Scott Montgomery addressing the crowd
A spine-tingler of a gift!
Reavis and Janice
More chairs? No problem
I made Reavis laugh!
Scott Montgomery speaking with Karen
Reavis entertaining us.
Karen giving great advice.
Gale raffling off another item.
I'm picking up character descriptions from the audience.
Creating great characters
Reavis is having too much fun.
This will be a short article, but I wanted to say a little something about our first writers’ workshop for Austin Mystery Writers.
First of all, I’d like to thank Book People and Mystery People for allowing us to use their space. And huge thanks to the writers Reavis Z. Wortham, Karen MacInerney, and Janice Hamrick for giving of their time to share their knowledge with us.
Lessons I learned:
1. Mysteries come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, but good writing is good writing.
2. Take out as many of the dialogue tags as you can. (he said, she said, he yelled, etc.) Try to change your description and action so you don’t have to use them. Reavis called it “trimming the fat”. Actually, I think he said, “It’s trimming the fat, y’all. You don’t need it.”
3. Your story will drive the pace of your writing. Slower action will probably have longer chapters, faster action will have shorter chapters. The shorter chapters will make it move quickly.
4. It’s good to have a little humor to break up the heaviness of the drama. But don’t force the humor, some people just aren’t funny. (Surely I don’t have that problem. Right?)
5. Most writers probably write to work out something from their past. (I can see that.)
6. Karen said, “Read, read, read your genre!” You should know what is expected of your writing. A cozy mystery will have a different form and elements from a hard boiled mystery.
7. Your MC (Main Character) has to have a reason for solving the mystery. They can’t just “be there”. They have to have a stake in the outcome. (I knew this, but for some reason I’ve had trouble applying this to my current WIP, until Saturday. I had an “aha!” moment and fixed the problem.)
8. Janice talked about creating great characters. She had the audience do a simple, yet effective, writing exercise. She asked us to write down a description of a dotty old woman. The descriptions varied widely. She gave a scenario and told us to write the woman’s reaction. Boy! Even more variety than the first descriptions! She said that it goes to show that no two people write exactly the same way.
9. The one thing Janice said that really stuck with me was about adding depth to a character. You can start with a stereotype, but add an unexpected twist to the character. For some reason that really stuck with me. So many of my favorite characters are flawed heroes. It works.
10. Janice also recommended you Google a character’s name before using it. Make sure you don’t accidentally give your hero the name of a famous killer.
There was so much more to the lectures, but these were the things that struck a chord with me. We had such a good time laughing and learning and giving away prizes! We are already talking of doing another on in the Spring.
P.S. I think my cookies helped make it fun too. 😉
Posted in Uncategorized and tagged Austin Mystery Writers, Book People, Janice Hamrick, Karen MacInerney, Mystery Writers, Reavis Z. Wortham by VP with 6 comments.
So it’s been quite some time since I had any super-fantastic insights regarding writing. I know I’m supposed to keep a “presence” on my site, keep engaged with my readers. Hey, I figure you’d rather I didn’t write just to write. I figure you’d rather I wait until I actually had something to say!
Well now I do.
Make time, not excuses.
I’ve been busy, extremely busy, and my schedule is about to get even more so. What could I possibly have to make me busy? Why, I’ll tell you. Here are the things that keep me busy on a daily/weekly/monthly basis (in no special order of importance)
Monitoring the Writer Unboxed page on Facebook. I don’t mind doing this because it is an honor to be a part of such a special group of writers. They are the siblings of my writer family. 🙂 Also check out the website at Writer Unboxed.com.
I try to keep up a daily presence on my Facebook author page (VP Chandler- Author). I try to share bits of wisdom from other writers and give updates about what I’m doing. Anything I post there is automatically posted on…
My Twitter page – I try to participate a little on Twitter everyday. I try to see what’s going on out there in Twitterville. I’ll admit that I don’t spend much time on it.
