Write On! (part 2)

The 22nd Annual Writers' Institute at UW-Madison by Laurie Buchanan

The 22nd Annual Writers' Institute at UW-Madison by Laurie Buchanan

Continued from Write On! (part 1)

The first three quotes are from Doug Stevenson, an expert in creativity and innovation process. He’s a degreed and accomplished facilitator and a prolific source of creative ideas of his own. He’s often used as a “trained brain” or “creative catalyst” in ideation groups, particularly for new product development, brand strategy, experiential marketing, or organizational change. He’s trained in emotional intelligence, leadership, and the use of humor in business and nonprofit settings. He has a background as a comedy writer and improvisational performer. He’s also an accomplished business writer.

“We learn by playing, it informs us as humans.”

“Writer’s block? Take an Improv class for fluency. It’ll help you to become open and fluid in your thinking.”

“Editing is like sculpting—it’s what you take away that matters!”

Christopher Mohar teaches fiction, poetry, and composition at UW-Madison. He’s the recipient of a Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and he holds an MFA from the University of Washington, where his creative manuscript received the David Guterson Fiction Thesis Prize. He said:

“You are a writer if you put words on a page.”

Christopher also shared ten things every novel needs to be complete:

An original premise—don’t retell someone else’s story.
A sympathetic protagonist—rooting interest, vulnerability, redeemability, heroic qualities.
A catchy opening—create a feeing that we’re falling into the story; start with a body floating in the lake.
A compelling story question—the central conflict/premise of your book, formulated as the question that you’d like your readers to ask themselves as they read (and a plot that keeps the momentum going).
A strong voice (see previous post—Write On! Part 1).
High stakes—whatever stands to be gained/lost if the hero/heroine’s efforts succeed/fail.
Polished dialogue—difficult to write, but dialogue can make the distinction between a professional and an amateur.
Balanced scenes—(show, don’t tell; favor understatement, not overstatement; important dramatic moments should always happen in scene, never in summary; summary is best used as “mortar” between the “bricks” of scenes; details are most powerful when they’re concrete, specific, and significant; good scenes escalate tension internally/externally).
A sense of place (a great setting is woven into the very fabric of the novel).
A strong ending (don’t betray your reader’s trust—nothing kills a good book like a bad ending. A strong ending keeps me thinking about the book after I’ve closed it).

Ted Weinstein is an AAR-member literary agent who represents a broad range of non-fiction for adults. His clients include a wide range of journalists, scholars, and other talented authors. At this year’s Writer’s Institute he facilitated the “Book Proposal Boot Camp” where he said the 3 trends in non-fiction are:

Narrative—history, biography, journalism, memoir (character, story: imagine the movie)
Self-Help—practical, pursuit of happiness, news you can use
Concept history (i.e., a noun, preferable one that changed the world)—Cod, Salt, Secrets of Saffron, Uncommon Grounds, A Mind of Its Own…

He talked about:

Platform—how high above everybody else do you stand in your area of expertise?
Synergy—creating lots of different things that feed each other (i.e., merchandise, workbooks)

From idea to book tour—what makes it successful? The tirelessness of the author—tenacity!

All publishing is self-publishing. In other words, assume your publisher will do nothing for you and then be pleasantly surprised if they do.”

“The less you need them [publisher] the more they want you.”

“A book proposal is really a business plan. You’re asking them for money so you need to provide them with a business plan.”

“A literary agent is a knowledgeable advocate.”

This year’s Writers’ Institute was phenomenal. Mark your calendar now for next year’s event. The dates are April 12-15, 2012. I look forward to seeing you there! This is Paden Plume (my alter ego) signing off for another year.

Paden Plume (Laurie's alter ego)

Paden Plume (Laurie's alter ego)

 Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
               – Laurie Buchanan


© 2011 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved