For whatever reason, winter seems to be a time of drought for writing conferences. (Unless you count the cruise that just happened, but we’re not talking about that, because I didn’t get to go.) Summer, spring and fall are much more active for the writing community. So when a couple of the guys in my writing group mentioned that Brandon Sanderson would be at the Salt Lake City Library today, I decided to put the effort into going.
Honestly, I’ve been to so many writing conferences, that I can probably recite most of the basic information. I now have to delve into the presentations and look for an ounce or two of gold under all of the other stuff that I already understand. Today, I’m happy to report that I did glean a few interesting tidbits from Mr. Sanderson.
First off, I noticed how easy it was for him to speak in front of a crowd. He’s a college level instructor for Fantasy writing, and it’s not hard to see that he has a great deal of experience being the focus of a roomful of people. Also, he’s a big supporter of conferences, and he speaks at them quite a lot. Having now sold my first book, I try to look beyond the “Get butt in chair, keep butt in chair, get writing” messages and go deeper. Watching him handle a crowd was fascinating, as well as something I’m not sure I could do very well. Yet another thing to put on my “to work on” list. Practice public speaking now goes on the list with losing weight, being able to kick above my own chest, dodging phone solicitors and staying close to the sane line. I don’t think small, people.
The first bit of gold I pulled out of the pile was this: Your story should be about an interesting conflict, or an event having an interesting effect on a character.
I thought that was a good way to boil down to your ideas or your characters, which is what most stories are about. It sparked a whole slew of new ideas now fluttering around in my head. Mostly I liked the “event having an interesting effect on a character.” I thought of Smallville, and how it applies. Although I think that most stories end up having both of these things in them.
The second sliver of gold I fished out was this: Follow your instincts as a writer. If you don’t have them, write until you do.
Brandon Sanderson mentioned following his writing instincts quite a few times today, and I kept wondering if I had any of those. I guess that means I need to write more. Sometimes I do feel the writer in my steering a story in a different direction than I normally would have taken it, but sometimes I don’t trust my inner writer, and shut her down. Perhaps I shouldn’t do that. Then again, who knows what might come out, right?
But seriously, both of these tidbits are great. Especially for someone who has written a few novels and isn’t exactly at the beginning of their writing journey anymore. The next steps are more vague, less “finish your novel.” That’s where I am, and I can use all the help I can get!