I recently attended my first Romance Writers of America conference. It will not be my last. For three days, I attended workshops geared towards improving my craft, living the writing life and the business of writing. It could have been intimidating, sharing the space with just over two thousand other writers, many of whom, like myself, were “pre-published.” Instead, I found myself rejuvenated and ever more confident that I’m on the “write” track.
The workshops provided valuable, concrete lessons. Some of them are available for purchase through the RWA website. At the wonderfully entertaining “Understanding Men” given by Dr. Debra Holland, I learned that my husband isn’t ignoring the squabbling children when he’s reading the paper. It’s that his brain functioning makes him effectively deaf. I learned I’m a “lean and clean” writer, which often leaves me too short for single title, but too long for a novella. Fortunately, several workshops helped me see the variety publication options and how to work within the parameters of different story lengths. I gained a number of suggestions for ways to deepen and ground a scene, from the focus on detail to strengthening emotion.
Learning other people’s writing process fascinated me, particularly since I’m not sure what my process is yet. I love that some authors retrieve their characters from their dreams, while others base theirs in real world observations and both ways yield amazing characters.
The biggest boon for me as a newbie writer was learning to trust my instincts. A sex scene needed be explicit if the story doesn’t call for it, in spite of the genre in general kicking up the heat. If my story only needs 50,000 words, that’s fine. It will be harder to market a story that’s neither novel nor novella, but it will, eventually, find a home in the readers’ hands.
Thinking of which, I better get cracking on my work in progress so it can find its way to your hands.