Second Day

Day two written Saturday, September 18:

As to be expected, today was the day to be a sponge, to listen, learn and take lots of notes. This will end up sounding choppy, but that’s because I’m exhausted, and I want to get this written as soon as possible before my face hits the pillow. I also don’t want to wait, because it’s still all fresh in my mind.

My first class was the twelve crucial questions to ask of your novel. Questions such as (I won’t list them all):

  1. Why am I writing this story?
  2. What is my main character’s personality type and how does it conflict with the antagonist and/or romantic lead?
  3. Am I sustaining the tension?
  4. Am I letting my good guys off too easily?
  5. Does my vocabulary scream genre (is it a bad thing, I wonder. I say in fantasy or even sci-fi, it’s not. In other genres the opposite is probably true).
  6. What would my lead never do?

Good questions, and they make me want to comb through my manuscript to see if I can answer them all satisfactorily.

The next class was titled “Selling Your Stuff.” The presenters discussed how to write the perfect pitch. I missed most of this, because I had my appointment with Jeff Gerke, the owner and editor for Marcher Lord Press.

Jeff knew me already, because I’ve corresponded with him on a variety of subjects and participate frequently on his Anomaly forum. He was also the judge in the speculative fiction category in the Genesis Contest.

I mentioned this and he asked to see the first chapter. He knew right away which one it was, and asked me to send him the entire manuscript. That was in the first two minutes. So we talked about our kids and I asked him about the books he’s releasing in October. One especially sounds really interesting.

The next workshop was called “Finding Your Voice.” I enjoyed this one a lot. She gave advice on how to refine our voice by forgetting all externals such as market/publisher guidelines and just write. She also asked, “Why did you start writing to begin with?” I won’t answer that here, because it’s too lengthy.

She highlighted a few things that cause the “Death of Voice” (more externals):

  1. Instruction
  2. Correction
  3. Education
  4. Critiques
  5. Contests
  6. Editing
  7. Writing for Publication

I may highlight specifics of each, again later.

One important suggestion is to always read aloud. Where I stumble, I need to rewrite until it flows off the tongue. Although readers may be interested in the story, they are also interested in the storyteller. They want to read a book an not only envision the story, but to envision the author telling it to them.

During the afternoon general session, Tim Downs again spoke. He described how easy it was to bring people to Christ in the 60-70s, but now groups such as Campus Crusaders and Billy Graham Crusade are seeing dwindling numbers.

Why?

Because there is a time to harvest, and a time to plant, water and pull weeds. The 60s and 70s was a harvest season, and today we’re in a sowing season. Because of that we need to change our strategy. We can’t harvest when there’s no crops.

Part of that is telling stories in a way that engages the heart and the mind without the sermon. We must, as Tim put it, “Bury the egg of the message so the reader can hunt for it.” He used the analogy of the Easter hunt for kids. The joy comes in searching for the eggs, not having those who hid them pointed out to us.

The problem with writers (me included) is we don’t trust the power of the story. Christian writers especially feel the need to put those eggs of our message in plain sight. To the reader, however, it takes away the fun, and it can sometimes come across as preaching. As Tim said, “A lecture confronts, a story disarms.”

Lots to think about there.

Okay, I’m done. Tomorrow will be yet another busy and stressful day. I’m meeting with literary agent Steve Laube, and we will find out who won in the Genesis contest.

6 thoughts on “Second Day

  1. I don’t agree with Tim Downs. The Campus Crusaders have grown up and are now in politics. Many people are still drawn. Loved your second day! Lots to think about here.

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  2. Thanks Jessica and Dona!

    I’ve been to a five star (the Broadmoor), and they also charged $10/day for wired. Wireless was available for free, but only in specific locations.

    As for Tim Down’s comment, that was likely my fault, and not an incorrect supposition on Tim’s part. His point was that in order for those groups to continue to succeed, they needed to change their strategy. I think he meant that in the 80s and 90s, people’s spiritual needs had changed, and if Christian groups didn’t change along with those needs, they would lose out.

    Sorry about that.

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  3. I’m always eyebrow-raising at the “read it out loud” suggestion. Why? Readers don’t read your story out loud, unless they’re kids’ books or plays. I don’t get it. What’s so hard with hearing how it ‘sounds’ to readers just by reading it?

    I just helped a friend with her dialogue and the problem was that she was writing it in proper English for every character. Well, people don’t speak that way for the most part. Write talking IN talking, not in essay format; that’s really the key. Listen. We all hear people talk all the time. Pay attention and write that. Sorry.. getting carried away.

    I completely agree with burying the egg. I rarely read Christian/inspirational because I don’t want to be preached at, even when I agree with the message. I want the story. I want character growth. By the third time I read, “She knew it would be okay because God would make it okay…” I’m likely to close the book. Fine and dandy, but where is the character growth in that? Where is the “pick it up and fix it yourself” in that?

    I do think that’s what he meant. In the 80s and 90s, society was more “pick yourself up and fix it yourself” than they were in the 60s and 70s, and unfortunately, more than they are now. But I think that’s coming back around and authors should be aware of it.

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  4. Hi Loraine,

    You can get carried away all you want.

    When I’m drafting drawings on the computer, I often think it’s perfect before I send it to the printer. Invariably it’s not until I see the hard copy that I find a slew of mistakes. Reading out loud can have the same effect. The ear can sometimes find errors or convoluted sentences that the eye misses. Reading aloud is simply another tool available. I certainly don’t advocate every writer use it; that would be hypocritical of me.

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  5. That’s probably true, and I’m not really arguing against it, I just don’t understand. Wouldn’t we read it aloud the way we read it in print: as we meant to write it and not as we did write it? Maybe not. It’s probably my horrific aversion to reading aloud and listening to someone read aloud that’s making me biased. 😉 Whatever works! And maybe I would have caught those few typos I didn’t catch if I’d done that. But … I think next time, I’ll print a book copy and send it to someone with a very critical eye before I publish, because editing on the computer is still computer editing and not the same as reading it in a book. I do catch them after it’s printed. *sigh*

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