Learning From a Writing Conference: Part One

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This past weekend, I attended the annual Missouri Writers' Guild conference, and I have come back inspired, refreshed, and renewed. (Okay and a little tired.) I thought I'd do a few blog posts on things I learned at the conference; and I'm going to start with a wonderful three-hour workshop I attended on Sunday morning with historical romance writer, Bobbi Smith. Her workshop was "Romance Writing A to Z,"and she had several tips, ideas, and inspiration for each letter of the alphabet, including X and Z! I took the course because my young adult novel has some romantic elements, and I'd heard Bobbi was a wonderful and generous teacher. I wasn't disappointed. Here are a few highlights for The Muffin readers from Bobbi's workshop:

  • D is for Dialogue: Don't be an adverb junky when you are writing dialogue tags. When your protagonist is talking to your antagonist, she doesn't need to shout loudly or state angrily. By her words and actions, we can tell that she is not happy with his (or her) actions. Each character has his or her own voice. If you read the line of dialogue without the tag, you should be able to tell which character said it.
  • H is for Hero: If you write romance or any novel where you have a hero, the following might be helpful to you. Bobbi shared a list of eight male archetypes: the chief, the bad boy, the best friend, the charmer, the lost soul, the professor, the swashbuckler, and the warrior. Workshop participants had a great time trying to think of popular movie and book characters to fit each type. For example, how about Indiana Jones? Is he a combination of the professor and the swashbuckler? Where would you put Edmund (the lost soul or the charmer) or Jacob (the best friend) from Twilight?
  • O is for Opening: Bobbi said, "You've got to grab them by the heart." One of the most interesting things she talked about was how quickly you have to grab a reader and editor in today's market. She started writing in the 1980s, and she said you had 50 pages to get the story started and a reader invested. Now, you're lucky if you have 10!
  • V is for Vision: What is the vision you have for your career? Sure, we all want to be the next Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown; but realistically, those Cinderella stories can't happen to all of us. Bobbi said that her vision was once she was published, she would always have a book contract. She would become a full-time writer and continue to create stories for her readers. She also hoped to get her books into grocery stores and super centers like Wal-mart. And guess what? Her vision has come true. She told us to envision what we want out of our writing career and set goals to attain it.
So, just from the sampling I gave you here, you can see the knowledge and inspiration I received at the Missouri Writers' Guild writing conference--and this was just on Sunday morning. If you have the chance to go to a conference near you or online--for one day or one week--save your money and go. It's one of the best things you can do for your career at any level.

Next time I post on "Learning from a Writing Conference: Part Two," I plan to reveal an insider's look at pitching to agents and editors.

Margo L. Dill (http://margodill.com/blog/) loves to speak at and attend writing conferences, especially those in cities where she's never been before!

photo by alfico www.flickr.com


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks for sharing this with us!
Excellent information and advice.

All the best,

Jacqueline Seewald
THE DROWNING POOL, romantic mystery

Margo Dill said...

I'm glad it helped you, Jacqueline. Good luck with your romance writing career. I see you are well on your way. :)


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