Yesterday, I attended A Rally of Writers at LCC's West Campus in Lansing. Considering I live so close, I can't believe I haven't gone before, but I'm so glad I did! There's something therapeutic about being around other people who love writing more than anything and just want to make something happen. The keynote speaker, Lori Nelson Spielman, was excellent and got things off to a great start.
Picking and choosing what seminars to attend was rough, but I took something away from each, and I hope these highlights will be helpful to some of you as well.
Nonfiction: Andrea King Collier
Andrea said that the most important thing in good nonfiction is to know what it's about. She said when she asks people "what's your essay about?" they go on and on about plot points but never really tell her what it's about. You need to know the meat of what your essay is, and then every sentence needs to be about what it's about and nothing else. I thought that was great advice. Also, don't drop a bomb on your family for the first time through your nonfiction-- and don't drop somebody else's bomb. That may seem like a no-brainer, but Andrea had some funny stories.
Personality of the Novel: Lori Spielman & Julie Timmerman
The most important thing about any character is that they change. I thought that was kind of obvious, but when I looked at the worksheet Julie had made, I was a little ashamed to realize that I had to think about it. I picked Samantha, a secondary character in The Closing Prophecy who is bumped up to a main character in book two, and my notes were all over the place. We were to write down who the character is at the beginning and how we can see this, the various factors that make the character change and why, and who the character is at the end and how we see this. Seems pretty basic, but that's why it's so helpful. (I realized that Samantha goes from being miserable to almost happy--but for sort of a morbid reason.)
Next, Lori lead us with exercises in voice-- your voice as a writer and your character's voice. Lori encouraged playing with persons (first, third), and looking for ways to infuse personality into simple sentences. This was fun, and we got to hear what other people in the audience wrote, which I always enjoy. For the character's voice, she had us write a line of something very basic, like "how does your character call in sick to work" or "how does your character talk to a cop after getting pulled over." This simple activity made me wonder if I should add an entire new scene to my manuscript.
Short Stories: Barb Modrack
This was mostly an informational seminar about submitting. Everyone knows that submitting is pure hell, and if your stories are long (like mine) it's even more hellish. Most of us know about how helpful the Writer's Digest website is, but Barb also suggested checking out the Facebook groups Open Submission Calls for Short Story Writers and Call for Submissions, and if you're a Michigander, Michigan Writers. Another place that came up in our talk was Duotrope, which finds places for you to submit for a small fee. I'm going to have to dig deep into all of this, but if anyone else has anything to say about these resources, let me know!
Ghostwriting: J. Gabriel Gates
This one was pretty fascinating for me because I've never considered ghostwriting and knew nothing about it coming in, but apparently ghostwriting is much more common than you would think. If your favorite author somehow spews out 50 books a year, guess what-- that's not him. If your favorite TV chef wrote about her life and love of food, guess what-- that's probably not her. It's kind of hard to crack your way into ghostwriting, because you have to be referred by authors or be accepted into a ghostwriting company (or offer your services on your own), but once you're in, you can make a lot of money. Gates mentioned challenges, like having the energy to write your own stuff after you wrote someone else's, and how you can end up stuck if the client can't pay in full. It was especially interesting when he mentioned this "mystical" thing that sometimes happens when he tries to become someone else, has no idea how, but then it works. Gates said it was fun and interesting to learn about things that he would have never chosen to on his own. All-in-all, I think ghostwriting sounds like a pretty sweet gig-- it's just a matter of getting in. If this may be interesting to you, check out his website: jgabrielgates.com.
Some stuff discussed I already knew and some stuff I didn't, which goes with any conference, but I feel more inspired now and ready to get back to writing. It was nice to realize as I looked around that I actually knew many of these faces--something that a year ago was not the case. Connecting with local writers is a must. Also, this bums me out, but it seems like a lot of writers use Facebook instead of Twitter. I kind of hate Facebook--that's another TedTalk-- but I'm wondering if this is a trend?
All-in-all, it was a pretty successful day. I hope you've found something here to be of use, and I'd recommend attending next year if you can!