Friday, July 11, 2008

Romantic Novelists' Association Conference Day Three Part Two

The last session of the conference for me was Kate Harrison's Botox for Writers - restoring that va-va-voom to your work. I must say I was thinking less at this point in the conference that I wanted to restore the zing to me and not my writing.

Kate began by showing us a pretty scary picture of a face having needles pushed in! I was awake. So here's what she said:

Botox for Writers : The Fiction Facelift

-tone up a tired imagination
-banish a saggy middle
-retouch & refresh a fading image

She began with a case study of the tired imagination which showed symptoms of an inability to focus and a wrinkled brow. The causes were constant deadlines and outside pressures.

-stories are universal-storytellers must be valued
-appeal to us from childhood
-passed down in all cultures
-it is a way of expressing the world, human emotions and struggles
-as story tellers we are performing an essential fundamental function
-it may be instinctive but its not easy

A story must answer a question
-Who will be the best?
-How will this person transform themselves?
-How will the family/friends respond to the transformation?
-Which team will win? Which woman will land the man?

Story = struggle OR change
-to satisfy, a story must involve a struggle or conflict
-without conflict there is nothing to keep the reader interested
-conflict doesn't always mean argument - but the reader must care
-no struggle - no drama

--the struggle to achieve a goal be overcoming obstacles (think of working to get through a mine field)
-obstacles may be physical or mental
-think of twenty ways to make it harder for your character
-increasing the jeopardy can increase tension and interest: add new problems or obstacles, increase difficulty, how far can you push your character?

Story= Character
-nothing matters unless your reader cares about your character
-they don't have to be completely likable though it helps
-but a reader must identify with the struggle

Story Solution
-what is the central question?
-what is the struggle, challenge or change the character must go through?
-can you make the struggle, conflict or challenge greater? more dramatic?
-consider raising increasing the jeopardy or playing with time to raise the stakes (here think of the classic film rom com where the loved is leaving on a flight and the hero rushes off to the airport to declare undying love and gets caught in traffic)

Next Kate dealt with the Saggy Middle (the photo for this one looked all too familiar!)
-symptoms were bloating and blockages
-causes - inevitable stage of life, delivered too many manuscripts
-treatment the WIP/Tuck ( loved this!)

Saggy Middle: Vitamin Cs Boost

1. Change will do you good!
-change your writing location - try cafe or library
-change your perspective -try the pov of another character, or from first to third.......
-change your writing method - computer to pen, skip the description and write as a screenplay

2. Cheat: if in doubt leave it out
-this can be liberating if you are a rule follower
-if stuck at a scene skip forwards
-write entire pages that say what happens then just move forward
-move ahead to scene you can't wait to write

Saggy Middle: the SCAMPER Miracle Plot Lifting Booster
-swap/substitute -think Freaky Friday, Wife Swap or Shakespeare
-combine: genres, ideas, new elements (keep list or use collected articles)
-Adapt - take successful formula and change one element - for example the a quality from a much loved movie or previous book
-maximise -exaggerate to an extreme
-perspective - unexpectedly change pov/have characters see things from a new angle
-eliminate -get rid of a character, a possibility, or escape route. where does it leave the story?
-reverse- dramatic change- rages to riches, Back to the Floor, sudden unexpected reversal tests character

Saggy Middles: SMART Workout
Set your goal. They must be:
-SPECIFIC (what are you going to do - be precise for example read history book on medieval gardens for characters passion)
-MEASURABLE ( how will judge them - 100 words a day)
-ACHIEVABLE (they should challenging but not off putting)
-TIME-LIMITED (set a review date and revise goals if struggling at that point)

She added that is should also be FUN - what would renew your enthusiasm for current wip?

Case Study 3 was Faded Image which symptoms were greying out of date look and the cause changing fashions.

First thing to do was the Stimulating Prep Treatment.
-gather materials together:books magazines tear-sheets, objects, scents. Hunt round the house for things new and old be it a stone from the beach, a postcard and even a cupboard stable. to try the multi-sensory approach
-look through these and set aside the ones that work well
-have a notebook to hand to record to note down any immediate reactions/thoughts/passions/themes.....then think about the themes that jump out at you. Beware story ideas may occur at this point

Intensive Imagination Renewal Treatment
brainstorm media you enjoy
-pick one at a time and analyse why you enjoy it and why they work
-apply to your own work

Refining Revolution Solution
(we all give ourselves rules so break them)
-work out your own rules
-write what the opposite would be
-think how you could tweak them to make your work more interesting and fresh

Conclusions the Holistic Approach:
-get more rest
-get out more
-ask for help
-drink more water
-give self treats

Further resources:
Sticky Wisdom/How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas
Story by Robert McKee
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler

Kate had us laughing the whole way through but I know I could really see how these methods could perk up a weary creative mind and have already started a few things in mine.

Just to say again that my notes are very incomplete and I know I have missed many of the subtleties of the various sessions which doesn't do the speakers the credit they deserve.

The conference wound down with a smaller group for dinner and quiz. I am pleased to say that I was on the winning team again! Just goes to show that you must learn to be near Anne Ashurst when it's quiz time. The most interesting part of the quiz though was the writers who did not recognize their own work - my lips are sealed on who they were though :-)

It was a brilliant conference thanks to the hard work of the wonderful Jan Jones and the committee. I have come away feeling lifted and inspired so now back to revisions - a deadline to meet!


Debs said...

Another excellent post, Liz. Thanks very much, I have so much to think about now and have to try and make sure that I remember all this advice.

ChrisH said...

Liz, thanks. Your conference blogs have been really useful.

CC Devine said...

Liz, thanks so much for sharing all your info with us. Am going to read this all properly when I'm at home - obviously some real gems there.

So sorry you can't make the meet tomorrow but hope to meet you at some future gathering.


KAREN said...

Thanks for all your hard work and making notes! It's been inspiring reading them :o)

Steve Malley said...

I do believe I am going to shamelessly link to these posts, that all who seek shall find out how to write betterer...

B said...

I just wanted to drop in and say thanks for sharing all this with us. Makes me all the sadder that you can't join us tomorrow - would've been great to meet you.

liz fenwick said...

Sorry I can't make it to the Novel Racer meet tomorrow......not jealous at all - hah.

Pleased to be able to share what I learnt and hopefully will now put into practice.

Steve pls share :-)

Sphinx Ink said...

Hi Liz, came to your blog via a link on Steve Malley's. Good entry. Thanks for posting the notes on Harrison's Botox program. Her ideas are excellent. I hope to put them to use in my own writing.

liz fenwick said...

Welcome Sphinx Ink. Good luck with 'Botox' :-)

Kate.Kingsley said...

Thanks loads for this, Liz ~ it’s really useful, I’m going to apply some of Kate’s principles to a short story I’m working on at the moment.

In fact thanks for all of the RNA write ups ~ they're fantastic, I've copied them to paper and am going to refer to them often!

hesitant scribe said...

What a wonderful post - again! You really help me to keep inspired with my own writing, as well as yours! Thank you!