Monday, June 22, 2009

Taking the Next Step

After you've been writing for awhile you may realize that something is missing. At least you should realize that it's missing otherwise you'd be on a bestseller list somewhere already. That's what had happened to me.

I was like a dieter who had plateaued. I'd attended the conferences, participated in critique groups, and read a ton of books and blogs on how to write. Somewhere in there I actually found time to put some words on paper and get a few short stories published and write a couple of unpublished novels. Still, I knew that I needed something to take my writing to the next level.

Much to my family's dismay, I decided to give William Bernhardt's week long writing workshop a try. I packed my clothes, my computer and my snack mix. Then I coerced a friend to go with me and headed for Tulsa.

We weren't sure what to expect when we got there. The classes were only scheduled to last four hours per day. What would we do with ourselves? So we concocted this dream world where we went to class, hung out at the pool, did our toenails, put the green facial goo on our faces, and got spiffied up for long leisurely dinners with the other writers in the evenings.

Ha!! The reality was four hours of class in the morning a quick lunch and homework. Yes, homework. It normally took us until 11 pm to complete it all plus read and critique everyone in the group's writing. Dinner consisted of a can of tuna and some crackers eaten in the room as we didn't feel that we had time to go out. (Well once, but just for an hour.)

I'll admit we're a couple of overachievers but we felt that we'd only get out of the experience what we put into it. And how many times do you have the chance to get a New York Times Bestselling Author to critique your submission packet (query letter, synopsis, first three chapters) as often as you'd care to re-write it?

Normally when I leave a conference I'm all pumped up. It's kind of like going to a revival. You ride high for a few days and then things settle back down. This time I was quiet, thinking about how I could rearrange my life and my schedule to find more time to write. I mentally reviewed my budget. How many hours could I cut back at work? Could I afford a housekeeper a couple of times a month? Was it possible that I would be awake enough to write at 5 a.m.?

Writing novels has been a dream of mine for a long time. But, for the first time, it's more than just a dream. It feels like it's real. Now I know that I can actually do it. The scary thing is if I fail it's my fault for not putting in the time and effort.

If you're ready for the next step, get yourself over to the Hawk Writing Workshop in Tulsa next month. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

To Plot or Not to Plot

Every writer has an opinion on whether or not to plot. I've tried it both ways. The first book that I wrote under the "No Plot, No Problem" school of thought was a hot mess. But at least I learned that I could produce a novel length work.

This inspired me to do a ton of research. Read a lot of books and plot, plot, plot. Even though I've changed it during the course of writing the actual novel. I think what I'll be doing for novel number three is to combine these two methods. I'll plot my main points and let my characters tell me how we'll get from point A to point B.

Just so you know, here are what some published authors do about plotting:

  • Jeffrey Deaver plots extensively. I heard him say once that he'd rather waste four months writing a lengthy plot outline and discover that a book wouldn't work than spend a year writing the book and then realize that it won't work.
  • Steve Berry says he plotted his first several books but doesn't anymore.
  • William Bernhardt is a believer in outlining his books. He say "When you outline . . . . and you will outline."
  • K.D. Wentworth doesn't outline.

Check out:

Plotting It Ain't for Wienies

Author Interviews with: Evan Marshall, Marilyn Harris Collins, and Carolyn See