Layering Your Novel
This was a three hour workshop with the aim of helping writers bring their work to life by layering. Layering is adding those minute details, bringing settings to life through what characters see, smell, and hear, and enhancing character's emotions by what they can touch and taste. It's about using weather and seasons to show time passing and enhance setting. It's about making your story unique and powerful.
I loved this workshop as it was about everything I like doing - adding the magic to your draft. This is my favourite part of what I put under the large umbrella of 'editing'. I love using weather to create tension - if there's a thunderstorm in my work it's likely something bad is going to happen. Or it's just a thunderstorm because, hey, they happen. I also love slowing down my work before a big climax by adding those sensory details. And, of course, as a romance writer I'm always layering with the physical sensations of love and attraction.
At this workshop, I learned not to be afraid to do what I love with my work and that while too much detail can get overwhelming, there are places where it is needed in order to bring out your individual voice.
Life After the First Draft
This workshop was essentially about editing and ways to bring your novel from the first draft to a publishable standard.
I love the editing stages and I'm perfectly okay with changing things and taking things out that are not moving my story forward. After all, my aim is always to make my work the best it can possibly be. This workshop reinforced some editing techniques that I have used with my completed manuscripts, such as reading it aloud and tying up loose ends.
The best thing I learned at this workshop was a technique by Donald Mass - print out the manuscript and throw it in the air. Do it again and again until it's all jumbled up. Then go through it page-by-page out of order and change one thing on each page. This allows you to focus on that part of a scene rather than fall into the story you've read dozens of times. I'm so going to try this!
Finding Your Voice
This was the most motivating workshop of the weekend for me. A writer's voice is the way they tell their story, how they use words, sentences, and stems from the purpose of their writing. And I feel I have lost my voice through the multitude of edits and feedback I've received in order to get my work published.
I love writing and telling stories. I like to give my characters emotional journeys. I like them to have lots of friends and people around them so secondary characters are always present in my single titles. Because no one lives their life alone - or they shouldn't! I like to give my characters big social groups because I don't have them. And when I create a place, like a fictional outback town or Baltic country, I want the reader to know some of the important details. But I've lost this. I cannot read the first chapters of two of my manuscripts because I hate them so much. They're not me.
So what am I going to do? I'm going to pull out my old drafts and put part those first chapters back. Because if a publisher doesn't want to publish me, then why have them publish me at all?
Finishing That Book!
It is that simple. Sit down and finish the book. No matter what, just write it. Fixing things can come later. If you can't describe the park that day, make a note *insert scene* and keep going. You don't need to describe the park today if you don't want to. That comes in layering. So unless you have something completely left field happen to you that leaves you in a terrible place, there are no excuses if you want to be a writer. Just glue your bum to the chair. Go to your favourite coffee place. Write with your favourite pen. Whatever it takes, find what works for you and finish that damn book!
I loved this workshop as it was exactly what I needed. I've always been a writer who tries to do my best as I go. And for a while there, I could sit down and write scenes after scenes and just get the words down. I'm getting back there, but it will take some practice. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm just going to write the scene. If I think it sucks, that's okay. I'll just keep writing, keep going, and come back to add the magic and make it beautiful later.
But the best thing I learned, over the whole weekend, was that it's okay if you cannot write. If you're going through a terrible time, you lose your voice. And you cannot write without your voice. So, first, find that again. Find your passion. Then persist. Perseverance will come if you have passion and persistence.
What I Learned Overall...
So, this is my plan. I am going to write. I am going to sit down and chug out these category romances I have brewing. Then I'll go back and make them magical. I'll also go back and put my personal stamp back on my completed single titles. Because, at the end of the day, I'm a writer and I write books. I add magic. And I will stay true to my voice and tell the story that I want to tell the way that I want to tell it.
Thank you very much, T.M. Clark, for your motivating weekend.
And if you're a writer who is struggling in any way or just needs to know more, don't shy away from writing workshops. You never know what you'll leave with. They're worth every cent you do - or might not! - pay.
Let's just hope I continue to find more drive and remain persistent on my way to the Romance Writers of Australia Conference next fortnight - I'll let you know!
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