This past weekend I headed to Madison, WI for the university’s continuing studies program, Weekend With Your Novel.
If you’ve never attended one of the Madison writing programs, I highly recommend them. Their spring conference is great for writers of all stages and offers tracks on structure, revision, marketing, and publishing. In addition, agent pitches and panels abound.
If you’re up for more of a retreat that’s been called a “spa for writers” check out their Write by the Lake weeklong summer class. It was crucial to me and the plotting of my book this summer.
This was my first attendance at Weekend With Your Novel, a one and a half day workshop weekend devoted to the writing process. It largely consisted of honing in your craft and offering longer classes to dissect examples and ask questions of the instructor. It provided even more clarity to my book structure and characters. I loved it.
Here are a few of my favorite takeaways.
3 Can’t Miss Tips from Weekend With Your Novel
1. Aim High
I was most excited for a class on publishing excerpts of your work while writing your book, which was taught by UW-Madison professor and author Christopher Chambers. His first piece of advice was “aim high.”
If you are writing to pursue publication, then make publication goals for yourself. Where do you want to see your work? Of course you should be realistic, but dream big. The worst that can happen is they don’t publish you, but you’ll never know unless you try.
2. Redefine Failure
Simply put, failure is “something that happens, and it’s good for you,” said lunch keynote, Kathy Steffen.
Sharing one of the most frustrating failures I can imagine, Kathy talked about an online app project she’d written over 100,000 words for, only to have the app fizzle out. Imagine spending that much time and energy on something and then find out it wasn’t going to work. Ugh!
But Kathy also said you should give yourself a thousand second chances. Quit and come back the next day if you need to.
3. Get a Solid Structure
Where Write by the Lake helped me figure out my ending and timeline, Christine DeSmet‘s class on structure helped me figure out how I would plan the overall layout and what I needed to fill in gaps.
One of her tips: Keep your logline and central question at the forefront. Each scene should have them included. If it helps, have them typed at the beginning of each chapter. (You can always take them out later when submitting.)
Another tip? If you need help creating tension or figuring out what the next scene is, make a list. What are the details you want in the scene? Making a list of what stories you want in the chapter, details you want to include, or elements of danger or trouble that will occur will help trigger your brainstorming and boost tension.
Those were my favorite tips from the weekend. What are your most helpful tips for staying motivated and improving your writing?
Any NaNo folks out there having fun,
or in need of a pep talk? 😉