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Aside from the friendly atmosphere, the best thing about this year’s Write Stuff conference was James N. Frey. I was lucky enough to attend his pre-con workshop.  He’s a most entertaining fellow and an excellent teacher.

It’s impossible to sum up everything I learned from him over the three days, but here are the things which stick in my mind:

1. Sooner or later, you realize your writing stinks, but that’s okay because that’s the point in your career when you decide whether to quit or do what it takes to improve.

2. Indirectly, I learned an excellent way to make an in-person pitch to an agent. Throughout the workshop, Jim would pause to give us a quick, one-minute, storyline of one of his student’s novels. He did it in a relaxed, anecdotal form: ‘It’s about this guy who invents a machine that… etc.’ It dawned on me that this was the perfect way to explain a novel to someone who asks ‘What’s it about?’ after hearing the initial, one sentence, tagline.

3. If you want to improve your prose, practice imitating other people’s.

4. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The dramatic/mythic storytelling paradigms have worked for centuries. Learn them, understand them, use them.

5. Writing 20-30 pages of background information about your main characters (less for the lesser important ones) not only helps you understand those characters better, it sparks plot ideas which would otherwise never happen.

6. Avoid clichés like the plague.

7. Interesting characters are always on the end of the bell curve (ie: a little unusual).

8. You need to figure out your main characters’ ‘Ruling passions’ ie: what they want most.

9. When making plot notes/step sheets, make sure you write them in a way that you can understand when you come back to them later.

10. Don’t give the MC information, let him/her uncover it.

11. Every scene should lead to a new situation ie: an emotional, character or story change.

12. If you think your making the writing too melodramatic, you’re probably not.

13. For me, the most valuable lesson of all was a throwaway remark Jim made at the end of the workshop. He said, “If you take the time to fully plot your novels before launching into your first draft, you’ll probably write twice as many books during the rest of your life as you would otherwise manage."

 On a personal note: At the main conference, I tried out the first page of my new WIP, Dead Doris, at the page cuts panel - it went down quite well. An agent wants to see Fur-Face (I know I have an e-book contract already, but I really want to a print one too). I didn’t even come close to winning the flash fiction contest, but that’s okay, the winning entry was far better than my effort.

 




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( 77 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
It was an awesome workshop :)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
For sure! After all, it's an outline not a contract ;)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 29th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
coneycat
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing these up, they're all worth keeping in mind. (Okay, printing out and keeping near the writing table...)

And huzzah for your good results, too! Best of luck with the agent and the new project!
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading :)
clarionj
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
An agent wants to see Fur-Face (I know I have an e-book contract already, but I really want to a print one too)

!!!!! Yay !!!! Good luck :)

And thank you for passing on all the tips.
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
My pleasure :)
bogwitch64
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC)
First, I had to laugh at Jame's Frey page (linked) and the part that says he's NOT the author of a Million Little Pieces. Hahahahahaa!

Great list. Sounds like an awesome conference. Maybe next year it won't fall on my birthday and I'll be able to attend. :) Congrats on the agent request!!!! That is too awesome for words. You will, of course, keep us posted.
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
He's a really funny guy.

I think they always hold it on the last weekend in March, so maybe you'll have to change your birthday ;)
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Mar. 29th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 29th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Mar. 29th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 29th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Mar. 29th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 29th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - out_totheblack - Mar. 30th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maryjdal - Mar. 29th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Mar. 29th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 29th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
cathschaffstump
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
I hope that agent comes through for you.

I will probably do a little linkage to this post...

Catherine
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Catherine :)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Barbara :)
maryjdal
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
Writing twice as many books is quite a good incentive for plotting. I wonder if this result was from a poll or something?
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
It was just a throwaway comment he made after we'd finished two days of plotting, but I think it makes a lot of sense.
(no subject) - maryjdal - Mar. 29th, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
a_r_williams
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
Great list!
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Aaron :)

mind you, I'm sure I missed out a lot of great stuff too.
peadarog
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
Lots off good points there. Sounds like you had a great and useful time :)
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
I did. I came away feeling like I are a writer ;)
(no subject) - out_totheblack - Mar. 30th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 30th, 2010 07:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
sandy_williams
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
Sounds like it as a great conference! One of these days, I'm going to try outlining...

:-)
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
It was excellent!
snapes_angel
Mar. 29th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC)
Ha! Only 20-30 pages about your main characters?
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
It sounds a lot, but I bet you could do that after writing a novel, so it makes sense to do it beforehand, don't you think?
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Mar. 29th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
mongrelheart
Mar. 29th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this great list. It sounds like the conference was well worth it =)

An agent wants to see Fur-Face
Eeeeee! That's awesome!!!
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks, it was an excellent few days in every way :)
sevenzebras
Mar. 29th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing those pointers! :)
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 07:11 pm (UTC)
You're welcome :)
mtlawson
Mar. 29th, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
If you think your making the writing too melodramatic, you’re probably not.

Oh, I don't know about that. I have a rule of thumb that states that if you could see William Shatner saying the dialogue, you probably wrote it a wee bit overly melodramatic. ;-)
jongibbs
Mar. 29th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
Hey! You leave Jim Kirk out of this :P
(no subject) - misha_mcg - Mar. 29th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Mar. 29th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - misha_mcg - Mar. 29th, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
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( 77 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there


No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there















 











THE MEAGER PUDDLE OF LIMELIGHT AWARDS


Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

NJ writing conference - compressed

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