I wasn’t really looking forward to When Words Collide this year. It had nothing to do with the conference. My life has just been a bit of a crazy schmozzle of ridiculous-ness lately. Turns out, WWC 2015 was exactly what I needed to pull me out of my writing funk and get me reengaged. I can now say that I have a writing plan, am pumped about my role as Vice President of the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association (we write all genres!), and have some fresh ideas for tackling projects old and new. Thank you, When Words Collide.
You know me, I love to share what I’ve learned about writing, so I couldn’t help myself. Here are some snippets of the incredible panels that I attended and what I learned in a short space of time.
The Virgin’s Promise
As an ARWA member, I’ve seen Diana Cranstoun present before on the Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson, but there’s something about seeing a presentation for the second time and taking away something entirely different. We know the Hero’s Journey, but fewer people know about the Heroine’s Journey, otherwise known as the Virgin’s Promise. Spoiler alert, women can be heroes and men can be heroines. It all depends on whether the journey is one of self-sacrifice (hero’s journey) or self-fulfillment (the virgin’s promise). Throughout the entire presentation, I thought back to my first novel that I’m forever editing and identified that it 100% is the Virgin’s Promise. It’s a story about a girl learning to stand up for herself both in life and in love.
Diana definitely inspired me to pick up my copy of The Virgin’s Promise and see if there are elements that I’m missing (though not all are required), or if I can beef up some existing scenes to be more in line with the journey my protagonist is on.
Yes… I moderated a panel on writing your first sex scene. It was like herding cats, let me tell you! Panellists Nola Sarina, Jillian Long and Tammy Lyn Karbol were raring to go and shared many a learning to the giggling audience. The biggest thing that stood out for me was a comment by Nola Sarina about how for every physical action there must be an emotional reaction. Something to bear in mind when writing and editing! Moving on before this becomes NSFW.
Supportive Critique Groups
Last week I wrote an entire post on our panel about creating or finding a supportive critique group, but in a nutshell it can be done! Make sure you set guidelines for the group that include the following: logistics (where/when to meet, page count, etc.), types of critiques that you’ll conduct, way in which work will be submitted (proof read before you send, people!), and how to deal with grievances. I’m a big believer that critique groups can advance your writing, so I encourage every writer to find your people.
This was an interesting panel! All the panelists wrote in multiple genres, either under one name or under pen names for branch out genres. While the conversation got slightly derailed onto whether or not a pen name was needed, it was fascinating to see that a) most authors want to dabble and b) you can have success with multiple genres. Author Daniel Abraham impressed me the most. He spoke about how for him, pen names were necessary. Your readers expectations of your work can, in many ways, be summed up with your name, he said. While many authors will focus on the marketing campaign for each book, each name, each brand, most on the panel agreed that the best way to build your following is to write your next best book.
Considering I have ideas for romance novels, travel non-fiction, children’s books and more… this was definitely a panel that spoke to me.
Where is the Love?
By far the funniest moment of this panel was when an audience member asked the panelists (mix of romance writers and writers who have romantic elements in their plots), “what if you think love is total bullsh*t?” The room exploded with laughter. Answer: make your protagonist think it’s bullsh*t and see where it goes from there.
I particularly loved how author Steena Holmes talked about depicting real relationships. She’s written about husbands and wives who have experiences traumatic events, such as losing a child, and how they would deal with them. You truly have to put yourself in different head spaces, feel what the reaction would be like, and write it. The conflict will show on the page. Steena was a quiet but thoughtful force on the panel and I can’t wait to delve into her books and learn more.
Editing as Re-Vision
Editor and author, Jessica Corra, is one of ARWA’s newer members, but I was unlucky in missing her workshop to the group on Editing as Re-Vision. It was not to be missed at WWC! While it was a speed session, I learned so much in the process. Corra spoke about the editing process not as an exercise in proofreading, but in taking another look at your vision for your work. To steal blatantly from her slides, “Revision is a macro-level review of your manuscript for craft elements that weave throughout the entire story.” This was a new way of looking at editing for me and my mind was whirring with ideas!
“Having a firm vision of your work,” said Corra, “is how you know what to edit and when to stop.” And how many of us struggle with when to stop, am I right? From structure to pacing, from setting to plot, I came away with many useful tools that I will be applying when re-visioning my first novel. Thanks, Jessica!
Taxes for Creative Folk
While there was definitely not enough time for this workshop, given the number of questions we all had, Sandra Fitzpatrick definitely drove home for me that at some point (perhaps not immediately) I need to sit down properly and think of my writing as a business. Once you envision your writing becoming a significant part of your income, there are many considerations to take into financial account. No way can I cover them all here, but I’d suggest getting in touch with her via the link above if you’re starting to make a decent amount of money from writing (yay!).
And finally… back to Diana Cranstoun! She gave a phenomenal workshop on theme in your work and how to amp it up. Given that we were tight for time, she’s put up a fantastic post about the topic and shared her advice on how to incorporate more elements of theme into your work via this handy chart.
Once you’ve identified your theme, think about the opposite of your theme (ex. Betrayal vs. Loyalty) and how you can show physical examples of both sides and emotional examples. Diana took us through a detailed chart using Titanic as inspiration.
Like I said before, I was previously dreading the conference, but it turns out that When Words Collide was the exact kick in my butt that I needed to re-inspire my work for another year and help me focus on something other than the stressful things in life. Because if you don’t find joy in writing… why are you writing?
Have you been to a great conference this year? What were some of your key takeaways?