Today is the last day of a week-long writing workshop at The Muse Online Writers Conference, the only free writer’s conference of its kind. Although most of the writers tended to write fantasy or sci-fi, there were some who wrote short stories and even a few of us who wrote nonfiction. I took two of the many workshops available: Are Your Characters Alive? with Ann Hite; and Hook Them With Your Opening with Earl Staggs. There were so many to choose from. Everything from query workshops to grammar and punctuation. No matter where you are in your journey in writing, there is something for you there.
Hosted by phpBB, free open source bulletin board software, the site is a bit messy and can be frustrating at times. I felt a little as though I’d walked into a junior high school during recess, the halls outside the classrooms full of chatter and noise. Once inside the individual class areas, though, you find the instructors and their lessons laid out. Then it’s first come first post, so finding the instructors’ comments on your piece can be like searching Macys for a bobby pin. But, along the way, searching page by page for my own stuff, I ran into some very good writing– even if it isn’t my genre.
Ann’s class was an eye-opener, and the techniques she taught me I will keep in my writer’s toolbox and use often. I don’t want to give too much away—you should take her class if you ever get a chance—but she teaches building character through dialogue alone. It is incredible just how much information, back story, and setting a writer can develop through nothing but a conversation between two people. In fact, a writer could simply write the dialogue of the entire book–like screenplay– and then go back through sprinkling it with tag lines, detail, and narrative.
Staggs’ class was also good, although he did not give any lesson plans or exercises. His workshop was simply submitting the opening to your WIP to see how it held up in his opinion, which he was forthright in saying was only one writer’s opinion. He said mine drew him in and he would want to read more to find out what happened next, but he wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about it like some of the others. I might have to work on that a bit.
All and all it was a fabulous week and many thanks to the workshop instructors, organizers, and fellow writers. I’ll keep my October calendar open for it next year, god spare life.