Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Workshops--What do you get out of them?

Last Saturday I attended a workshop at our local chapter called "From Thought to Plot." It was a good workshop that made me look at the way I write. I have always been a pantser. All of my writing endeavors are primarily by the seat of my "pants." You might think this means I don't plan, I do, but not in a formal written outline. Instead, my new project is an idea in the back of my mind, or sometimes a thorn under my saddle, that surfaces when I am itching to write, and usually preoccupied by doing something else.

The workshop was ably presented by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love. We were in a contained environment and forced to go through their steps to plot a book. I can't honestly say that I will use each of their steps to format subsequent work but I was impressed enough to buy their book. I found an added side benefit from going through the exercise when I sat down the next day to write. The character analysis we'd done in class was extremely helpful in focusing on my character's thoughts, actions and reactions as I wrote. It was easier to write when I already knew exactly how my character would react to each situation. All of this came about as a result of following through and asking myself some basic questions about my characters. For this, I give a hearty thanks to Mary and Dianna.

What have the rest of you found to be an unexpected benefit of this workshop? What did you find most helpful?

8 comments:

Callie James said...

Rearranging preconceived roles among characters is a nifty idea. A big aha for me.

M.V.Freeman said...

Many things helped me, I found that their system appealed to the way I think. I needed some organization, and more focus on my characters-and this worked.

Just for fun, I am applying it to the book I am revising now...I am hoping it will help my tighten it up.

Carla Swafford said...

As you sat acrossfrom me, you now know I have a problem listening to someone for more than ten minutes. I enjoyed the personality test. Though it only conifrmed what I knew about myself - I'm nuts. LOL!

But it's helpful with writing my characters too.

Christine said...

Well don't get me started... I'll hog the entire forum on this...

*characters switching roles HUGE
*brainstorming a way to make why there is a conflict between the characters -- unbelievable and WOW I have a story
*excitement about the idea... a scribbled note on an index card now a ream full of ideas!!! and it has characters... woot
*it just hit my style of writing

I think that is what it boils down to... our styles of writing. I was saying that every lesson, every workshop, every online class, and every critique/book grows me as a writer.

Jeanie said...

I liked the part about shaking things up by switching certain preconceived roles to avoid stereotypical characters. It was a new way of thinking about things and a good approach when coming up with character traits.

However, the rest of it totally freaked me out! I am a pantser, and near the end of the manuscript I am working on, and all I could think about during the workshop (in a blind panic!) was 'Did I do that? Have I got a twist here? There? Do I have a 'suck' and 'suckier' moment in my book? Oh, my God, I've got to start all over.'

I calmed down eventually, and have decided to take what works for me and try not to obsess about the rest.

Yeah, I know. Neurotic.

Christine said...

Jeanie--I came home and thought, do I have my hero/heroine give each other something super meaningful? Decided not to worry about it. I figure every little bit of layering of info that I incorporate into my books helps my writing now and in the future.

It is like reading parenting books. The best book I read said, "you're putting tools in your toolbox. But what works for you, might not work for someone else."

Tools-they help. Sometimes a GIANT ERASER helps :)

Cari Hislop said...

I wrote four books before I realised I'm a pantser. I kept trying to subtly organise the story and plan endings and scenes etc, but they were all wrong. I just can not plan or think I know much of anything or I end up writing the wrong story as proven by the first four books. As long as I have a mental image of the characters and I can hear their voices I just start writing and let the characters and story develope on the page. As I get to know them I go back through the story and make changes, like painting in layers. I lost years of writing because I read one of those books on how to write a book when I was about 18 and it was one of those, "You must plan...you must plot...bla bla.." Being young I thought, if that's what I have to do to write a book I'll never write one... For me the joy of writing is in finding out what happens. Thankfully I eventually tried again, but it took years for me to let go of that mentality that I was supposed to organise the story. I know some people need that organisation which is fine, but not for me. If there was ever a workshop for Pantsers I'd be there!

My mentality now is that each character has a neverending story and its a case of discovering their story rather than "creating" it. That's probably why I don't worry about plot twists, though I do on occasion bang my head on the desk when I end up getting it wrong and the story veers off and it just feels wrong. I then have to admit its wrong, hunt down the wrong turn and erase it no matter how much I like it. I finally finished the chapter I was working on all week. As soon as I deleted the wrong sentence and everything after it...the story started flowing again and the chapter flowed to a lovely conclusion without feeling like my head was being pressed to a grindstone. I think the best thing we can learn as writers is how we best write. Learn what works for us as individuals and then stick to it!

Jeanie said...

Well said Cari and Christine. You are wiser than I, but I hope to get there!