Tuesday 8 July 2008

RNA Conference (Sat Only) Part 2

Here are a few pics of yet more books that I had to smuggle into R's suitcase. Don't forget I also had five/six books in my goodie bag that had to be accounted for (his hand luggage came in very useful too) not to mention my own notepads, and book that I took to read on the plane. I've started reading Julie Cohen's Honey Trap and like her other books, it's a thoroughly entertaining read. Every year I promise myself that I'll wait for paperback versions of the books that I want to read and every year I can't resist buying the hardback copies of Christina Jones, Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde's books as you can see from this pic of The Wedding Season that I bought from the conference bookstall (I've already bought and read Jill Mansell's An Offer You Can't Refuse and Christina Jones' Heaven Sent and can't wait until 7 August when Christina's new book, Happy Birthday will be released).
I love this title, Blue Remembered Heels, by Nell Dixon and would love to write for Little Black Dress. Their books are just the right size for a handbag, even one as packed full as mine always is and great reads.

Right, now for my notes on Part Two of my classes/workshops at the conference. I hope I do the speakers justice (both the ones I've posted below and those posted yesterday) and please bear in mind that the notes here are the ones that I took during the classes, so I apologise in advance if I've made any mistakes and despite taking copious notes (being an ex-PA) I naturally haven't been able to cover everything that was said at each class. Naturally you would have to attend the classes in person to gain the full extent of what each covered. So here's my version of events:

Anna Scamans, writing as Anna Louise Lucia, gave a great talk on "Sense of Place" - making your settings part of the story.

Anna told us that what we know is as important as what we see, it effects how we feel and as such, our relationship with our spaces makes us who we are. She said that a character has to have a relationship with where he/she is and gets a reaction from it too.

She advised not to give any generic settings as the setting must have a reality to it. We should use settings that mean something and are significant to the character. Try to remember past incidences/happy places/sad occurrences and ask yourself how they made you feel, what smells conjure up these memories for you. You have to make the reader feel and sense the place. Don't forget to use the five different senses. Let your setting set the mood and tell something about your characters.

Write about what you know, although if you research thoroughly Anna believes that you don't have to have visited the place that you're writing about. Research through travelogues/internet. I found this out when researching a place before going there and then once there felt exactly what the person writing the travelogue had described. Describing the mood or feel of a place can connect the reader to the character in the novel.

Anna suggested taking a character out of somewhere where he/she is physically/mentally comfortable and to think about using the setting. Have the character interracting with the place where they are.

Don't use large amounts of descriptive text as it will weigh down the narrative and slow the pace. Don't just describe the setting either, show how it affects your characters. Try moving a character around, even if he/she is in the same place, give it a different perspective.

Don't forget to give the story some weather. Is it raining/snowing/windy/sunny etc. Think about contrast. Instead of having it being a stormy night when the character is miserable, make the weather sunny.

Anna said not to forget that the first two readers you need to impress are the agent and the editor and above all use your setting as a tool to help you tell your story.

Beryl Kingston gave a fascinating workshop on "Let's Play Pygmalion" - creating characters. She asked us as a class to deside who we wanted to write about. We had to think of:
- The age, sex and class of the character at the start and then at the end of the story when he/she had been experienced what they would during the story.
- Geographical and social environment that the character had been born into and any events experienced from personal to more national, such as war, etc.
- What the character would have to face during the novel and how he/she would respond and how it would effect his/her life and attitudes.
- How the character was treated and where he stood both in his family and in society.
- How he looked/dressed and what he liked/disliked in all aspects of his life.
- How he/she speaks and thinks.

I would have loved to have spent more time with Beryl Kingston, she is entertaining, funny and very knowledgable, as are all of the speakers in the conference and in a class that was only one hour long, I was made to think far more deeply about my characters.

Sue Moorcroft: "What do you mean, you can't write short stories?"

