After my critique group read the first chapter of my WIP for the first time (you know, about 20 different first chapters ago), Michele suggested I read Lisa Yee. And how right she was! In the spirit of Lessons Learned, I just re-read Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time, this time taking notes.

  • Establish the conflict early – I know, I hear this one all the time, but Lisa Yee does it nicely here. Not only is the main character’s goal introduced, but it’s linked through a family dynamic and the importance of sports to the whole community, not just Stanford. It’s still a personal story, but the stakes are immediately extended beyond the main character.
  • Give characters surprising traits – a sixth grade boy knitting with his grandma is an unexpected and endearing characterization, plus the knitting project becomes symbolic of his goal and journey
  • It’s okay to have a group of friends – this book is a great example of a character with a group of friends, not just one best friend that they lose halfway through (yeah…WIP is guilty of that right now…). Two of the guys are more developed than the other two, and have motivations and roles of their own.
  • Emotional pay-offs rock – is there any more satisfying moment than suffering with a boy through a whole book and finally hearing his dad say he’s proud of him? *sniff*
  • Sports metaphors make me smile. Every time.

What have you learned lately? Any tips to share?