I was offline yesterday because I took the day to attend Don Maass’ workshop up in Westminster, MA. I’ve read the books (of course, and, actually in several versions sometimes) but it was interesting to actually see the exercises put into practice, live and close up, in the classroom setting.

The structure of the day included a worskhop in the morning — this one focused on plot and adding layers and I even took some notes myself for ideas to pass on to clients for recent manuscripts that had been turned in. After a casual lunch during which staff and students mixed and mingled, the students alternatively worked on their “homework assignments” and met with staff for 1/2 hour intensive discussions of their work-in-progress. I eavesdropped on a couple of those held by Lisa Rector of Editing Express while I worked on a client manuscript. Before dinner, I held a general Q&A session with the students, answering a variety of insightful questions about the publishing industry. Dinner was another mix and mingle (and the pulled pork was pretty good). After sitting in on the staff meeting, I wended my way home, arriving pretty darn late and quite sleepy. It was a well-spent day. I learned a lot and it gave me much to think about in terms of intensive workshops versus the more usual conferences with panels and pitch sesssions.

I’ll continue the Agent Manners entries next week. Though it seems like most of the questions I have left are about submissions timing so I might just do a general entry on that topic since it seems to be a question of great interest… and confusion…. Meanwhile, have a good weekend everyone.

5 responses to “workshopping

  1. Putting those layers in and editing a first draft are the things I find the hardest. Once one has written a draft the story is down and yet that is only the beginning. One of the things I’ve been looking at lately is the ‘engagement factor’ how that draws a reader along, not just in the beginning but all the way through a novel. Part of that is of course compelling writing, but making the readers really care about the characters and their situations, I mean really care, so in a way they skip over the ‘writing’ so that it becomes invisible because they are so wrapped up in what is happening. Deep breath because that sentence needed it. But the whole thing is such a combination of factors and how it all gels together.
    Thanks for the post. I find these things interesting.

  2. That sounds like a great experience. I would love to attend one of his workshops. His book was one of few (and actually the best) that I read before transitioning from short fiction to novels.

  3. I’ve read his books and attended a classroom workshop he did at PPWC one year, which was awesome. It is nice to have the variation from the usual pitch session/panel opportunities at a conference, even though I learn so much from those as well. His workshop is very hands on and really made me think about what I was writing and if I was making the scene memorable or too worried about word count. Sounds like you had a great day. Happy weekend!

  4. I’ve been to a number of Don’s workshops – plotting, outlining, character development, brainstorming – while at the Surrey International Writers Conference (Surrey, B.C.) and found them all extremely useful. He’s an energetic and engaging speaker, and he pushes you to look at all the different directions you could take a scene, a character, the plot, etc. Surrey offers small master classes as well as open conference sessions, and the price isn’t bad.
    In one exercise, Don asked us to come up with something our protagonist would never do. Then something s/he would never say. Then think. Then we had to come up with – and write, on the spot – a scene where the character would do, say, and think those very things. Talk about taking that poor character to his/her very limits!
    Another exercise was to choose a turning point in our book, and think of how we could make the situation matter even more to our protagonist. Once we’d written it down, Don would ask “How could you make it matter even more?” We’d write that down. “All right…how can you make it matter *even more*?” One more round of “even more,” and all of a sudden there were light bulbs coming on over almost every head in the room.
    I think the most important thing participants in Don’s workshops come away with is the realization that you should never settle for your first, second, or even third idea. You have to keep pushing yourself – every page, every situation, every word of dialogue.

  5. I’m hoping to attend one of his workshops someday when my health and budget permit; it’s good to hear about them from your perspective. Thanks.
    And as a huge Judith Martin fan, I’ve been enjoying the least few posts a great deal!

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