Midwest Writers Workshop 2017: Top 10 Things I Learned This Year

notes-macbook-study-conference.jpgMidwest Writers Workshop 2017 has come to an end all too soon but it was a very successful [and sold out] workshop. Faculty and writers come from all over the country to attend annually.

Three days of learning, networking, and eating. During downtime, the air is abuzz with laughter, pitch practices, advice, book signings, photo-taking, and excited writers talking about the new contacts they’ve made and the reviews they’ve received.

MWW has such amazing faculty each year that it’s difficult to pick which classes to attend. This year I left with a new mentor, a publisher who’s interested in my manuscript, and made a few new writer friends to boot! I always learn so much but here is a list of my top 10!

  1. Enter the scene as late as you can and get out as soon as you can. –Matthew Clemens
  2. Titles: It’s part of your sales pitch. Keep it short, three words or less. Keep it honest to content. Make it memorable. -Holly Miller
  3. Evernote: A digital media tool. It organizes your projects, lists, notes, and syncs across all your devices. It has a chat/meeting feature as well. –Jane Friedman
  4. Find your weakness in your writing and focus on it until it’s your strength. –Jessica Strawser
  5. Turn off your spell check and grammar check in your first draft so you’re not distracted by those colored lines that make you want to edit. –Mike Mullin
  6. Research: time yourself. Set a timer for 15 minutes so you get in and get out without being sucked down the rabbit hole of the internet! –Matthew Clemens
  7. Every chapter should have a title. -Holly Miller
  8. Before bed, you should work on or think about your next scene. Your subconscious will keep working on it while you sleep. –Mike Mullin
  9. Publishers are looking for books with shelf life, movie potential, and series potential. They are looking for writers with platforms. -Holly Miller
  10. Career vs Hobby. If you’re not writing every day, it’s a hobby. You have to decide what writing means to you. You must be able to produce a book a year. –Matthew Clemens

#holly-g-miller, #jama-bigger, #jane-friedman, #jessica-strawser, #matthew-clemens, #midwest-writers-workshop, #mike-mullin, #mww17, #writing-conferences, #writing-fiction

Filter Words

There’s more to bad writing than passive verbs and adverbs. There are filter words. These words put distance between the reader and your characters. Instead of being in the story watching things unfold, the reader is far away and only hearing about it. A good analogy of this is someone telling you about a movie they saw instead of you watching the movie yourself.

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Like passive verbs (was, were, etc) and adverbs (generally words that end in -ly), filter words are easy to identify.

Here’s an example of common filter words: look and thought.

She looked at the man and thought he was scared.

Rather vague. What did she see?

He burst into the lobby, panting. He chose a dark corner and sank into the shadows.

Now you see him. You’re right there watching him, not watching her watching him.

Here’s a list of common filter words. Search for them in Scrivener or Word by using the “search” feature. I’ll start by naming the five senses because they’re easy to remember. If these are showing up in your draft, you’re telling, not showing.

  • look, saw, see, seen, watch, observe, notice
  • touch, feel, felt
  • hear, heard, sound
  • taste
  • smell

Here are some more and they’re mostly along the lines of your character’s thinking. These words are vague and again, the reader is on the outside.

  • seem
  • appear
  • think, thought
  • believe
  • realize
  • wonder
  • want
  • know, knew
  • understand, understood
  • remember
  • assume
  • decide
  • note

A few more to add to your list.

  • could, would
  • able
  • allow
  • had

The word could is frequently attached to a filter word. She could understand, She could remember, She could smell.

Watch for words had, to, and that. These buggers are frequently, but not always, attached to filter words. She had decided to, She decided to, She decided that. 

Filter words are traps for redundancies. She looked at him as he ran into the lobby. Again, we are watching her watching him. He ran into the lobby gives the same information in less words. It’s immediate and active even though it’s a simple sentence.

This is not a complete list of filter words. I’m not sure one exists because many words can be filter words, but these are the most common offenders. Once you become aware of filter words, you will start noticing them. It takes a bit of thinking to rewrite sentences without using them but you will see the pay off immediately.

Know of more filter words or more ways of spotting them? Add them in the comments!

