I’ve been thinking for awhile that I’d like to do some mini workshops on this blog. Now, I have a boatload of topics I could teach on. After all, I’ve taught or keynoted at writers’ conferences all over the country for the last 30 years. But here’s the thing, I don’t want to teach just another workshop. I want to help you with the issues you’re facing in your writing. So here’s your chance to open up and share.
What struggles or questions are bugging you the most? Is there some element of the craft that you’re arm-wrestling lately? Or is finding and maintaining creativity your bugaboo? Are you losing sleep wondering about proper etiquette at writers’ conferences or trade shows? Whatever you most need as a writer, share that here. I’ll gather the responses and put together workshops to help you figure it out.
Sound good? Okay then.
I’d love a lesson on how to come up with ideas for stories and how to recognise if they’re strong or not. Even though I’ve got two WIPs on the go at the moment, I’m also trying to think of “what next?” and everything that I come up with feels either flat, cliched or just plain boring. Thanks 🙂
Me too. I struggle with plot. I can come up with a scenario that’s good and a good opening scene, but coming up with scenes — stuff to get from point A to point End just kills me.
For me, right now, it’s the courage to query. Hopefully I don’t sound too arrogant (my BF may argue that point…but I digress)but I do think I have a mighty fine book on my hands. But the nerve to write a book and the nerve to query a book definitely flow on different pathways. It’s like I made into Starfleet, then someone is standing there with a blue jersey in one hand, and a red one in the other.
Trust me, I’ve had 4 children, the pain and fear IS almost the same!
And because I didn’t proof read my comment…how about “The Airheaded Redhead’s Guide to the Perfect Query”?
(note my hair colour…)
When you edited my Big Sky Series you pointed out weak spots in my writing that I’d totally missed. You made me a stronger writer and I’m SO thankful!
So I’d say, editing tips for writers of all stages. Even multi-published authors need to grow and improve!
I agree with Tricia. Editing tips would be very helpful!
Yes! I’d love to learn more about the craft of editing.
One more vote for Tricia’s idea — editing.
Christina Suzann Nelson
I’m with Tricia!
Thanks for sharing that, Tricia!
I would like to see some of those points, too. Little things we can look for in our writing to give it a polish.
S. Kim Henson
That’s a good one, Tricia.
This is more general than you have asked for but it is what I have gleaned from the conference I have attended. What I have found most helpful are (not in any particular order) encouragement, technical teaching, and book-related talks. By encouragement, I mean that the presenter speaks of their own journey to publishing or in your case, the journey of helping writers succeed and what you have learned from that. What I call technical teaching is, for example, the talk on creating authentic villains taught by a psychologist author. Those sort of nut-and-bolts talks keep me thinking about how to implement it in my work long after the conference is finished. Finally, I derive indirect encouragement and education when speakers present a topic and use substantive quoted passages form current prose and poetry to illustrate the talk. At a recent conference, the subject was nature and portions of nature poetry and prose were read to us. I especially like the presenters to use current best-sellers so I have an example of what publishers are seeking.
I would love to learn what editors and agents consider a fresh angle, especially on popular historical periods like the Civil War.
Looking for advice on how to get from the request for a full manuscript to an offer of representation. Last brush strokes that can bring your manuscript from good to great.
I agree with Michelle! 🙂
I know I’m supposed to “show don’t tell,” but this is hard for me. What I end up doing is showing and then, just in case my reader didn’t get it, telling as well. I’d love a little advice on how to show well enough that my telling is no longer necessary.
Yes! This is a huge struggle for me as well!
Perseverance is what I need the most right now.
I know a lot of blogs/books cover this topic, but it’s always good to hear a fresh point of view…. Broken down, what are the most vital elements to include in your first few pages of a mss?
Perhaps another topic would be on the issues facing *foreign* writers in the US market.
How to avoid allowing unnecessary characters taking up time in my story. I’ll find a very minor character fascinating, allow them to spark my imagination, and before I know it, I’ve wasted a week involving him/her with my protagonist in a scene/scenes that don’t move the story forward. Is this unique, or do other writers have a similar problem?
What I’m learning/working through right now:
Showing vs. telling: When is telling OK? (I see a lot of “felt”s and “knew”s in published authors’ work…)
Thanks for the offer of help, Karen! Much appreciated. 🙂
I was going to request deep POV too, Lindsay. I have trouble writing consistently deep POV for my main characters.
I haven’t seen it in awhile, but Writer’s Digest used to have a column where they had a page or two from a WIP on one side and an editor’s edits/comments, etc. on the other. If something like that could be done here, that kind of visual education could be really useful!
Yes! Yes! I would love this too! The visual learner in me says “yay!”
And I would also like to hear more about how to weave a spiritual aspect into the story without clonking your reader over the head with it.
Thank you for asking – look forward to the “mini-courses”
Chris P. that’s an excellent idea and one I’d like a course on as well. Spiritual aspects without a preachy feel.
