Karen Cushman spoke to us about the importance of courting surprises in our writing. One of her best tips is “Don’t fear surprise, welcome it.” Sometimes we have no idea why something comes unbidden. But it’s okay to stray from our outline. She advised that we “ask the questions we don’t know the answers to.”
What I appreciated about her talk was that she made a point of saying that we “are not channeling someone” nor is there “a muse at work.” We as writers do it unwittingly. Sometimes we leave clues in our own writing about what will happen. We just have to look for them. We prepare ourselves for the surprises.
Jay Asher is one of my favorite workshop teachers at the entire conference. He conveyed so much useful knowledge while constantly engaging the audience. If you get the chance to hear him speak, GO!
He really made us think about how to inject suspense into any type of book. One of the key takeaways was the importance of ANTICIPATION. The reader is waiting for something to happen, something that is supposed to happen, and eventually it has to happen to satisfy the reader.
He mentioned how with Twilight the back cover created anticipation about the vampire discovery. The first 10 pages of the book are all about the weather and setting, but it makes it the perfect place for a vampire, which the reader know to anticipate because of the back cover.
In terms of how to inject suspense at the end of a chapter, he advised that writers can: cut the action early, hint at the story to come, or have multiple narrators so the chapter end is a bit of a story cliffhanger.
My favorite quote? “It’s our fault, but their problem when a reader is up all night reading our book.”