Last birthday one of my gifts was an Amazon gift voucher (thank you Virginia!). Coming right after attending RT Book Reviews Convention in Los Angeles in April, I knew exactly what books I wanted – those written by one of the speakers, Michael Hauge,<http://www.storymastery.com> Hollywood script doctor and screen writing coach. At his talk I had a true “light bulb moment” that made developing my current book so much easier. FYI the standout comment was that conflict has to be “visible and solvable”. Ohkay. The inner angst was fine, but I hadn’t shown what problem the characters must solve by the end of the book, the conflict; as well as how the reader will know they’ve solved it. Michael’s specialty is screenwriting but his advice applies equally well to novel writing, and he recently changed his web page to storymastery.com to reflect this.
“Surely you go to conferences to learn new stuff?” a friend asked me. Of course you do. Except that I was attending the conference as a speaker and to receive a career award for contributions to the romance writing genre. Yet no writer ever knows it all, no matter who you are. Ernest Hemingway was famous for hovering around the printing presses trying to change his books until the very last second. Writers who don’t actually do this probably wish they could.
When I talk about my latest find on writing, people ask why I need another craft book. Frankly, if you could see my groaning bookshelves, you’d wonder why I need another book of any kind. But like any craft, writing is a journey rather than a destination. Discoveries like the one above, even new ways of reaching readers such as by ebooks and manga keep the journey fresh and exciting. Rather than being the latest of 70 books, each of mine becomes an adventure into the unknown. What can I do this time? How can I make this kiss or this love scene read like the very first. It is for your characters and it should be for the author as well.
Teaching writing is another opportunity to learn. Next month I’m conducting two workshops at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne – one on layering your novel with Harlequin author, Jennie Adams; the other on Creativity and Feeding the Muse at the Published Author Day. Whatever wisdom I impart, I know for sure that I’ll learn something new as well. Have you ever had a “light bulb moment”? Who are your writing gurus? What teaching moments have taught you as much as your students? I’d love to hear your answers.