Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Writers' Conference Conclusions

Killer-Nashville Conference.

August 23, 2012, Thursday.  
Arrived at Hutton Hotel in Nashville, Tn, about 4:30pm.  Gotta tell you...this place knows how to treat their guests.  Everything is first class.  Conference doesn't open until 6.  After I had a free glass of wine, then went to Ted's (as in Ted Turner) Montana Grill and had a bison burger.  It was delicious.  I heard there's one in Atlanta.
After dinner, we checked in with conference officials, I took 17 books to the book store and we retired to our room and had a good time talking writing.

August 24, 2012, Friday.
Session #1.  Bill Bass of the Body Farm.  Excellent speaker.  Interesting subject matter.   Retired, but still works 60 hrs a week.  Slide show about explosion of barn where fireworks were made illegally in Polk County, TN.  Photos very educational, not bloody, but a tad gory.  Clothes blown off, people and their body parts, were scattered over wide area.  The trees were draped with intestines.

Session #4.   Cozy, humor and crime.  Panel discussion.  Time is 10am CST.   Each author is reading from their own novel.  Dull beyond words!  Walked out.

Session #2   Steven Womack.  Interesting speaker.  Animated, great speaking voice.   The Writers Journey by Vogel.   Understanding the structure of your story/plot.    Suck in your readers'  brain.  You can give it back to them later.  "The man who went up the hill and came down from a mountain."  The protagonist's journey, his/her call to adventure.  Energy, obstacles, whatever to change his/her life.  Physical need, emotional need.  Arch-a-type.  "Call to adventure."  Flaws need to be redeemed.  Whatever is broken, fix it.  Refusal of the call.   Next step is meeting with the mentor...powerful  dynamic in the story w/the hero/heroine.  The push to move forward.  Mentor can be your own conscience.  Speaker had great recall of old movies and books, even remembering the names of the main characters.   He pointed out strong points as well as flaws in the plot structure and bad dialogue.

Session #8.  John Jefferson (half of Jefferson Bass, author) moderator of 3 panelists.   Scene descriptions.  Be more vivid in your descriptions of scenes.  Setting the scene is "monstrously" important.  Setting is like seasoning in cooking.  Too much leaves a bad taste in the mouth of your reader.  A few words in a description could trigger the imagination in the reader.  Good descriptions should trigger a movie in your mind.  Create a visualization.  It can even foreshadow an event.  How long should your descriptions be?  Not so long that you bore your reader, but enough to create the emotion that is to follow.  Murders usually take place on a "dark and stormy night" not when it's sunny...I say...not necessarily.  #2 speaker better than #1.   #3 speaker is difficult to hear.  She has written a novel in the Medici and Michelangelo era, circa 1530.  Not a subject I'm interested in.  She was boring and read way too much from herown  novel.

Session #17.  My panel was on murder and comedy in the Cozy Mystery.  Had a good time.  How can you talk about humor and murder and not have a good time?  I found that getting an audience to laugh is quite exhilarating.  I only read about 6 lines from my novel.  When you say something and everyone picks up their pencil, I feel you've really made a good point.  A quote from Wm. Faulkner:  "The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself."

Session #21.  Using the Social Media to sell your books.  Beyond Facebook.  Getting an ad on Facebook.  Linked (spelling).    #1 speaker promotes ads on Facebook.  Aimed at only people who are interested in your content and genre.  His example is "Irish, race horses, middle east conflict". #2 speaker isn't on social media but believes in personal contact...postcards and bookmarks.  #3 speaker is difficult to hear.  #4 speaker was talking but saying nothing.  Just find what works and continue to press forward.   The object is to drive an individual to the "buying point."  My personal opinion is to incite the curiosity of a Facebook "friend".   If someone is curious about my dog, cat, or even the Smoky Mountains, they will be prompted to buy my books.   Although speaker thought it was effective, don't use Twitter if you don't like it.    One author said it  gives the impression that your book is popular.  Personally,  I've never tried it.   Look at:  mysteryscene.com. (this leads you to B&N)  He believes web advertising is much more effective than paper. Lori's Reading Corner is another. (Note: she has 285 blogs if you want to wade through them).  Targeted audience/groups....mystery buffs.

