To explain: this is the third year I have attended the Surrey International Writer's Conference (check it out HERE), albeit not consecutively. I enjoy it every time, but I cannot always afford it or the time off to get there. I seem to get more out of it every time, reflecting on where I am as a writer. This year has inspired several posts. I'll start with the 'main takeaways,' the gems. These are the points or ideas that kept coming up, reinforcing themselves, desperate to be accepted.
1. Your first book is unlikely to be the first thing you publish. In fact, it's unlikely to ever be published at all.
For some reason, while I knew this fact, I had never heard a published author admit it. Everyone (with a few exceptions), has their trunk books. These are the books you write on your way to writing your bigger, better, awesome book. These books get hidden deep within a trunk and never see the light of day. They are where we make our mistakes, learn about ourselves, and explore the craft. This is how we learn what a story is. What makes it tick. Where it goes wrong. How to fix things. They are necessary steps along the journey.
Then we bury them in the trunk and ignore them for the rest of our writing career. Or at least don't bring it out until it's had an overhaul.
And that's ok. The process of writing the first book (and yes, you need to finish it!!) moulds us as writers and puts us closer to the true goal: our real novel. It was just nice to hear someone admit it.
2. Character arcs and plots are not separate things.
There are ways of breaking down plots (3 Acts, the Hero's Journey, etc.), but they actually follow the same pattern as the character arc. Of course, there is no hard-fast rule about how this must be done, but it's a pattern to be aware of. In particular, if you're stuck on a character or plot, and something's not right, it's the thing to fall back on. Figuring out the Character Arc (Elizabeth Boyle is a wonderful teacher) as it nests within the standard 3-Act story was enlightening.
Entire courses and books go into these points in fascinating detail, but suffice to say, if your story revolves around just the character or just the plot, you're missing out. They are inseparable.
3. We're weird. That's ok.
This conference is weird, and everyone keeps saying it. For some reason, it shocks people to have top-of-their-game authors and agents sharing their tips and tricks. At SiWC, there are newbies and veterans, and everyone is welcomed. As a relative newbie, there's a degree of 'inside jokes' and some circles of friends, but no one is deliberately keeping others out. And where else are you going to see people in capes, tiaras, and fabulously bright footwear? Better still, no one bats an eye at it! Authors are weird, but at SiWC, we are in good company!
Stayed tuned! The next installment will cover new resources. While I know not all are for me, I hope they can help others too.
After that, we shall see!
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D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.