Space Coast Writer’s Guild Hosts Editing Workshop

Space Coast Writer’s Guild Hosts Editing Workshop

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The Space Coast Writer’s Guild hosted me to lead a workshop “Editing Down to the Bones” in Melbourne, Florida.

My best advice is don’t bother editing until you complete the first draft.

If that’s all anyone learned from the workshop, then follow it and you will thank me. I know writers who have rewritten their first chapter for years and never finished the book. You cannot judge the value of that first chapter until you can look back from the perspective of the last chapter. You might end up throwing away that first chapter!

There, there. This may come as a terrible shock, but you will discard much of that first draft, because the first draft helps you find the story, discover the characters, and shape the action. That first draft is not the final product. Think of it as fertilizer out of which your beautiful story will grow. Nobody picks up a cello for the first time and plays Vivaldi. After you write your first million words, you will learn how to shorten the process of reaching that finished product. Statistically speaking, you will write five novels before you write one worth publishing.

Author Joni M. Fisher connects her laptop to the overhead projector.

We discussed how the story’s structure is the foundation for the story. Is it sturdy? Is it complete? Does it have the elements of the bestsellers in your genre?

For further reading on structure, become familiar with what the experts of storytelling have to say.

I recommend buying a hard copy of these books because they will become your reference books.

open book emitting lights

Other topics covered in the workshop were:

  • choosing a point of view—whose story is it?
  • composing scenes by cause and effect
  • ordering scenes for maximum impact
  • establishing the story question and when to answer it
  • using the value of setting
  • choosing the types and levels of conflict
  • discerning scene from sequel
  • timing the use of backstory, flashbacks, and transitions
  • developing sensory details and fact-checking
  • crafting figures of speech and imagery
  • setting the pace
  • proofreading and line editing with critique partners and professionals.

Thank you, Space Coast Writer’s Guild, for hosting my workshop. All the best to you!

If your writer’s group seeks workshop presenters on dialogue, editing, or writing for magazines, see my Events page.

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Florida Writers Association Conference 2018

This was my first Florida Writers Association Conference as faculty. They put me to work. I led workshops on Crafting Memorable Dialogue for the adult attendees and then for the youth attendees.

Florida writers conference

The Florida Youth Writers conference ran concurrently with the adult workshops.

Oh, and FWA President Alison Nissen also interviewed me for a podcast. Yep, I was busy. The conference had 600 people.

The powers that be also assigned me to serve on a panel discussion titled “Bring it on Home to Me–Nailing the Ending.” Going into the conference I considered the free room and tuition as the biggest perks. Then I learned the identities of the other authors on the panel. Excuse the fan squeal.

THE PANELFlorida writers conference panel

Author Samuel Staley

Sam Staley, our moderator, is an award-winning author of a dozen books and hundreds of articles. At the conference, he also taught workshops on “Show Don’t Tell: Learning to Love and Trust Your Readers” and “Deepening Story and Character with Foreign Language.” Sam kept the panel talking with a series of questions. He also kept order when multiple questions rolled in from the writers in the audience.

Florida Writers conference faculty

Author Linda Fairstein

Linda Fairstein is the 2018 National Guest of Honor. She won the Nero Wolfe Award for Excellence in Crime Writing in 2008, and in 2010 received the Silver Bullet Award of the International Thriller Writers. Her 20th book in the Alexandra Cooper series comes out in 2019. Published in crime fiction and true crime, she writes with knowledge and authority. She served in the office of the New York County District Attorney, where she was chief of the country’s pioneering Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit for twenty-six years. In that position, she supervised the investigation and trial of cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and homicides arising out of those crimes. Producer Dick Wolf based the long-running TV show Law & Order: SVU on her unit and the character of ADA Alex Cabot.

She also taught a workshop titled “Turning Your Professional Experience into Fiction.” In addition to her crime writing, she launched a children’s series called the Devlin Quick Mysteries.

Florida Writers conference faculty

Author John Capouya

John Capouya was the non-fiction author on the panel. He teaches journalism and nonfiction narrative at The University of Tampa, including their Creative Writing MFA program. Previously, he was an editor at Newsweek and SmartMoney magazines, New York Newsday, and the New York Times. His book Gorgeous George is in film development. His third book, Florida Soul – From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band, came out in 2017. The day after our panel, he taught an insightful workshop called “The End.” He presented eight ending techniques and how to close the circle of meaning in a story.

Florida Writers Assn conf faculty

Author John Wilkerson

John Wilkerson authors science fiction thrillers with a side order of campiness. At the conference, he taught a workshop titled “Emotional Mechanics of a Fight Scene.” Having thirty plus years of martial arts training pretty much makes him an expert on this topic. He also served as a moderator on the panel discussion of “Who’s Laughing Now? Being Funny is Serious Business.”

Our panel discussion on endings got spirited. The attendees asked questions that sparked polite debate on what makes an ending satisfying. We discussed genre considerations for endings. Romance demands HEA or Happily-ever-after. American readers prefer justice to prevail in crime novels. Literary stories can go either way. We discussed endings of books that disappointed us as readers.

I remember reading Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. In the original story, mermaids turned into sea foam when they died. One mermaid wanted a soul so she wouldn’t turn into sea foam. This little mermaid earned a soul by saving the life of a human. Then she died. Her soul went to heaven. Her death WAS the happy ending. Well, then Disney came along and changed the story and the ending to fit a romance. Oh, well.

One gentleman asked if the bleak ending of his coming-of-age book about a young man’s search for his father would work. The panel agreed that the ending, even a tragic one, works when it suits the trajectory of the story.

THE AWARDS BANQUET

The awards banquet ran Saturday night. The dessert and the genie in a bottle theme made the event even more festive. The gentleman who asked about a sad ending was Gary Robert Pinnell. He collected 3rd place award for his unpublished historical fiction “A Most Invisible Boy.”

So there. Even the judges agreed.

Florida Writers Association awards banquetI also taught a workshop on writing for magazines and paid blogs. The magazine writing workshop was at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday. Surprisingly, it was packed. Working at a writer’s conference has been thrilling and exhausting. I’m off on vacation in the Smokey Mountains with Handsome. And a few great books.