#deep-pov, #filter-words, #writing-fiction

MWW17

MWW 2017 ad for Writers Digest.inddMWW 2017 is in just two weeks and I’m totally stoked! If you haven’t heard of Midwest Writers Workshop, you’re in for a treat! Each July it is held on the Ball State Campus in Muncie, Indiana. This is the 44th year! It is three days PACKED with classes for all genres and topics, social activities, social media mentoring, tax info, a Scrivener class, pitch sessions, query critiques, manuscript evaluations, professional headshots. I cannot name it all but if you are a writer or know of a writer in the Midwest, this is the place to be! There will be top-notch editors, agents, and authors there- Jane Friedman (publisher and writing guru), Jessica Stawser (editor for Writer’s Digest magazine and author), and author John Gilstrap. Just to name a few! I’m proud to be a charter member of MWW. Check out the website to learn more!

 

#amwriting, #jane-friedman, #jessica-strawser, #mww17, #writing, #writing-conferences

Lola

9780451496102The novel Lola is about a drug gang in south Los Angeles. The Crenshaw Six is a small operation ran covertly by a chick, Lola, under the pretense that her boyfriend, Garcia, is the leader. Lola is petite, street-smart, and a scrapper. Pimped out by her mother at a young age, she’s grown up in the world of drugs. Her mother is still a junkie, slipping away for days on end, and Lola begrudgingly looks after her. Lola and Garcia are living comfortably in a run-down neighborhood hiding their loot in the floor to avoid the wagging tongues of neighborhood gossip-mongers. When the cartel approaches the Crenshaw Six to intervene in a drug trade among their rivals, things go sour. The drop is a bust. They don’t get the $2 million in cash (because it’s just paper disguised as money) and the $2 million in drugs are snatched up by the rival. So now the Crenshaw Six is in deep to the cartel and it’s Lola’s neck that is on the line. When the rival gang kidnaps her mother, Lola fights with her lack of empathy.

Lola is Melissa Scrivner Love’s debut novel. It will take you deep into the grit of the wrong side of town and the guts it takes to survive. I received this book from Random House for my review.

#debut-novel, #lola, #los-angeles, #melissa-scrivner-love

Just something funny…

I don’t know from where this originated but this has so struck my funny bone…

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Patrick Flanery Scores with I Am No One

9781101905876Jeremy O’Keefe is a professor trying to find his place in this world after a failed marriage. He moves abroad for a fresh start but never quite fits in. When he moves back to New York, after a decade of being away, he finds that he doesn’t fit in there either.

I Am No One is a thriller in which the reader can relate to the main character, his attempts to be happy just continually fall short of being realized. Then it begins, voluminous amounts of his own personal information are being dropped off anonymously at Jeremy’s apartment. Boxes. Jeremy has to figure out what he has done to warrant such intense scrutiny before it’s too late.

This book will make you rethink everything about your privacy and just how little you truly have. It will give you a mental workout as you try to decide who Jeremy has crossed to become the subject of such a detailed probe into his everyday life.

Patrick Flanery is also the author of Absolution and Fallen Land. I received this book from Random House for my review.

#i-am-no-one, #patrick-flannery

Writing Voice

writing voice WDI really like to read. Not only fiction, but all things on writing. Ask anyone, especially fellow writer, Delilah Jones Brown. I have nearly every book on writing! I’m a junkie! Some books are okay, some basic, some are outstanding. I just read one of the latter ones. Writing Voice: The Complete Guide to Creating a Presence on the Page and Engaging Readers (Creative Writing Essentials) by Writer’s Digest. I read another book in the series, Creating Characters: The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction (Creative Writing Essentials), and have previously posted on it. I thought that book was a winner as well. The thing I really like about both these books is that the chapters are written by different authors. Everyone learns differently and having all these writers explain writing voice is enjoyable! Some chapters are good, some are amazing! As mentioned several times in this book, understanding voice is elusive. This book really helps you to understand what it is that you are trying to achieve. It’s not as hard as it seems!

It’s more than just voice though, the book also covers POV, tone, style and genres. It explains narrator voice thoroughly. It covers your character’s inner voice: what he thinks is different than what he says. We all have a public face and a private face. So do your characters. There are so many facets to writing effectively. There are plenty of exercises in this book to let you practice what you’re learning too! I have highlighted nearly the whole book and have notes in the margins as I see how these tips relate to certain characters in my own novel.

So you tell me, did you like this post more than prior ones? Did you feel like you knew me as an author a little bit better for it? I followed one of the repeated rules in the book: write fast so your inner voice comes through, not the sterilized, overwritten draft! This book needs to be on your to-read list!

#amwriting, #delilah-jones-brown, #writers-digest, #writing-voice