Sunday, May 22, 2016

The DIY Writers Conference

By Kasie Whitener 

“So there’s this fight scene,” Cayce says from across the table. “And I’m wondering if the sequence seems realistic.”

“Read it,” I reply.

We are holed up in a condo on the 16th floor of a Hilton resort in Myrtle Beach on a Saturday afternoon. We’re writing, revising, and workshopping our novels.

Cayce and I met at the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop annual conference in 2014 and since then have made it a point to get together several times a year. Both of us are fantasy writers and usually attend conferences. This weekend we decided on a writing-focus retreat. No official conference, just the two of us with plenty of time to work. Setting aside time to focus on writing was one of the best things I’ve done. We are novelists and need time to work.

Our conversations read like a list of workshop titles. We’ve been conferencing, just us, in Myrtle Beach. Throughout the weekend over drinks, meals, lounge chairs, and the condo’s kitchen table we discussed:
    Writers’ platforms and how to promote your work.
    Critique groups and the helpful and unhelpful aspects thereof.
    Revision versus editing and at what stage in the novel creation each should occur.
    Line edits and content edits and how the two contribute in different ways to the manuscript’s evolution.
    Blocking in action scenes.
    Character voice and using vocabulary to express the character’s emotions in a scene.
    Choosing an agent, a small press, or self-publishing and the merits of each.

We made it down to the beach three times. We ate some really good food. We heard bad karaoke. Mostly, though, we just enjoyed talking about our writing.

There are very few substitutions for being able to talk about how you found the story you’re writing and what you plan to do with it. It’s fun to be talking about your characters like they’re real people.

When Cayce describes her teenaged protagonist’s ability to transport and how the people teaching her to control it are actually plotting to use her, I ask those editorial questions: What does the character want? What’s at stake?

Then I describe the storytelling frame of my vampire novel and ask if maybe this is the wrong way to tell this part of the story. We brainstorm the different ways it could be done and talk over the advantages of each.

We feel like real, working novelists.

I got through 230 pages of version seven of the vampire novel and have enough notes to push into version eight. I also worked on new material (including this blog) and logged about 5000 words.

“Your character has to be between the final victim and the door,” I tell Cayce about the fight scene. “Otherwise he would just run while she’s killing the others.”
“Good point,” she says.

Then we both go back to our manuscripts, pencils in hand, making notes and corrections. Our own writers’ retreat workshop was perfect in its purpose and outcome.

1 comment:

Just Julia said...

Now THAT sounds like a fun way to workshop! It was a fun read too!