen

Okay, so I didn’t have a whole day with Sarah Dessen. (As if I could be that lucky!) More like a minute or two while she was signing my books and a half hour of Q&A and trivia with dozens of others. But the trip did encompass my day, and I was happy *cough* ecstatic *cough* to journey two hours to Cincinnati for Joseph-Beth Booksellers discussion & signing with Sarah Dessen. Her newest book, The Moon and More, was released this past Tuesday and is her 11th published novel. She is known for her heart-felt portrayal of teens with real issues set in Carolina beach towns, and is a bestselling author many times over. During the discussion, I extracted these pointers for an aspiring author such as myself.

I love how animated she is!

Read your Weakness
Struggling with plot? Read a book that has a great, well-written plot. Struggling with writing dialogue? Read a book that has masterful dialogue. Or, as Dessen did in college, take a playwriting class, as it can help improve dialogue writing skills. Basically, if you feel you are inadequate in a certain aspect of writing, read a novel that does it well. It can show you how to be great. 

Plot Sense
When Dessen begins writing, she has to have some sense of where the book is going, so she writes a few notes in what she calls a book ‘skeleton’. It’s not an outline, but something simpler which gives her more freedom. Her skeleton consists of the first line, first scene, climatic scene and the last scene, but all of these are subject to change as she writes. It gives direction without keeping the writer beholden to a detailed outline, which is a good medium between being a pantser and a plotter.

Be Disciplined
Discipline is a key point for an aspiring author, and an experienced one. Writing is about training yourself to sit down every day and put words to paper. Dessen writes at the same time each day, as she has for years. And on days when she can’t write (when she’s on tour and such), she can feel in her bones that she’s supposed to be writing. In her own words, “A lot can be said for just showing up every day.”
Just after she signed the books!
Thanks again, Sarah, for coming to the Midwest! I finished The Moon and More last Thursday and recommend it highly. It's not just a feel-good beach read but is also a real-life, heart-wrenching novel that will pull you in like warm sand between your toes.

Oh yes!


DISCLAIMER: This post in an unofficial account of the event with Sarah Dessen on June 7, 2013 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, OH. The views that I present in this article are my interpretations of the event. They do not necessarily represent the opinions of Sarah Dessen, Viking Press (an imprint of Penguin) or any affiliates.

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