Day two written Saturday, September 18:
As to be expected, today was the day to be a sponge, to listen, learn and take lots of notes. This will end up sounding choppy, but that’s because I’m exhausted, and I want to get this written as soon as possible before my face hits the pillow. I also don’t want to wait, because it’s still all fresh in my mind.
My first class was the twelve crucial questions to ask of your novel. Questions such as (I won’t list them all):
- Why am I writing this story?
- What is my main character’s personality type and how does it conflict with the antagonist and/or romantic lead?
- Am I sustaining the tension?
- Am I letting my good guys off too easily?
- Does my vocabulary scream genre (is it a bad thing, I wonder. I say in fantasy or even sci-fi, it’s not. In other genres the opposite is probably true).
- What would my lead never do?
Good questions, and they make me want to comb through my manuscript to see if I can answer them all satisfactorily.
The next class was titled “Selling Your Stuff.” The presenters discussed how to write the perfect pitch. I missed most of this, because I had my appointment with Jeff Gerke, the owner and editor for Marcher Lord Press.
Jeff knew me already, because I’ve corresponded with him on a variety of subjects and participate frequently on his Anomaly forum. He was also the judge in the speculative fiction category in the Genesis Contest.
I mentioned this and he asked to see the first chapter. He knew right away which one it was, and asked me to send him the entire manuscript. That was in the first two minutes. So we talked about our kids and I asked him about the books he’s releasing in October. One especially sounds really interesting.
The next workshop was called “Finding Your Voice.” I enjoyed this one a lot. She gave advice on how to refine our voice by forgetting all externals such as market/publisher guidelines and just write. She also asked, “Why did you start writing to begin with?” I won’t answer that here, because it’s too lengthy.
She highlighted a few things that cause the “Death of Voice” (more externals):
- Writing for Publication
I may highlight specifics of each, again later.
One important suggestion is to always read aloud. Where I stumble, I need to rewrite until it flows off the tongue. Although readers may be interested in the story, they are also interested in the storyteller. They want to read a book an not only envision the story, but to envision the author telling it to them.
During the afternoon general session, Tim Downs again spoke. He described how easy it was to bring people to Christ in the 60-70s, but now groups such as Campus Crusaders and Billy Graham Crusade are seeing dwindling numbers.
Because there is a time to harvest, and a time to plant, water and pull weeds. The 60s and 70s was a harvest season, and today we’re in a sowing season. Because of that we need to change our strategy. We can’t harvest when there’s no crops.
Part of that is telling stories in a way that engages the heart and the mind without the sermon. We must, as Tim put it, “Bury the egg of the message so the reader can hunt for it.” He used the analogy of the Easter hunt for kids. The joy comes in searching for the eggs, not having those who hid them pointed out to us.
The problem with writers (me included) is we don’t trust the power of the story. Christian writers especially feel the need to put those eggs of our message in plain sight. To the reader, however, it takes away the fun, and it can sometimes come across as preaching. As Tim said, “A lecture confronts, a story disarms.”
Lots to think about there.
Okay, I’m done. Tomorrow will be yet another busy and stressful day. I’m meeting with literary agent Steve Laube, and we will find out who won in the Genesis contest.