Colorado Gold Nuggets: Writing Workshop Insights, Part I

Before the Colorado Gold conference, RMFW offered a series of tips to get the most out of the experience. One suggestion that stood out to me was, “Attend the workshops.”

Apparently, for many people, going to conferences is all about the networking and socializing. I get it. Okay, I don’t really get it, but I’m willing to accept that it’s true. Me, though? I’m all about the workshops. I’ve always been way happier in a classroom than in a bar, and that’s probably never going to change.

I know I can’t be the only one, because just about every session I attended last weekend was packed to the gills. All in all, I sat in on eleven different workshops and panels, plus the three keynote speeches and my one-on-one pitch coaching session.

That’s a lot to take in over the course of three days, and it wouldn’t be fair to the presenters to regurgitate it all here, but I thought it would be fun to share just one or two nuggets from each session. I split my time between workshops on craft and those on the publishing industry, so I’ll post half my tidbits today and the other half tomorrow.

Ready? Let’s start with the craft workshops!

  • From “It’s Not What You Say: Body Language for Writers,” with Cassiel Knight: Only 7% of communication is conveyed with words. The rest comes from vocal tone/inflection and nonverbal body language. Surprisingly, the feet are the most honest part of the body. They’re furthest from our awareness and, thus, the least likely to be consciously controlled.
  • From “Dying to Be Here: Techniques of Murder and Mayhem,” with Mario Acevedo and Harriet Hamilton: You’re way, way more likely to be killed in a love triangle than by a pimp or prostitute. Also, poisonings are not nearly as common as Dame Agatha would have you believe.
  • From “Brain Sex,” with Jax Daniels: Men think linearly, women think holistically. This means that men are more likely to be plagued with tunnel vision, while women are more likely to be distracted by superfluous information. Writers can use this to create conflict between characters.
  • From “Deep-six the Stereotypes: Writing Characters from Another Culture,” with Rudy Ch. Garcia and Mario Acevedo: Brown does not equal brown, so try to find beta readers who closely match the profiles of characters you’re trying to write. You wouldn’t ask a Norwegian to confirm your characterization of a German, so don’t expect a Mexican to understand your Puerto Rican character.
  • From “From Here to There: An Alternative to Outlining,” with Carol Berg: You can write a tight and well-plotted story without knowing everything that happens before you start writing. The key is starting each scene with fleshed-out characters, a firm point of view, a starting point (here), and an ending destination (there).
  • From “The Joy of Writing Great Sex,” with Andrea Catalano: To write a great sex scene, craft it as if you’re writing to someone you want to seduce. Avoid shocking readers and taking them out of the story by writing to the expectations of your genre.

I know these tips are sort of all over the place, but that’s very much what it’s like to go from workshop to workshop at a conference. It’s a lot of information at once, all filed away to be sorted and integrated later. And there’s still more! Tomorrow, I’ll be back with some teasers from the industry panels I attended.

In the meantime, let me know what piqued your interest most in the comments!

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