What I Learned at Mount Hermon


Or, an attempt to encapsulate infinite amounts of wisdom in less than 800 words.

My Accommodations
My Accommodations

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 Scenery
The Scenery

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.

One of Many Bloomers
One of Many Bloomers

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.

Dialogue

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.

Phew. I made it. Only 760 words.  And that was only the first day. (Just kidding)DSC_0052

Any tips you’d like to share with the group?

Are You Ready?


It’s almost here.

The best of the best Christian writing conferences will educate and encourage writers in only two weeks; and it’s practically in my backyard!

There’s still time to register for Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference, but you have to act now.

Watch the video and you’ll see what writers are saying about this amazing conference. (And you can see two seconds – 1:13-1:14 of me attentively listening to a panel of agents.)

I can’t say enough about the wonderful people I’ve met at the conference. I’ve made friends and acquaintances and received some of the best writing advice in the industry.  Authors such as Sherry Kyle, Cheryl Ricker, Karen O’Connor, Kay Strom, Mary DeMuth, Lauraine Snelling, Karen Ball, James Scott Bell, just to name a few! (You don’t mind if I drop a few names…)

New writers, such as my friend and roommate from last year, Miriam Sarzotti, as well a seasoned authors, like Brandilyn Collins, who will be my writing mentor this year, mingle together in class, in worship and over delicious meals.

One of the best values of the conference is the opportunity to submit TWO manuscripts for critique or editor/agent review without additional cost. I’ve gained such valuable input from having my writing critiqued by well-known authors. And even if you don’t get your manuscript in before the conference (which I highly recommend), there are authors/editors available for critiques and questions during the afternoons.

In the evenings, a key-note speaker (this year: McNair Wilson) delivers an inspirational message that encourages you not only in your writing, but also in your every-day life. It amazes me each year how God speaks to every area of my life and ties it all together.

Everyone at the conference believes in you and considers it their privilege to encourage and uplift you. They will tell you the truth about your ability and help you find the right avenue for your particular writing goals.

Whether you consider yourself an amateur writer or a professional, there’s a place for you at Mt. Hermon. I’m thrilled to be able to attend again this year. I hope to see you there!

What’s your experience? Have you attended Mt. Hermon or any other conferences you’ve found particularly helpful?