Maybe tips on when/how it’s okay to query when you aren’t yet able to attend big conferences. I keep trying to go but with little kiddos at home and one income it’s not yet happened. Does that mean I’m doomed 🙂 until I can afford to go? I know the relationship part is huge and without the face time with agents and editors I’m at a big disadvantage. Ideas?
I’m looking forward to your posts!
I like this idea too.
I also thought about the show vs. tell struggle. What are the main distinctions between a main character’s thoughts processing through an issue, giving “telling” back story, and essential description? For instance, I read the book Divergent recently. The main character describes her house in the first few pages as well as the society in which she lives, which is pertinent to the story, but it would be great to see an experienced hand dissect a passage such as that one and state why the sentences are or are not telling and how to change telling into showing.
Love the dogs, BTW!
I’d like some technical advice on dialogue tags (i.e., when to use a comma or period; different techniques for dialogue tags) and some techniques for making smooth transitions between chapters.
Karen, thanks so much for asking! I am eager to read what you share in your mini workshops! 🙂
Lindsay mentioned a workshop on writing in Deep POV, and I’d also love to hear your take on how to weave a spiritual thread through a story. I have some of the technique of how to do it, but actually making it work in a nuanced way is a tricky thing for me right now.
I’d love some tips on knowing whether or not a writer is ready to query. There are three areas I’m curious about on this topic: (1) some signs your writing could be ready, (2) clues you are emotionally ready, (3) info on the amount of time a would-be author has to be prepared to devote to writing.
I don’t know if this is a feasible topic to cover in the blog, but it’s what I’m wondering about right now.
I would like to know when to send a query and when to send a proposal. I know to follow the writer’s guides, but I still get mixed messages at writers conferences. I also get mixed messages about sending simultaneous submissions.
S. Kim Henson
I’m trying to reign in my focus. I’m nowhere, then all over the place, with my blog and social networking. I’m reading a manifesto on the topic and anxiously waiting for Michael Hyatt’s book to arrive in the mail. It’s about building a platform. Any advice and books to read on FOCUS are appreciated.
Middles. I hate middles and always struggle with them. I die for six months at a time in the middle of every book. I think the middle is for having the character learn all he needs to learn, so he can defeat the foe/win the prize/make the sacrifice at the end. So I think to write the middle you have to know the end and have the theme down. But I still hate middles. Why are middles so tough and what will make them easier?
Stomach crunches…oh wait, I made that about me.
Sally, I find the middle a bit of a challenge also, because I want to skip to the triumphant ending and have all the fireworks and good stuff. I still see the middle as easier than the beginning though.
I have a hard time writing dialog (and spelling dialog too). I hate when I’m reading fiction and can’t tell who said what without counting back so I end up with a lot of “…” he said. “…” she said.in my fiction. Over and over. I need to learn how to write dialog without the he said she said, plus I’m running out of synonyms for said. Thanks so much. Linda
A mini-course on What to Accomplish at Your First Writers’ Conference. I’m just beginning my publishing journey and I’d love to hear your tips.
Karen, thank you for asking what we’d like! I think whatever you taught would be of benefit.
The one thing I’m dealing with right now is a heroine who can be unlikable just because she’s being a very bad girl right now. Obviously that will change, but her character arc is what the story is all about. So how do you take an “unlikable” character and make readers stick with the story?
That might be too specific. I guess it would fit into a class on characterization.
I would be interested in learning a few things about genre and marketing especially within Christian fiction.
I am about to start my query and it seems agencies want writers to know how to define our market. I don’t know where to start with this.
I would also like some information about what is acceptable within the Christian market. My novel is an inspirational one which shares the gospel but the main character comes from a tough background. I tried very hard to stay authentic to her experience and keep it clean. My fear is it will be too edgy to be in the Christian market place but too Christian for a secular publishing house to consider it.
I’d love to hear your advice on how to balance my personal life with my writing life. I have recently had some tragedies in my family and for the past two years have struggle to get that creativity back into my writing. I’d love to hear what others have done, to keep the creative ink flowing when your emotions are drained.
I could use some pointers on self-editing. I am simply not good at spotting my own errors.
Xochi E. Dixon
Karen, thanks for recommending “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne & Dave King. It was a great read and will not be gathering dust on my bookshelf. It will serve me well as a constant resource.
I’d like to learn more about formatting a devotional, from manuscript to proposal format.
I enjoy learning from you and look forward to these workshops!
I’m about to hire an editor to help me fix up my suspense novel, which is languishing in the “best proposals” pile of a well-known agent. It needs editing, he tells me.
My question would be, (1) What’s the best way for me to work with an independent editor, (2) What should I expect from the session (manuscript evaluation and annotation), and (3) What should I be offering in terms of expectations, attitude or other preparation?
FWIW I work at being thick-skinned, and am happy to learn how to do better.