I will also fess up to the fact that I spend quite a bit of time on Facebook, on my personal page. I know, I know! (I think my friends are rolling their eyes and saying, “Yea, A LOT of time!”) I just can’t help from looking at kitty pictures. I’m really trying to cut back on it. No, really!
Church- I sing in the choir, work on the church’s FB page, website, help make the Sunday slideshow, besides being on a few committees, and sometimes lead a Bible study.
Book club– I love my book club! I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. You wouldn’t think that reading one book a month takes a lot of time, but it does. I definitely get a lot out of it, more than I put in.
Reading for pleasure- Oh yeah, writers are supposed to be readers. When do I have time to read? I try to read a book of my own choosing in between book club books. I always keep a paperback in my car, and thanks to the wonders of audio books, I can also listen to one while driving.
Music – (Performing) I try to spend at least a couple of hours a week on learning music for voice/piano/oboe/ or other instrument like recorder. Yes, I’m that geeky girl who loves to play recorder. I particularly like Celtic or Native American music. I’m also learning how to play the trumpet.
Music- (Writing) I’ve written a few pieces and I’m trying to get those polished and copyrighted. I always seem to get little bits of tunes running through me head.
I’m a member of Sisters in Crime (Heart of Texas Chapter) – This is an great national and local organization for crime/mystery writers and fans of the genre. I intend to make more time for them. They meet once a month, so I think I can make it to more of the meetings. I also volunteered to help with some of the media, like Facebook.
Keeping up with this website. I know it needs some work. I know, it’s a work in progress.
Family- Oh yeah…there’s this thing called my family. I do have to spend some time with them. 🙂 Now that my son is a teenager, I feel like it’s a full time job just keeping him fed! Of course during the school year, I spend a lot of time helping Son get his homework done.
Household– Yes, let’s not forget those thankless, never-ending jobs like washing dishes and laundry, taking care of pets and plants, dusting and vacuuming, etc. I will give hubby credit for learning how to do some cooking for himself. We’ve been married twenty years and he’s learning some new skills…out of self-defense! He doesn’t mind too much if I’m spending that time writing. He keeps telling me, “I want to be a kept man so you better hurry up and write that novel and make a million bucks.” Yea, I’m working on it. 😉
Exercise– I gotta fit in exercise in here some where. I do when I can. Hubby and I usually take a walk in the evening.
Friends– gotta spend time with friends. (Isn’t there a Bette Midler song…?)
And the new, big thing is I’m now a member of Austin Mystery Writers. We meet about once a week to critique each other’s writing and give advice to each other. This is great for me because it has forced me to show my writing to someone else! And besides our own writing, we are working on a few group projects. I’ll keep you informed about what’s to come! Being with this group has forced me to refocus on writing and prioritize my time. So that’s good!
Writing– Oh Yeah…I’m supposed to be a writer. (And for those of you who have full time jobs, families, and are writers on the side, my hat is off to you!)
SO, what have I learned? How do I handle all of this? No, not by drinking. Although I think I know why so many writers turn to drink. Okay, I’m not a teetotaler, but I’m no Hemingway either.
It’s all about prioritizing and saying, “NO”. From now on, no more things added to the list. And to be honest, I think I’m gong to trim a few things from it. It also helps to just let some things go. The last couple of years I’ve been so consumed with learning everything I could about writing and publishing, that I haven’t spent much time actually writing! I tried learning everything I could. You can’t read the whole internet. I know, I’ve tried.
So no matter what you’re job or what’s going on in your life, prioritize.
And if you’re a friend and you’re wondering where I am, I’m holed up in my house, writing … and looking at pictures of kittens.
What about you? Do you have a lot of things taking up your time? Do you have any suggestions on how to manage your time?
Posted in Uncategorized and tagged #amwriting, Austin Mystery Writers, Facebook, Sisters in Crime, Twitter, VP Chandler, Writer Unboxed by VP with no comments yet.