How’s that for a nice, succinct title?
Part of what I learned on this 2-day writing conference was about just that: being succinct. Below is a bullet-point list of highlights from my notes.
Writers’ & Artists’ and Psychologies Magazine presented guest speakers from the industry (writers, editors, and agents) at Bloomsbury Publishing in London. Check out Psychologies if you haven’t. It’s my favourite airplane read; thought-provoking articles about how we interact, connect, and create. (And no, none of these people are endorsing me!).
My brain is full.
It reminded me of screenwriting on my film degree, as we covered basics like the three-act structure and inciting incidents, but even that workshops had fresh perspective that made me hurry back to my hotel room with ideas on how to implement them in both my completed MS (that word “completed” is such a misnomer) and my WIP. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to go.
- I probably still have bits where I’m taking a character by the hand through their day. If a character picks up a toothbrush, let it be for a reason (and not to tell us they brushed their teeth before bed).
- Check out THE DINNER by Herman Koch for setting a scene and giving a sense of who characters are without taking them by their hands.
- He whispered is a sensible use of dialogue tag. Most others aren’t. NO SMIRKING.
- Make the reader do more work. Even if you think you’re not spoon-feeding them, you probably still are. Check again.
- What actually happens in your story? What are the main character’s problems to solve? If you can’t condense this into a very short blurb, there’s a problem.
- For characters, don’t always rely on stereotype. Buy into some, but subvert others so that a character is 3D.
- “Be sure not to discuss your hero’s state of mind. Make it clear from his actions.” – Chekhov (This struck a real chord with me. It’s so basic a rule, but put this way, it made me see that in first person, I might be lazily blabbing all of my MC’s thoughts rather than showing any of them.)
- A reminder that I really need to sit down and write out interviews with my characters. I always think, “Nah, I don’t need to do this.” But I think it’s a well-known method of improving voice and inner consistency that is well-known for a reason.
- The more specific you are, the more readers can empathise, the more universal the appeal (rather than being more vague, trying to appeal to all).
- BE DILIGENT about TURNING OFF EMAILS WHILE WRITING! (big one for me).
- There should be a hint of Something Big on page 1.
- Flashbacks: go into them quicker. You don’t need to say, “she picked up the glass and remembered the glass of champagne on her wedding day . . . blah blah blah.” Just go into it.
- In the 3-act structure, there should be two “buts”. Just before the biggest climax, there should be a “but of warning.” In Cinderella, before the climax moment — dancing with the Prince at the ball — the “but of warning” is the time limit her Fairy Godmother gives her on her magical night. She doesn’t listen to it, so after her high point with the Prince, she’s on the biggest fall along her timeline – when midnight strikes and she has to leave him, and is back to her dreary life, unhappier than ever. BUT, the “but of hope” on the way down is losing her shoe. That plants a seed of hope.
There you have it. It was great to be around others who want to make writing their career, and really showed me how every writer approaches their work from a different perspective, with varying tactics that work best for them. Thank you to Writers’ & Artists’, Psychologies, and Bloomsbury 🙂
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Meeting authors CL RAVEN
The weekend before last was literary-themed as well (am I lucky this month or what?). The Scotsman and I travelled to Cardiff — first time for us, which is shameful given how close it is — to meet my Twitter friends Cat and Lynx Raven, aka authors CL Raven at their book reading/signing.
They were witty, wonderful, and lovely, and we heard them read from two of their books (both of which I snagged before leaving). They took turns reading the first chapter of SOUL ASYLUM, and explained the process of procuring the cover photo and design work — which is a topic that always fascinates me — then read snippets of each of the 10 short stories in their fairy tale anthology, DISENCHANTED.
They were inspiring in their presentation and really good fun to listen to. I’m grateful to know two such dedicated, inspiring, and hard-working writers! Check out their work if you’re intrigued by ghost stories (or ghost hunting, which they do quite a lot of), major twists to the fairy tales you thought you knew, and romance that’s just . . . er, twisted. 🙂 They prove two heads are way better than one.