The writing community is an amazingly generous and encouraging association. Its members will freely tell you writing is a difficult, solitary endeavor, getting published even harder but, here – I’ll spend the next three days with you showing you how to succeed. Authors will spend hours on blogs, web sites, and books that help writers of all levels develop their craft. They are a generous bunch.
This last week I had the opportunity to attend my second ever writing conference. Over the past three years, since I first put my fingers to the keyboard to type out the scene that persisted in haunting my every moment, I’ve been studying the craft and business of writing. I know I still have a lot to learn, but some of what I did learn at the classes last week surprised me.
For instance: how did I get to be the age I am and not know that when you write ellipses, those three periods that show words are left off, there is supposed to be a space between each dot. It should not be written (…) but (. . .). No one ever told me that. It was not in any of the grammar and punctuation lessons I taught my kids over twenty years of home schooling, and the two formats don’t look that much different on paper.
Another thing I learned, when you are writing with indented paragraphs, Word will automatically put an extra space after each paragraph like it does when you write non-indented paragraph, such as this blog post. You need to fix your settings so it does not do that. By the way this is important because agents and publisher usually want your manuscript double spaced, with indented paragraphs, and with no extra lines between paragraphs. They also usually like it submitted in Rich Text Formant (RFT). I had noticed the extra space in my document, but since it seemed to standard settings I thought it was supposed to be that way. In a couple of classes it was mentioned it shouldn’t be that way and later my daughter showed me how to fix it.
I’ve had a couple of lessons at writing group and have read ideas about mapping your manuscript, but none have clicked in the way Hannah Bowman taught this concept. Her class on “plot, structure and pushing your characters” was clear and concise. She gave solid concrete examples, had time for us to practice, and time for us to share. This was very helpful for me as outlines don’t work well for me. I’ve always loved maps, from following our road trip on the map when I was a kid, to charting our course as we sailed the Chesapeake as a teen, to playing for hours on Google maps today. So having a simple and effective way to “map” my story and give the plot twist and turns a visual component is very helpful.
There were other concepts, (deeper, broader, my mind is so full it might explode) than ellipsis and spacing issues, which I learned, but mostly I relished the support and comrade shown to all 450 attendees. If it is possible, I encourage you to attend a conference or join a writing group. If you are not sure where to get started check with your local library, they will often host writing classes and other writing events. Get out there and rub shoulders with the published and unpublished authors in your region.
Are you attending any conferences this season?
What is the most surprising thing you learned?