Never stop learning

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: Retyping notes from Larry Brooks workshop
Mood: Studious

Way back in college, I learned that if I read the course materials before the lectures, listened to the lectures and took notes, transcribed the notes from my notebook into my computer, and then re-read the notes, I was usually good for the test. This is why I like to attend workshops in person; even if I’ve read the speaker’s book, it forces me to take notes and then I remember more.

Larry-Brooks-workshopSo when I found out Larry Brooks (storyfix.com) was coming to speak to my local Romance Writers of America chapter, I was psyched. I’d read his STORY ENGINEERING writing book and loved it. It is my kind of writing book; very analytical and no-nonsense, but fun too. (Nonsense and fun being not the same thing, necessarily.) But as much as I love reading craft books, I also like to hear the information presented.

Sometimes speakers have found new ways to present their information and it’s always interesting to hear what they emphasize. Writer friendTerri Reed says hearing previously learned information again is like looking at a diamond from another angle: from the top you see mostly the flat surface, while from the sides you see the angles, and from the bottom you see the point.

choco-teaI highly recommend the STORY ENGINEERING book to fellow writers, because there is a lot of content best absorbed from the original source, but I thought I’d share some nuggets of thought from the weekend too:

  • To stand out from the slush pile, a story has to be better than good. It has to be better than what is out there already. What makes your story stand out, not from the slush pile, but from thesecond cut?
  • What is your central dramatic question? Can you make the question more provocative, more emotionally engaging? The more compelling the “what if” question, the more compelling the answer. And the answer is why the reader keeps reading.
  • What is the burning ember of your story? Pass that burning ember to the editor and to the reader.
  • Don’t settle; make it bigger.

Having spent a couple weekends ago in New York on the business side of writing, it was a joy to spending a weekend on the art and craft of writing. Next weekend, I go to Chicago for the RT Book Reviews Reader Convention. That will be the party side of writing!

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