It's been a full day of workshops.  My brain is overloaded with information.  Gonna prop my feet up tonight and work on Smoky Mountain Miracle.   Been going to conferences for ten years and Steve Womack's workshop (Session #2) was the best in recent memory.  He was very passionate about the subject matter.  His passion was contagious.
We got my car out and we drove south on West End Avenue to find a restaurant.  We chose Italian.  After dinner, we went back to the room and talked about writing until we fell asleep.

August 25, 2012, Saturday
Session #27.   Philip Ciofari.    Turning competent into compelling.
Keep reading.  See what makes a novel or a scene work.  Learn by osmosis.  Read and re-read a good passage.  Break a scene down that you think creates  tension.  Tight and focused.  Be organized in keeping scenes in order to build tension.
Side note:  People and their cell phones.  So rude to have a loud ring breaking up your train of thought.  If you're  in a workshop, TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE!!  "I didn't pay good money and drive nearly 200 miles to hear your phone ring."
This man is a also college professor.  Great speaking voice.  He's passionate about his subject manner.  Also humorous.  When writing, don't plan to go back and add tension.  Learn to do it as you write.
He read first page of Postman Always Rings Twice as well as
3 o'clock. (by author of Rear Window).
These stories start with a big blast of tension.
A raving lunatic can be methodical.  Don't repeat a word in same paragraph unless you are making a dramatic point.
"Where are you going, where have you been." (by Oates).  Character struggle needs to be in 1st paragraph.   You have no story w/o struggle.   No struggle, no tension, no story.
You know what to do, you own the information, but articulating this knowledge into your mss is difficult.  Words create the visual  action.
"Liquid muscle of the river glistened in the moonlight."
Play up the moodiness of darkness.  Visual tension.
Character action.  What steps does he takes to get what he wants?   If we don't want something, there is no life.  Struggle is the main plot of your story.   Even a drunk either struggles to get sober or struggles to get the money to buy his next bottle.
"Whose broad face was as blank as a cabbage."
Let's talk about voice.  What is voice?  Writing voice.  Length of sentence, rhythm of sentence, arrangement of words.
The sound & the fury.  Great American novel.  By Faulkner.
4 parts.  3 brothers obsessed by sister in each of 1st 3 parts, then part 4 was omniscient.  Housekeeper was moral character.
To create anger, leave out a words.
Language.  Eliminate unnecessary words to create tension.  Too many words create a softness.  Words w/o pictures.  More verbs.  Tighten sentence by removing prepositional words.   Word choice.  Re-arrange words in a sentence.  Hearing the chopper.....(description).   Invert.  (description)...then heard the chopper.
Try not to have a bad sentence in your mss.

Session #33.  Talk is Cheap.  Five panel members.
Dialogue should move your story forward.  I strongly disagree w/panel member, Nell Dickerson, who says don't use dialect.  My view is that dialect brings your minor and secondary characters alive...his education and where he's from, and even if he's excited, sad or frightened.  Nell is a sour puss.  She is a photographer and writes non-fiction coffee table books, but wants to write fiction.  Two panel members disagreed w/Nell concerning dialect.  Dialogue should sparkle.  Mark Troy (excellent speaker) likes a lot of conversation.   Especially with two people.  Women use more words than men.  Women use more complete sentences and men say what they want w/shorter sentences.  (Note: Pay attention to this in my own novel.)  Joseph Terrell doesn't like adverbs.   Nell reads..."His speech was southern, but obviously North of Mississippi."(written by Shelby Foote, her cousin).
Hemingways' White Elephant is excellent example of symbolism.  Story is abt pregnancy and abortions w/o ever using those 2 words.  Back in the days of Hemingway, you couldn't talk about such things...impotence, homosexual, etc., etc.  today anything goes.  However, people don't buy a book for its profanity.  Sex, but not profanity.  Tony Soprano did it, but he was Mafioso.
"He said, she said" are invisible tag lines, especially when 2 people are speaking, you don't need as many tag lines.
Elmore Leonard.  Master at dialogue using very few words.  "Pronto".  
New Yorkers interrupt each other and like to talk at the same time.  It's called New Yorkese.

The main objective for spending the money and going to a conference is:
#1.  create interest in my characters, Jack and Jill.
#2.  sell books
#3.  get your creative juices flowing
#4.  improve my writing skills
#5.  remind myself to check for those invisible errors.

The big question is "did I get my money's worth?"  Yes, I did.  Most of the workshops were entertaining and informative.  I also figured out that just because you are a writer, doesn't mean that you can be an effective speaker.

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