It’s storming like crazy outside right now. A little bit ago, a mama deer and her two babies went prancing through our backyard and the babies jumped about two feet every time thunder clapped overhead.
Now we’ve progressed to the Thunder Rolling Sinisterly In the Distance segment of the storm, so I feel like it’s safe enough to have my laptop out. (Fingers crossed. I just ate some really greasy cheese and I’m not in the mood for getting deep fat fried the week before I’m supposed to leave for Europe.)
This past weekend (as I’m sure you’re aware, since I haven’t shut up about it in like two months) was the Chapter One Young Writers Conference. The conference was so much fun and I learned a ton from our speakers. So, I figured for this week’s Wordy Wednesday I’d share a few of their lessons.
1. “There will probably come a time when no shortcuts or tricks will work. You just have to power through it.” –Ariel Kalati
Ariel gave a presentation on how to avoid common procrastination pitfalls. However, the conclusion she came to was this: Sometimes, nothing you do will make things easier. You just have to trust yourself and your love of writing, instead, and “power through.”
2. World-building is about the rules. [Patrice Caldwell]
Patrice gave a presentation on world-building in which she revealed that making a believable world relies on rules. Think about the “rules” of your world. How does the magic system work (if they have magic), what’s their religion like, and how’s their society set up? What foods do the characters eat and what activities do they do in their free time? Know the details and establish rules in order to make a world as real to the reader as this one.
3. “Mr. Rogers thinks everyone has a voice.” –Molly Brennan
Molly gave a presentation that compared journalism and fiction techniques. Somehow out of this we started our own sorta-meme: “Mr. Rogers thinks _____.” The odd yet important lesson that Molly inadvertently taught with this is that someone is always paying attention and someone always believes in you. (She also taught many journalism/fiction lessons, but come on. Why give up the opportunity to use a quote that includes a Mr. Rogers reference.)
4. Random questions can get you the best answers. [Panel with Amy Zhang, Patrice Caldwell, and Kira Budge]
We did an Ask Us Anything panel Saturday afternoon. It began with questions like, “When did you start writing seriously?” and “What are your favorite types of stories?” But then we moved to questions about OTPs and favorite fictional places, and I realized: you learn a lot more about people (and characters) from the random, seemingly pointless questions than the serious, traditional ones.
5. People want lives that resemble fiction and fiction that resembles lives. [Amy Zhang]
Amy gave our keynote address, which was on developing unforgettable characters. The biggest lesson I took from her session was that the key to writing good characters is writing ones who seem like real people, not characters at all. It’s the ones we can imagine walking past us in the halls at school, sitting beside us on the city bus, who stay with us long after we’ve turned the last page.
6. Don’t start at the beginning. [Kira Budge]
Kira gave a workshop on writing opening pages. An important lesson she shared was that it’s cliche, these days, to start at “the beginning.” The first day of school, first day of summer, first day of a new job–overall, beginnings have become overdone. It’s better to start before or after this part. (And you’re also more likely to learn unique, important details about the characters by starting at another point.)
Interested in attending Ch1Con next year? Help us decide dates!
And now, in case I don’t have a chance to say goodbye before I leave for Europe next week (I’ll be gone before Wednesday), I hope you have a good couple weeks and treat our guest posters well. 🙂 I can’t wait to post from Oxford! Love you!