Jilly: Three Things I Learned at McKee’s Story Seminar

I promised to report back on last weekend’s craft marathon, otherwise known as Four Days of McKee—three days of the legendary Story seminar and a further day dedicated to the Love Story.

It was physically grueling. I can’t remember the last time I spent four eleven-hour days in a row sitting in a lecture theater, and it’s been more than thirty years since I had to take notes longhand. I treated myself to a new notebook and pen for the occasion.

It was mentally challenging. I had mixed feelings about Mr KcKee’s teaching style (to say he has strong opinions, robustly expressed, would be to understate the case), but no reservations about the quality of his analysis. Even though much of the material was familiar to me and I only made extended notes where I thought it necessary, I still filled more than sixty pages and went home every night with a head full of new ideas.

I could blog for the next year or more about the things that I learned, but three nuggets top my list of things to chew on, because I think they will be especially useful to me when I get on to writing Alexis’s prequel story. All three were superbly illustrated during the final session of Story—a six-hour scene-by-scene analysis of Casablanca and again during Love Story’s breakdown of The Bridges of Madison County.

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Jilly: What I Learned at Gollanczfest

Good writing craft workshops are like London buses—you wait for ages, and then three come along at once. Today I’ll be finishing up my second workshop in as many weeks: the fourth and final day of Robert McKee’s legendary Story. It’s an add-on dedicated to Love Story.

All being well, I’ll report back on my Four Days of McKee next weekend. Today I promised to report on my takeaways from Gollanczfest (click here for my previous post about the event.)

Firstly, and most importantly, I had a fantastic time. I made a note to self that it’s worth attending some kind of writing-related event at least once or twice per year, simply because it’s inspiring and energizing to spend time with other writers.

Last weekend the writers were all about sci-fi and fantasy, so the talk was of worldbuilding, dragons, AI, dystopia and space opera. The discussions around process were entirely familiar, likewise the challenges of plot structure and character building. It felt strange that nobody made much mention of community or relationships. Continue reading

Jilly: Gollanczfest

Are you doing anything special this weekend?

While some of the other Ladies are NaNo-ing, I’ll be spending a chunk of November in writing craft workshops, and I’m kicking off the fun this weekend by attending the Gollancz Festival—a celebration of all things science fiction and fantasy hosted by the publisher and supported by a galaxy of their authors.

I’m writing this post early, because I plan to spend Saturday in London at the Gollancz Writers’ Day—a day of workshops and talks focused on the mechanics and skills needed by the modern writer.

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Kay: After the Conference—Now Comes the Hard Part

Unknown weight lifter competing in the 2016 Olympics, held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Jonas de Carvalho.

Along with others of the Ladies, I went to the RWA national conference in Orlando last week, and like everyone else, I seem to have returned home full of good ideas and better intentions. Elizabeth mentioned yesterday the workshop that Damon Suede presented and several of us attended, in which he described a technique for keeping your characters consistent throughout your manuscript: the power of a single verb. That was a great idea—and fun to see it in action. I’m revising with that in mind.

Several of the Ladies plan to embark (or have embarked) on an indie publishing career, and many of the workshops spoke to that. Resource ideas were everywhere. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Ah-ha Moments

Last week’s RWA Conference in Orlando was a bit unusual for me.  I’ve been to writing conferences before and I’ve even heard some of these same speakers speak before, but what was different this time around is that, when the end of the conference rolled around on Saturday afternoon, I was actually a little disappointed that it was all over.

That never happens.

A number of things made this conference a little different, not the least of which was that Michille and actually I got to meet one of our blog followers live and in person.  Writing here on the blog can feel pretty anonymous, so it was very exciting to have a follower recognize us and seem so pleased to meet us.  We only wish we had had the presence of mind to take a photo.

My primary reason for attending this year’s conference was to spend some quality time with the rest of the Eight Ladies, and we definitely did that.    Over the course of almost five days together, there was plenty of time to talk story, to brainstorm, and to plot and plan.  As I had hoped, that left me re-motivated to get back to work on my current mystery draft.  It was also nice to get some confirmation that the story seems to be heading in the right direction, especially since I was starting to feel like I was losing my grasp on the plot.

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Michille: RWA 2017 – Michael Hauge

RWA 2017I made it to my mostly annual homage to RWA for a hefty shot of fiction-writing craft. I, however, made it late as my flight was delayed for three hours. (Note to self – come a day early next year.) I missed the session I really wanted to hit today (Writing Emotion: Opening a Vein with Virginia Kantra) which was a double whammy because it isn’t a recorded session. But my first and only session for today was worth the price of admission. Michael Hauge’s Seducing Your Readers in Chapter 1 was exactly what I needed in the here and now for two reasons. The big reason is that I’m rewriting my first manuscript, which sucks because I wrote it before I had taken any craft classes. The bones are good, but it needs work and I’ve been working on the opening with some success. Today’s session gave me fabulous ideas and motivation and confirmation that I’m on the right track. Woot! The second smaller reason is that I’m reading an old Christina Dodd, and when I came back to the room tonight for some much needed down time (this conference is extremely intense), I picked it up and found a passage that is a good example of one of the things Hauge talked about. Continue reading

Jilly: RWA Retrospective

Have you made a major step change recently, in your writing, or your work, or any other part of your life, big or small?

Shortly after this post is published, I’ll be packing my bags ready to fly to Orlando for my fifth RWA National conference. I’m really looking forward to it, but I’m also expecting it to be my last, at least for a little while.

Partly it’s the expense. I think the conference itself is excellent value at $500 for three full days of quality workshops, keynotes, pitch sessions, awards and so on. Likewise, hotel costs of just over $100 per night for a shared room is reasonable. The problem is that when I add on a transatlantic airfare, plus an extra night or two for recovery time, plus meals, transfers and other incidentals, I’m looking at a fairly significant investment, and I feel as though I’m now at the point where I could make better use of that kind of money.

If you’d told me four years ago that by July 2017 I’d still be unpublished and unagented, I don’t think I’d have believed you. The biggest lesson I’ve learned Continue reading