One of my passions in life is learning. I truly believe you never stop learning, no matter who you are or how far you have come in life. Whether it’s through everyday experiences, or actively searching out educational opportunities, there is something you can take away from whatever situation you find yourself.
But this weekend I actively sought knowledge, and boy did I find it! I was lucky enough to attend the Women Read / Women Write convention held in Pittsburgh today. I spent three hours surrounded by women who love words just as much as I do. I wish I could’ve stayed for the entire day-long event, but alas, I had saddled my sister with my very energetic toddler for the day and had to keep it short and sweet to get back to my little munchkin.
I’ll write another post about the experience as a whole, but I want to dedicate this post to the two seminars I took part in today.
The main reason I went to this event was to attend the seminars they had set up for writers. This was the first year the organizers offered writing classes, and to say I was excited is a vast understatement. I only had time for the first two seminars though I very much would have loved to take all three. The classes were Daring to Draft taught by Teri Coyne, and Characters Wanted: Using Setting to Make Your Characters to Leap to Life with Kathleen Shoop.
Both sessions left me feeling energized and excited to put what I learned to practice. I’ve had ideas pinging around in my head for hours, and all I’ve been able to do is jot down a few notes since I spent the rest of the day on the Pa Turnpike with a cranky two-year-old.
Teri spoke about a lot of things that resonated with me and spoke to my writing experience. I could write five or six blog posts just on these great nuggets she whipped out that made me think. The big one though was this: write wildly. I know I’m not the only one that censors what I write as I’m typing. I’ve typed out half a chapter and then gone back and deleted it right away because I thought it was crazy. But why the hell not? I’m writing my first draft. Stuff should be crazy! I should be following the breadcrumbs and see where they go. Will everything make it? Hell no. But who cares? First drafts suck, it’s the nature of a first try. So my goal for the rest of my first draft is to just roll with it. Write Wildly! See where the words and ideas lead, then later go back to make sure it makes sense and fits. It’s freeing to think about just writing, instead of analyzing every word.
Now the second session is the one I felt like I learned something brand new, something I never would’ve thought of on my own. Plus, the speaker gave out party favors! Who doesn’t love free swag? I’m such a nerd, I was thrilled when I saw she had handouts! Visual aids! New notebooks! It doesn’t take much to please me.
But back to the point of the class. In extremely simple terms, Kathleen uses setting to help bring depth to her characters. She uses setting to show change in a character, or to be the catalyst for change. There are several ways she does this (that is what the note cards are in the picture), and as much as I would love to go into every detail the truth is she could probably write an entire book on her method, and she would do it much better than I ever could in this post. I’ll just say I have never thought as setting as anything other than the backdrop for our characters. But the way Kathleen talked about setting makes it so much more than that. It’s an outward sign of their internal struggle, it’s what they wear and how they smell, it’s everything around them and how they interact with it. I honestly can’t wait to finish my first draft so I can go back and flesh out certain spots using her methods. Oh who am I kidding? I’ll never be able to wait that long.
I know I already wrote way too long a post on this topic, but don’t think this is the end of what I learned. I’m going to be dipping back into the materials from today, and I’ll post along the way as I discover how these lessons work for me in real life.
If you get the chance I highly suggest you seek out events like this, or classes near you, and give them a shot. Learning is a beautiful, sexy thing!