Friday, August 7, 2009

Willamette Writers Conference, Day One

This is one of the most fantastic writers' organizations in the country. Regardless of what you write (fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, graphic novels, plays, etc.) it has you covered.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the conference. The organization is slightly older. This year's conference theme is abundance and financial success. WW members have, all totaled, made millions of dollars writing. It can happen to any one of us. Jean Auel and her success with Clan of the Cave Bear is only one example and she is the conference "poster child" of sorts, having found her literary agent at the conference.

I spent today in the Children's/YA track: Navigating the Current Children's Book Market, Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown, Ltd.); Great Characters, Great Plots, Parts I and II, Anne Warren Smith, and Novel Shortcuts, Laura Whitcomb.

I didn't really glean much new information from the first session. However, I did hear that editors are seeking more "urban fantasy" (read as teen vampires a la Twilight). But then, a few years ago boy wizards were all the rage.

Anne Warren Smith broke down her two-part session into character development and plotting. Each person has their own method for creating characters, and I've already got several checklists and forms to use for this exercise that I picked up from books and conferences. So I didn't really acquire much new information from Part I, but Part II added a slant on plot development that I will fold into my current Mixmaster process.

Even though the information might not be new -- just a different angle on the same old advice can make a lightbulb go off. I've had similar experiences with riding lessons/clinics. So Ms. Smith spoke to complications and resolution. As they say, put your protagonist in trouble -- and then make it worse! But she made us connect the resolution to the complications. And even suggested working backwards. If you know the resolution, that can help you create the complications that the character must overcome to reach the satisfying resolution. And wouldn't you know, while discussing plot Ms. Smith added some new insights on character development.

Anyway...even though I've attended many plotting sessions over the years, I still pick up useful information that will help me build a novel.

Last year I attended Laura Whitcomb's session on Shortcut to the Scene and at that time learned her book, Novel Shortcuts, had just been issued. So I bought her book and incorporated many of her ideas into my novel development/writing process. I've cobbled together my plot framework from several books and conference sessions. Laura's "shortcuts" have helped tremendously in building the novel on the framework.

Even though I've read her book, it's always good to hear the process directly from the author. Laura's session reminded me of suggestions from her book that I'd forgotten, and clarified some of her procedures.

Creating a good novel isn't easy. Obviously. Otherwise, everyone would do it.

One of the best thing about the weekend is spending time with other writers. Like attending a horse show. With this group of folks, I don't have to explain anything. We all speak the same jargon, we all get it. You are among your tribe.

1 comment:

Shared Glory said...

My expos professor always told us to cut to the scene...I bet my professor is there at the conference ;)