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.