I was lucky enough to attend the annual Writer’s Conference at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn., a couple of weeks back. The Twain house is a fabulous resource for writers—and a pretty cool museum—if you’re ever in the area.
The conference featured workshops and discussions about aspects of writing from the creative process to marketing your book. I took part in two workshops led by Connecticut author Susan Schoenberger, whose new book is scheduled to appear this summer. Susan’s first novel, A Watershed Year, is a lyrical tour de force. Pick it up, if you haven’t.
I want to share some spot-on tips from Susan. Now, stay with me. They’re all over the map—little fortune cookie notes on the writing process—but I think they’ll speak to you if you’re in the fiction trenches.
- Every scene in a novel or short story should contain three elements, or at least echo them: Desire, Action, Obstacle
- Write in scenes-between-characters, not chapters as “chunks.”
- If you find yourself writing a lot of “backstory” into your early drafts (like me) realize you’ve got some more drafts ahead of you. The goal is to internalize the backstory, so that you can deftly eye-dropper it in as you go along, not vomit “all the stuff the reader needs to know” in your first chapter. *I FOUND THIS ESPECIALLY HELPFUL!
- The subconscious mind is a treasure trove for writers. Tap into it. Dreams can be very instructive, as can the quiet voice that bubbles up when you turn down the volume on all the other crap in your life and de-clutter your mind.
- Good fiction is a window into a character’s interior world, where readers can also see themselves reflected. You want readers to say, “I’ve been there. I get that, but I’ve never heard it in that way.”
- If you’re publishing, balancing writing time with social media/website maintenance/agent querying, etc. is a huge challenge. Don’t get lost in the business end of things. Write. About 75 percent of your “writing time” should be spent doing just that: writing. The remaining 25 percent goes to hawking your work…or you won’t have any work to hawk.