This was different from conferences where you meet other writers, agents and editors. It was a "working workshop" and all of our time was spent on craft. We also made connections with published authors, but the focus was on improving our stories. I'm already planning to return to Write by the Lake next year.
What makes a Bestseller
Kathy Steffen's workshop was focused on analyzing bestsellers and applying what we learned to our own novels. One thing that struck me about the bestsellers was Theme. Ronald B. Tobias in Theme and Strategy divided theme into six universal categories:
- The moral statement
- The struggle for human dignity
- Social commentary
- Commentary on human nature
- Commentary on human relations
- The journey from innocence to experience
So, which of these do bestsellers have? ALL OF THEM. That answer was very enlightening for me, because I often struggle with quantifying my themes, as they are multifaceted. Now I see that it's okay, indeed desirable, to have many different themes intertwined. One may be more dominant, but bestselling books have them all.
Vocabulary of Actions
Some of the best tips came from fellow writers attending the conference, either during the morning workshops, or at lunch time when we grouped and re-grouped to get to meet everyone, or during late night writing sessions with my writer roomie.
- Read Acting Books
- They contain a wealth of vocabulary of actions that bring characters alive
- Watch movies with the sound off
- Look for ways that actors convey emotion without words
Random Cool Things
- Throw a Plot Party - I really, really want to do this.
- Plotting = Brainstorming + Organizing (I love word math)
- Creepster POV - I had never heard this term before, but it is a 3rd person creep POV mixed in with the 1st person POV of the protagonist. Now that I know about it, I want to write one!
- Don't break the Rules - SHATTER THEM. (You can imagine why I like this)
This workshop came recommended by a writer friend I really respect. If I had looked on my own, I probably would not have thought of traveling to Madison, WI (2 hour drive), but it was well worth it.
If at all possible, if you attend a writing workshop, try to bring a writing buddy! After getting loads of information in the workshop, you need someone to help process it all and give instant feedback.
Like I said, time and money very well spent!
What was your best writing conference/workshop experience?