Writing School Boot Camp

Less than two years ago I stumbled onto a Midwest writing conference called SMIAH. I’ve talked about it before on here because it has a ton of fun writing contests. But back then I didn’t know anything about it. I was a writing professional, but a total newbie to writing novels. When I saw that one of my favorite authors, Traci Hunter Abramson, was the keynote, that was enough for me. I signed up last minute and bought a plane ticket to Kansas City.

It was my first real introduction to the fiction writing world. I’d never even heard of the big Storymakers writing conference in Utah, or that, along with Indie Author Hub, they sponsor this other, more intimate writing conference. At any rate, I went, not knowing a single person there. It turned out to be an exhilarating and life-changing experience for me. Not only did I meet authors of books I’d read, all the author instructors were eager to interact and teach me their craft. 

Because of the small size of the conference, I got to have real conversations over lunch, in the hallway, and when we went out to dinner together. Everyone was interested in sharing their knowledge and helping me on my journey. For the first time I came away thinking that becoming an author might actually be possible. I felt accepted and connected. I’d found my people, and they’d left me bursting with motivation and inspiration for my writing.

This month I’d planned to attend the large Storymakers Conference in Provo. Of course I had to cancel my travel plans due to COVID-19, but instead of cancelling the conference, the incredibly dedicated volunteer staff switched gears to offer a virtual conference instead.

The benefit of this was that we didn’t have to choose a class to go to for each break-out session–we could go to all of them! That’s almost 100 amazing, mind-blowing writing classes! My husband is back to work, so it hasn’t been easy to devote the time to this, especially since my kiddos don’t finish online schooling until June 12th. I’ve also had to pause my own writing projects to take advantage of this training, but it’s been worth it. I’m about 85% through the presentations, and I’m chuck full of ideas to make my work better. In fact, if my head explodes, you’ll know why.

Novel Novel Structure

The title of this post may seem like a typo, but it’s not! 🙂 I just finished reading Bickham’s Scene & Structure, and I am totally geeking out about this cool new tool in my writer’s box. Coming from a background of writing poems, essays and flash fiction, the elements of structure in novel writing are totally novel to me. Now that I know about them, it is making it a ton easier to edit.

A lot of the concepts I had already incorporated intuitively in my chapters, but when something wasn’t quite right, I could sense it, but not know exactly how to fix it. Now I know! And it has given me so much more confidence.

A writer friend suggested I read this book months ago, and I wish I had stopped everything and done it right then. But honestly, there is something about the word ‘structure’ that bores the tears out of me. And the actual book is highly conceptual and written like a textbook. If the concepts hadn’t been so earth-shattering and applicable, I never would have made it through. Bickham does include great examples that helped me extrapolate how to apply the concepts.

Anyway, if you are starting down the novel writing path, and you don’t know what I’m talking about, read Scene & Structure! I found this graphic online because I’m not the only author who’s been rocked with this revelation. Swain was Bickham’s mentor, I believe, so I’m sure his book is great too, although I haven’t read it yet.