Or, an attempt to encapsulate infinite amounts of wisdom in less than 800 words.
Mc Nair Wilson, our keynote speaker, inspired us as creative people to:
- Be yourself. What do you do best? Who are you, really?
- Take risks. Just start something. Everyone fails. You have before, you will again. Don’t fear it.
- Challenge assumptions. God expects us to live in more abundance.
- Stay Curious. Do what people think can’t be done. God’s name is I AM and He is holding you.
- See differently. Write a story no one has written before. Do. You.
- Be confident. God’s on your side.
- Tell the why. Pay more attention to life.
- Remember that Jesus showed us humor, humility and humanity.
About editors and agents.
Practice talking about your manuscript. Agents and editors expect you to be nervous so don’t fear them. Know your story well. Be prepared to answer their inquiries and be willing to ask them questions too. If an agent or editor has to tell you no, it isn’t personal, it’s about the right editor at the right publishing house at the right time. Don’t give up!
About the craft of writing.
The four D’s:
- Desire sets our protagonist on a particular path that pulls the reader through the book.
- Distancing happens with each conflict that knocks her off the path.
- Denial is the point when it seems that our character will never attain her desire.
- Devastation goes beyond denial, pushing our character back to the beginning.
A boring or confusing story is actually a symptom of a writer not having a concrete desire with high stakes for each of his main characters. We can approach our story with this simple formula:
Protagonist wants (action words – verb) so that (specific result or outcome).
For me, it’s actually much harder than it seems. Being specific propels the character through the story, but that same specificity feels elusive to pin down. I’m still working on it.
- Use restraint and control with our words. (Rein ‘em in boys!)
Our sentence structure needs to keep the tension taut like a rubber band during our story. Too many words weigh our story down and alleviate the tension. We may lose our reader. Make it easy for our reader to remain engaged. Anything that stops the action (or forward momentum) is a reason for our reader to stop reading.
- Use sentence rhythm. (Who knew?)
Our sentence rhythm needs to match the beat of the action in the scene. The sentences should reflect what is going on in our character. High action or nervous tension? Use short sentences. Complex sentences make the reader wait to get to the action. Don’t make your reader wait. There is a fine line between suspense that engages the reader and frustrating our reader by not giving enough detail. Each sentence should answer a question and raise another one.
- Show, don’t tell. (We’ve heard this before, right?)
We want our reader to feel the scene not just read about it. Use all five senses and chose your words and their placement for the greatest impact. Split up descriptions and place them strategically to show without stopping the action. Add emotion by showing it in the dialogue and action of the characters without explaining or naming it.
And finally, about characters.
Point of View
Pretend there is a camera attached to the side of your POV character’s head. He can’t see himself (don’t cheat with a mirror), only what he would be looking at or thinking. Limit your point of view changes to new scenes. You personalize your characters by the way they perceive a setting or scene.
Knowing your characters intimately will help you create real dialogue that shows who they are without tags. Try taking out all the speaker attributes and see if you can tell who is speaking. Use action wherever possible and only add in “he/she said” when necessary to avoid confusion. Long, uninterrupted speeches aren’t natural. (Okay, maybe only for me …just ask my husband). Keep it short.
One parting note…
My mentoring group teacher, Brandilyn Collins pointed out to us that when we evaluate our own writing, we judge it based upon the same level of craftsmanship with which we wrote it. Therefore, find a more experienced critique partner (or professional editor) to help you discover the deeper issues you may be missing in your writing.