Monday, May 12, 2008

Learning Craft at a Conference

Equally important to the accessibility of editors and agents at a writers’ conference are the classes offered and taught by professionals in the field. These come in several formats, from concentrated ones that meet for an hour or two every day of the conference to hour-long workshops and late-night chats. Authors, editors, and agents are the teachers and facilitators, and the incredible opportunity to sit under them is quite incredible.

The schedule went up last week for ACFW’s conference this September, and I spent a couple of happy hours perusing it. I was especially excited to find two or three of the very courses I need being taught by authors whose books I have read in the last year. One of them was immensely helpful in the area of “back story,” another topic I am looking forward to sharing with you soon.

The conference, which lasts three and a half days, includes five workshop times. Here is a quick overview of the five I am most interested in taking.

One workshop is on the intricacies of using an “ensemble cast”—i.e., several characters who play key roles all the way through the book. Tangled Strands has an ensemble cast, so that workshop will be great for me.

Another workshop focuses on “creating a world that engages, captures, and immerses your reader.” I look forward to developing a bit more the setting for my story.

One class says we will work with our own stories and characters to develop characters that are “third-dimensional rather than flat.” That sounds both fun and practical and exactly what I need because, back in the beginning when I didn’t know much what I was doing, some of my characters started out pretty much carbon copies of each other.

The Tangled Strands has some pretty powerful emotions, so I plan to sign up for a class that promised advanced techniques for writing about them.

Tangled Strands didn’t start out to be a “historical,” but since I wrote it twenty years ago, it was already in a different time. How it got to be placed even a bit earlier is another little saga I will be sharing with you somewhere along the line. I’m looking forward to a class on that topic as well.

You can see how all this is “learning the craft.” Attending conferences costs a good bit of money, but in today’s world it a essential if one is going to compete in a hugely competitive field such as getting published. With publishers not accepting unsolicited materials anymore, attending conferences becomes almost essential if one is serious about getting published.

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