Apart from novels, Sue has had many short stories published and certainly knows all about writing them. I find writing short stories incredibly difficult and couldn't wait for this class; I wasn't disappointed. Sue told us that writing a short story was like making a recipe where no two dishes are ever quite the same but each has their own ingredients. Short stories are written for magasines, anthologies, competitions etc.

She said that a short story is like a single episode. If you imagine a painting on a big plain wall with a bright light shining on it, you only see what is under that light.

The three main points in a commercial short story are:
- Problem/the pivotal moment/resolution
- Puzzle/Key/Revelation (this is used mainly for the mystery or twist in the tale stories).

There should be a point to your story and you should be able to identify what message in it. You need to know who's story it is and the right type of characters for the reader that you're aiming for.

You can then decide on the main character/setting and emotions in the story. There's generally only one point of view in a short story and the main character should be in view all the way through it.

You need to jump straight in to the story and use dialogue as it helps move the story forward and adds to the development of your characters. You must remember to show, not tell and therefore make sure that your characters act out the story and react to what happens to them. Don't forget your reader's emotions, they want to be shocked and thrilled by what they read but the strongest emotion to give them is hope.

Make sure you study your target magazine/competition etc and that you give the correct word count that is asked for.

Should you ever get the chance to take a class given by either Diane Pearson, Anna Jacobs, Anna Scamas, Beryl Kingston or Sue Moorcroft you'll come away having learned far more than you expect. I would like to say thank you to each one of them for the brilliant day at the Conference and hope that I haven't posted anything out of context as these notes are taken from my point of view and notepad, therefore any mistakes are definately my own and if I've missed anything out, I apologise. For further reports please see Ray-Anne's blog and Liz Fenwick's blog as they have wonderful reports on the conference and attended classes that I was unable to.

Thank you to the lovely and talented Lane for this beautiful award called the Arte Y Pico. The rules are that I have to pass it onto to five bloggers who are, "...deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and who contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language they are in". I would therefore like to give this to karen, tom foolery, dj kirkby, yvonne and helen (whose 100 words per day blog has helped me enormously).


CL Taylor said...

Another brilliant and very thought-provoking report (note to self, looking through novels 1 and 2 to look at setting). Thank you!

Pacha said...

I am particularly interested in weather in fiction. Thanks again Debs and I wish I was you and could sniff at all those books!

Karen said...

I like the idea of handbag sized books! There's only so much a lady can squeeze into her handbag :o)

More fascinating insights! I'm really interested in short stories too at the moment, particularly twist in the tail, and the Puzzle/Key/Revelation suggestion is a great point to hold on to.

Thanks so much for the award, by the way :)

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

calistro - thanks, I know, I have to remember that too.

pacha - I've just been shopping with S who had to stop me buying more books.

karen - I love them too.

I'm trying to work on short stories as well, they're not at all easy to master.

My pleasure re the award.

Yvonne said...

Thank you so much for the award, it's made me feel really good! You are a sweetheart.

And thank you a second time for going to the trouble of posting your notes. The advice contained has given me an inspired and creative boost.

Unknown said...

I very much agree with the "Sense of Place," notes. I have been making an effort in my novel to have my characters interact with their envirnment to bring it to life instead of just a dull description.

It sounds like this conference was amazing!

Helen said...

Debs - just popped onto the computer in the midst of my furniture change around and found this award. Thanks very much!


Nell Dixon said...

It was lovely to meet you, Debs. Hope you enjoy Blue Remembered Heels.

Anonymous said...

Thats so interesting debs! gave me some much needed new ncouragement! x have you read 'the glamourous double life of isabelle bookbinder?' Its about a wannabe writer and hysterical...look out for it!

Jill Steeples said...

Wow, Debs, I've just caught up on your RNA posts. Absolutely fascinating, thanks very much for posting.

Well done too on the great feedback you received. That's very encouraging.

HelenMWalters said...

that's really useful feedback, especially the short story stuff

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

yvonne - my pleasure re the award.

