Last Friday I braved the drive to Ajax along the busy 401 past Toronto to attend the Ontario Writers’ Conference.
Should I go or should I give pass it by? I wondered. Especially since last year I paid my money but spent the weekend in the hospital. Nevertheless I signed up. I wondered about the wisdom of my decision the whole three hours and twenty-five minutes that it took me to drive the normally hour and a half route. Grrr. But I went and I met my friend, Sally, and we carried on. Here are some of the things I learned in the full sessions and workshops I chose:
- Character, plot, setting. You can’t have one without the others. Of course we knew that but being reminded of the intricacies of each is always good.
- Authenticity. People want to know that the author knows what she is talking about.
- Whether to wiki or not depends on how crucial to the story the detail is. If it’s really important, go further than Wikipedia.
- Regarding research, you need to know ten times more about your subject than you actually use in fiction.
- Put setting details sparingly throughout the novel and not all at once.
- Pace revelation of detail throughout the book and only as needed to drive the plot or character development.
- Writing a good pitch before you start writing helps the writer consolidate just what the book is about. It’s also useful for that elevator pitch.
- Make sure the stakes are crucial. Why would anyone care about what is happening to your characters?
- For writers to write about what hurts allows readers into the story in an engaging way which captivates them.
- When you decide to write you are joining the human condition.
Of course meeting other attendees and reconnecting with those I’ve met before is always a terrific experience and luckily a lot of that happened. I connected with Terry Fallis who gave me great cover quote for The Loyalist’s Wife last year. He was the final speaker and once again connected on a professional level and on a more personal level with everyone there. The lunch speaker was Wayson Choy whom I had never met before. That afternoon I came upon him by himself in the anteroom and had a chance to express my appreciation for his knowledgeable and empathetic remarks to the crowd. Both of these writers have not let their great successes ruin them. They are most generous to those of us who haven’t scaled the heights yet.
While the conference did cost me quite a lot for its length I found it absolutely worthwhile. And the fact that every time we sat down again in the large hall my name was up on the screens overhead as one of the authors who published a book in the last year, well, that just was the icing on the cake. Oh. And a number of people knew my name when I introduced myself. That was fabulous. All in all the Ontario Writers Conference 2014 was a great break from editing and revision and gives me new energy to forge ahead on The Loyalist’s Luck.
Coming May 14, 2014!
The Loyalist’s Luck Cover Reveal
book two in The Loyalist Trilogy, coming in September, 2014