Today and Friday I am going to cover the actual presentations that I participated in at StoryMakers 2013. There were many more and covered both basic and advanced levels of the craft. The StoryMaker crew does a great job of covering a wide variety of topics too.
The conference also offers: Bootcamp for beginning writers to share their work and get some helpful feedback, the Publication Primer which does basically the same thing but is intended for more experienced authors, a First Chapter contest where unpublished authors can submit the first chapter of their novels and possibly get the attention of the attending publishers, and a keynote speaker who addresses the group about the craft of writing.
This year the keynote speaker was Anne Perry. Her presentation was easily the highlight of the entire event. With her classy British accent she presents her message in a remarkable way. Then, of course, the content of her speech was inspirational. As a writer I don’t think you could sit there and listen to her without wanting to jump up, run out the door, and start working on whatever it is that you are passionate about. And really, that was the heart of her message; decide what you really care about and then write about it.
Plot, Structure, and Pushing Your Characters presented by Hannah Bowman
I couldn’t believe it. The presentation started and the next thing I knew we were done. I even asked the lady next to me if there was supposed to be a second half of the presentation and she correctly pointed out that we had gone through both sessions.
Hanna did a phenomenal job with the material. The basics of which are: in a story things get worse for the hero until the climax and then they get better. But there needs to be moments where the dramatic tension is relieved momentarily to give the readers a chance to breathe before you plunge them back into danger.
She uses a graph to help plot out the stories. It moves downward and has an occasional upward peak. She recommends that there are three primary peaks for whatever level of plot that the graph is being applied. In other words, if you are writing a story that follows the three-act play format you will have a break in the downward spiral of doom at the end of the first and second act and then again at the climax. This method can be used for scenes, chapters, acts, and the entire storyline.
Revision and Grammar presented by Annette Lyon
Annette was very thorough on her coverage of grammar problems and how to self-edit a manuscript to get rid of them. It’s hard to cover the material briefly, as the whole presentation is a matter of covering the rules of grammar. However, here are a few that capture the general nature of the class.
1. Combine scenes when you can.
2. Specify with strong nouns, strong verbs, and strong adjectives.
3. Trim your manuscript. Cut out all the excess. For example: “several of the students” becomes “several students.”
Top Ten Secrets About Agents, Editors, and Publishers presented by Michael Bourrett
Michael is the agent for James Dashner. The two of them made the presentation together. The session was a lot of fun, mainly due to the good natured ribbing that the two of them gave one another. Here are the Top Ten as given by Michael and James.
10. Agents are human. They have feeling and lives too.
9. Publishing is a small community. If you are nice, or nasty, that will get around.
8. They read submissions in their free time. The rest of their work is done 9-5.
7. Agents and editors don’t like saying no.
6. There is not just one way to measure success. You don’t have to be on the best seller list to be a success.
5. There is never a nadir to your writing career. The goals keep coming.
4. Develop a network of contacts within the writing community. Your fellow writers may well be the link between you and your future agent.
3. Being able to revise and accept criticism is more important than writing.
2. You are your own best advocate. Don’t rely on others to promote YOU.
1. There are no secrets. All of this is easily gleaned from the internet.
Beyond Microsoft Word: Cool Software For Your Writer’s Toolbox presented by Annette Lyon and Sarah Eden
Unfortunately, this is one of those presentations that you had to be there to really get anything out of it. Both of these ladies covered a variety of software that can help authors with their craft. The list included: Scriver, Cloud-On, Drop Box, Mozy, Evernote, Behind the name dot com, and Now Casting dot com.
They did a great job presenting the information and I’m considering Scrivner at this point and plan to use both of the dot com suggestions they made.
More on Friday. See you then.