Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Breakout Novel Workshop

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Donald Maass this past weekend at one of his workshops. The man's intuitiveness is amazing. This was clear evidence in my "book" why the man is so successful at what he does. One person in the group asked why he did these seminars. He basically said to help writers write better. He sees a lack in the industry and feels the need to share his wisdom to help. Mr. Maass said his agency gets 400-500 submissions a week and of those, only about seven or eight get a request for the first few chapters. Of those, perhaps one or two get to the next step. Pretty tough odds, huh?

So, what did we do for a day and a half? Write, write, write. And I don't mean taking notes. I mean writing exercises. We were instructed to bring a full or partial manuscript to work with. We looked at characterization, conflict, tension, and motive. Raising personal and public stakes. Building plot layers and weaving them together. Creating connections between characters, settings, and plot. Tension on every page. Delaying backstory. Theme. Writing an effective query letter. The list goes on and on.

All of this is in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel, and in the workbook he wrote to go with it. But I saw more details come out, he took things farther. Plus, you have no choice but to write. You dig, you delve, you discover.

Now on the humorous side, we had the interesting element of a TV crew from Paris filming the entire seminar on Saturday. A fairly unknown station in France is producing a documentary on the bestseller phenomenon, which is a mentality not evident in Europe. How weird is it to have a camera filming your hand as you write frantically to keep up with "The Maass"? LOL!

The fun came later when said TV crew interview several of us about writing and seeking publication. When I was asked who my favorite writers were, of course I listed Brandilyn Collins and Colleen Coble. My friend Marilyn did a wonderful job talking about Christian fiction and few other things. (wink, wink, Marilyn. :-) She did a fabulous job.

All in all, the weekend was invigorating and exhausting. I have over 20 pages of notes to look over and see what I plan to do to my latest WIP. What I found affirming was seeing that I had applied some of BON techniques to my story already. Reading the book helped immensely, but the workshop really put it all together for me. Plus I got a stack of exercises not in the workbook.

I'm including the link to the site that handles Mr. Maass' seminars. There's even a week long intensive seminar. If you have an opportunity to attend one, I highly recommend it. Just be prepared to work...and grow.


Jennifer Tiszai said...

I am so jealous. I had to choose between Maass's seminar and Mt. Hermon. It was close! I am definitely going to be picking your brain about this.

Thanks a ton for sharing!

Just curious, what were some of the exercises he had you do that aren't in the workbook?

Heather Diane Tipton said...

um, better you than me. LOL You're smart enough to get something from this....I am not. :-p

Robin Caroll said...

I'm SO jealous. And there's no workshops close to me! :( Yep, that's a pout!

Gina Holmes said...

Very cool! The breakout book if fantastic. I'd love to hear what you learned from that seminar/class. And I'm so proud of you that you got to plug Christian authors. I wish I could find a way to get more secular readers hearing about CBA books. I'm trying. Good girl!

Jeff said...

I've heard about the book but haven't read it yet. Sounds like you had a fun and informative meeting. Thanks for the recommendation and link. :)

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Dineen, maybe you could do a blog on some of the exercises. You could be our teacher. =) No pressure!

Dineen A. Miller said...

I'm happy to share what I can, within the copyright restrictions. Even the extra material we were given is copywrited. Sabrina, I'll give it some thought and prayer. The workbook is excellent, too, btw.

Thanks Gina! You would have loved it.

Jeff, get a copy. This book sparked some pretty hot ideas for my current WIP, which you can see is not moving. That's cuz I'm still working out the plot! (And finishing another book. LOL!)

Thanks for stopping by!

Camy Tang said...

I have to add this was a great workshop. Most of the exercises are in the WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, but the act of being with other writers and doing the exercises together was refreshing. It was terrific to get his feedback on the passages we read aloud.


Mike Duran said...

Dineen, I've benefited greatly from Maass' book, especially his "view from the inside." It's bad enough we've got to work our tails off just to get a hearing. Compound that with the many components of a the breakout novel and the effort needed is quadrupled. It's hard enough being a Christian... but a Christian writer? Oy!

George said...

I always thought the best advice about writing the breakout novel was to pen something akin to "The DeVinci Code."

:-)Ronie said...

AWESOME book/workbook.

And yes...I am sooo jealous too. *Grins*

Thanks for sharing, Neen!