This was a first for PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association). Normally, the first day of their annual writers conference is primarily for member registration with a few afternoon seminars thrown in. This year, the association sponsored a day-long, novel writing seminar taught by Bob Mayer.
Bob is a best selling author, former US Army Special Forces officer, resident of the Pacific Northwest and is a regular host to PNWA events. For this special edition, condensed version of his novel writing seminar, Bob discussed the following topics in rapid-fire style:
The Original Idea: The Heart of Your Story and Key to Selling Your Book
Plot and Outline: The Events of Your Story
Point of View: The Voice of Your Story
Characters: The People of Your Story
Selling and Marketing Your Book, and finally,
The Current State and Future of the Publishing Business for the Writer
I managed to scribble down 27 pages of barely legible notes, so I won't go into exhaustive detail about this excellent workshop. Instead, I'll jot down a key point, or three, in each topic.
Do you have an original idea? Think again. Most story ideas are based on previous tales, some reaching far back into early mythology. The trick is to tell your story from a unique perspective, with a unique voice, or with a twist, like Gregory Maguire's Wicked.
While "stuff" happens to us in real life, with no apparent rhyme or reason, your story must move in a specific direction. The story's plot is about a protagonist trying to solve a problem and a series of events that outline the action. This action consists of five narrative elements: The Initiating Event, (the catalyst for adventure); Rising Action (the stakes get higher); Crisis (the do or die moment); Climax (the final showdown) and Resolution (not necessarily "happily ever after").
Who's telling your story? The point of view (POV) must be consistent throughout the narrative. For instance, all the Sherlock Holmes tales are told from Dr. Watson's perspective. While you're not limited to writing from a faithful companion's standpoint, you should avoid "head hopping," that is, switching the viewpoint in the middle of a scene. Also, most readers can't handle 3 POVs, so keep the POV changes between the Protagonist and Antagonist.
And speaking of characters, your story should focus on the main two: The Protagonist and the Antagonist. But unless these two opponents are cage fighters, they should have a supporting cast, like a side kick, love interest, allies and minions, etc., to help them achieve their competing goals. This shows your characters are interconnected as real people would be.
Once you've typed "The End," getting your manuscript published becomes your next full-time occupation. Keep in mind though, traditional publishing industry moves at glacial speed, so in the 3 years it may take for your book to hit the shelves, you need to be your own PR rep. That is, take advantage of today's technology by blogging, establishing a website and getting involved in social networking. Doing this will generate enough buzz and create a fan base, that publishing companies will view as profitable--and therefore, keep you gainfully employed as a successful writer.
Okay, this post is a mere snowflake on the tip of the Novel Writing Workshop Iceburg. For more information on Bob Mayer's books and seminars, check out his website:
I'm a retired USAF TACP (Tactical Air Control Party) member, now working for Washington State Emergency Management. In addition to being an Emergency Operations Specialist at my day/night/weekend job, I'm a Foreign Affairs Specialist, gamer and writer.
I maintain three blogs as an on-line platform. "Stern Rake Studio," my central site, explores a variety of topics on gaming, pop-culture and writing. "Station WTFO" is where I post comments and discussions on the national and international issues that concern us. Finally, "The Redshift Chronicles," is a spin-off of "Stern Rake Studio." This site focuses on sci-fi gaming and is home to my long-form webcomic "Breakout from Bongolaan."