Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Workshop Tools and Lessons Learned

By Martha Reed

I like to think of September as the time to take a look at my years’ work and assess where it’s going. Now that the kids are back in school, it’s time to dust off my manuscripts and to decide which one is next in line to polish up and send out the door.

I worked on my Nantucket novel the month of July, participating in Nancy Martin’s fabulous manuscript boot camp. Unfortunately for me, I learned so much I’m no longer happy with what I’ve written. I’ve decided to rework it pretty heavily again before I send it out.

Which brings up a question I heard at the annual Sisters in Crime Pittsburgh picnic: When do you know that the story is done?

I can only answer from experience. I said that you know when you’re done when you can’t think of anything that would make the story better. Short stories seem easier because it’s easier to work within the 5,000 word parameter. A novel length work is harder because you’ve got 60,000 to 125,000 words. That can be a two-edged sword: that word length offers tremendous flexibility but you also have more play for the story to seriously fall off the rails.

Which brings me to today’s topic: Workshops. I take every workshop I can find, online and in person because you never know what you will learn. As long as you’re learning something it may make the story you’re working on better. I learned that at boot camp, again, and I’ll report here in comments what I learned during the five days of workshops offered at Bouchercon in St. Louis last week

Which brings me to today’s question: as a writer, what was the most helpful thing you ever learned?


Annette said...

Dear Fellow Boot Camp Survivor:

Every new epiphany is the most helpful thing I've learned. No way can I pin it down to one.

And I'm sooo with you on the reworking thing.

Ramona said...

As a writer, I think the most helpful bit I've learned is that you don't have to do it alone. A post like this takes care of the "Whew! So it's not just me" feeling.

Equal to that--butt in chair.

Jenna said...

Honestly, everything I know about writing I learned from reading. I've never really been big on writing workshops. The most important thing I've learned as a writer is the business of publishing. I was writing for years before I realized that in order to get published, I had to figure out publishing. One can write the most awesome book in the world - not that I did - but without an understanding of how the publishing industry works, there's no hope of getting it published.

Martha Reed said...

I'll have to add that attending conferences is an amazing experience, too, but it doesn't have to be Bouchercon to have value. Most of what I heard in St. Louis last week was only a reiteration of what I heard in May at Pennwriters!