Friday, August 6, 2010

Sharing my Notes from RWA Nationals

You know how, back in college, there was that student in Biology class who took amazing notes? Remember how her notes were so detailed, so meticulous, that if you overslept and missed Biology one morning, you could copy her notes on mitosis and have a better grasp on cell division than if you'd actually been there yourself, sitting in the front row?

Yeah, well, my notes aren't anything like that. But I hope they'll give a little insight into Nationals this year.

One of the great things about the conference is that wherever you are in your writing career, whatever issues you might be struggling with, you can find the guidance you need. I looked through all my notes and picked out a few things that really spoke to and/or inspired me. I’m going to share them with you, but first, a couple of disclaimers.

In most cases, I’m paraphrasing (see earlier post about illegible handwriting). Also, each of these snippets was taken out of the larger context of a speech or workshop. Still, I hope you can get a sense of how wonderful and generous these speakers were.

  • Nora Roberts on the challenges of publishing: Writing is hard. Getting published is hard. Staying published is hard. Embrace the hard. Don’t stand on the edge of the pool complaining. Jump in and start swimming. And for God’s sake don’t complain about the water once you’re in.
  • Suzanne Brockman on theme: Theme informs and comments on society . . . It makes the book into a whole, brings it full circle, and makes it satisfying . . . What makes you (the writer) passionate? That’s your theme. It helps readers connect to you.
  • Donald Maas on voice: Voice is combination of style, sensibility, subject matter, and world . . . In order to develop your voice, think about the time and place of your story . . . What is it about that period that pisses you off? . . . What do others need to understand or see? . . . Where is there unexpected grace? . . . What needs to be celebrated? . . . Take all these feelings, give them to one of your characters, and find the moment in your story when the feelings can be most dramatically expressed.
  • Meg Cabot on the best writing advice she ever received: I was about 16, talking to a college student at a party. He told me not to major in creative writing because it would suck all the joy out of it and make me hate writing. (Later in the workshop, she revealed that the college student is now her husband.)
  • Julia Quinn on dialogue: Never forget that your characters are speaking to each other—not the reader.
  • Jayne Ann Krentz on a writer’s core story: Determine your core story . . . Adapt it to keep it fresh . . . Know the market so you can figure out how your core story works with it . . . Understand the importance of fictional landscapes to readers.
  • Editor Leslie Wainger on great story beginnings: The first line (or paragraph) should ask a question so compelling that a reader who picks the book up off the shelf has only two options—to either take it to the counter and pay for it, or stand in the aisle of the book store reading the whole thing.

That's it! Let's head to the dining hall and then maybe the library. Or happy hour.


MaryC said...


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts/notes. You gave an amazingly succinct description of each workshop. I'm looking forward to the tapes.

I liked Julia Quinn's comment. I'm reading her Ten Things I Love About You now and the dialogue is definitely the best thing about the book. She really told the story with the dialogue and now that I think about it, it's very clear they're talking to each other. I sort of feel like an eavesdropper.


Anne Barton said...

Hi Mary! I agree--Julia's dialogue is just fabulous. I love how you described the feeling of eavesdropping!

I only shared one little point from her workshop, but the handout was wonderful, and you can download it here:

I hope that worked, but it's also available on the RWA website, or I can email you the link.

One of the most moving moments of the whole Awards Ceremony was when Julia won her 3rd Rita and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Standing ovation, tears, goosebumps, the whole bit. *sigh*

Thanks for dropping by. I'm going to post photos in a little bit.

MaryC said...

Thanks so much for the link, Anne. It worked great. I'm printing it now. I recently dug out a Regency that I started awhile ago so this is perfect timing.

Sarah Simas said...

Thanks for the notes! I was so happy to see you posted them!!!

I'm amazed at what the conference offers. As a gal who has been sitting on the sidelines looking in, I must say the place looks very much like a Disneyland for romance writers and fans! LOL

When I go in 2012, you gonna let me ride on some of the e-tickets rides w/ you? LOL