March 28, 2010
Well, today ended the Writers at the Beach conference for 2010. I'm crossing my fingers there will be a conference in 2011. I'd like to make this an annual event!
Only one workshop today:
Screenwriting Techniques for Fictions Writers (10:30-12:30)
Khris Baxter was the leader of this workshop, and it fit nicely with the earlier workshop of his, Building Dramatic Scenes That Work, that I took Friday morning. The session today focused on structure and how techniques used by screenwriters can be adapted when writing a novel. I was familiar with much of the material (the three-act structure, story arc, the hero's quest), but I still picked up on some key thoughts.
The main thing I took to heart was Khris's statement, "Structure is form, not formula." He's absolutely correct, and even though it may seem simplistic on the surface, I suspect this is something with which many writers (including myself) battle.
The workshop today forced me to rethink the novel I started back in 1987 (yes, I am THAT old!) but never finished. I realize now, the reason I never finished it, despite my laundry list of excuses, is because the novel was never adequately structured. For our writing exercise this morning, Khris had us apply the three-act structure (including an inciting incident and plot point in Act I, the Setup; a midpoint and second plot point in Act II, the Confrontation; and the ultimate climax in Act III, the Resolution) to our current writing project. I couldn't complete the assignment! Even though I KNOW this stuff, I've never actually applied it to the novel!
I would like to resurrect the book I started over 20 years ago, but it will clearly take far more attention to structure than I'd previously planned. Perhaps, back in 1987, I wasn't a mature enough writer (and maybe that's just another excuse).
Regardless, Khris inspired me to reconsider my approach and develop a stronger, better thought-out story structure for the novel.
I guess I learned something today!
March 26, 2010
Today was the first day of workshops for the conference. Quite a packed day! Here are the events I attended, with some thoughts.
Building Dramatic Scenes That Work (10:30-12:30)
The workshop leader was Khris Baxter, a screenwriter. Using scenes from film (The Silence of the Lambs, Doubt, When Harry Met Sally, Good Will Hunting), he explained the different ways dramatic scenes are structured for maximum impact, and how fiction writers can use screenwriting techniques to improve their stories. “Dramatic scenes are the true engines of story.”
Another insight I found interesting involved dialogue. Consider point of view in each scene, and use the POV of the character who best drives the scene. Dialogue must (1) reveal character, (2) provide information (exposition), and (3) advance the plot. On the subject of exposition, Khris used a scene from a John Sayles’ film to illustrate the major rule for flashbacks—the scene you flash to must be inherently more dramatic than the originating scene.
Khris said, “We’re in the emotion business, folks.” Write what you feel uncomfortable writing; those things you naturally avoid writing; the hard, visceral stuff you’d rather keep hidden. These are usually the emotions that truly involve the reader, and are the essential content of the strongest dramatic scenes. Dig deep!
Lunch, Opening Remarks, Readings (12:45-2:15)
During lunch, I sat with Joanne Reinbold, founder of the Written Remains Writers Group in Wilmington. I'd like to join such a group, for feedback, networking, and just working with other writers as they hone their craft. I'm seriously considering joining the group. Depends on the time requirements involved. We'll see ...
A Solid Stable Business (2:30-3:45)
This was a roundtable discussion of alternative publishing options (self-publishing, small press, POD, etc.), moderated by Fay Jacobs, a small publisher here in Rehoboth. It became clear during the discussion that writing a book is only a fraction of the work involved if you go it alone with publishing, or even go with a small publisher. Marketing and distribution are major considerations, and should be well planned and orchestrated for any hope for success.
I’m considering self-publishing a gardening book, but I still need to give this idea far more serious thought.
A Conversation With Doug Stewart, Carolyn Parkhurst, and Jami Attenberg (4:00-5:15)
This was another roundtable discussion, this one about agents and their relationships with writers. Doug is the agent for both Carolyn and Jami. Nothing really new here that I didn’t already know, but many others in attendance found this enlightening. All three reiterated time and again that persistence is key to finding an agent. And they all advised finding an agent who loved your work—a fan of your writing—rather than an agent who takes you on just for the $$.
“Meet the Author” Cocktail Party (6:00-7:30)
This took place at Browseabout Books on the main strip in Rehoboth. I grabbed some food, bought two books (that I hope to get signed tomorrow), shared a few conversations, then split. I didn’t stay for the readings. I wanted to get back to my room to write this blog entry and work on a few story ideas I developed during the day.
Looking forward to more learning and networking tomorrow!