Glad you like the notes, I must admit I found the conference to be incredibly helpful, now I just have to put it all to good use.

chad aaron sayban - I have to remember to get my characters to interract, it was a point that really struck a cord with me too.

helen - my pleasure.

nell - it was lovely to meet you too, I can't wait to read Blue Remembered Heels and really love the title, quite inspired.

motherx - thanks, glad you're finding it useful.

I don't think I've heard of this book but will now have to add it to my list of books to be ordered. Thanks.

maddie moon - thanks, I was delighted with the feedback.

helenmh - thanks, I'm going to work on my short stories when I've sent off my m/s to the NWS.

Chris Stovell said...

Oh that was really useful and informative... almost as good as being there myself. Sigh. One day... anyway, thanks for posting that, Debs.

Annieye said...

Debs. Thank you so much for taking the time to type up this, and the previous, posts. It's really useful. (I'm going to order some of the books you mention for my holiday).

Marcie Steele said...

Thanks yet again Debs for a wonderful insight to your day at the conference. I always remember things when I look at your posts and as I'm just about to annialiate book two, I think I will hear them over and over in my head. You are a star

Good luck with your manuscript x

Christina Phillips said...

Thanks for posting your notes, Debs. They're very informative, tho i think I would have hidden under the table if any of my synopses were read out in a workshop!!

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

chrish - thanks, I do hope you can make it one year, it really is so good.

annieye - thanks. These books look great, I can't wait to get reading.

l-plate author - thanks, best of luck with book 2.

christina - one of the other attendees did say that I looked horrified when my name was called out.

DAB said...

Debs, sounds like you have a great productive time. Many thanks for the award so kind TFX

Denise said...

Great trip report, the bit on sense of place is exactly what I'm struggling with at the moment!

I'm no good at waiting for paperbacks either. I think I've managed it once in the last year!

Tamsyn Murray said...

Yep, I echo the congrats on your glowing feedback. I hope you've taken note and are busy believing in yourself?

Michelle said...

These last two posts have been fab Debs, thank you for taking the time to post them. I will be cutting and pasting with your permission as they will be a really useful tool for me to read, especially when the old writers block kicks in.
Congrats on the award...well deserved

Flowerpot said...

thanks for that debs and sorry I couldnt be there. By the way I have found a new printer - or th elovely Luke has for me. It's a Xerox and is a laser one with scanner and copier for £59.99 plus VAT. It shuold be here today or tomorrow. If you'd like further details - model no etc, email me on flower.pot@btinternet.com.

Carol said...

Another very interesting post Debs and congratulations on the award...it is well deserved!!

Hmmm....I wonder if Katie Fforde is any relation to Jasper Fforde....(If you've not read any of his books I can highly recommend them!!)

C x

TonyTheProf said...

Great reports from the conference. I shall bear in mind as I develop my "News from Nowhere". Very useful pointers.

On a different note, I see Russell T Davies is giving a masterclass on writing drama for TV later in the year.

Kerry said...

Debs thank you so much for taking the ime to pass this on to the rest of us. I only wish I has been there myself but since that wasn't possible this was the next best thing! Especially the short story one - Ta! :)

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

tom foolery - my pleasure. I had a great time at the conference and wish I'd been able to stay for longer.

denise - I know, I have to remember that too.

I'm as bad as you with the hardbacks, slap wrists for us both.

tam - thanks, I shall have to work on the confidence thing a bit more though I think.

michelle - my pleasure, please cut and paste as you like. Glad you found it useful.

flowerpot - thanks, I shall take note, it's good to know where to start looking & I shall now look at the Xerox printers.

carol - thanks.

I think Katie's husband is his cousin (if I remember correctly, though I could be wrong). I havent read any of his books but shall do so.

tonytheprof - thanks.

I would love to go to that, I think he's incredibly talented and I bet the class will be brilliant.

kerry - thanks, glad you found the notes useful.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Debs, I've just caught up with this, and I too think these notes are very useful indeed. I think you should get some kind of public service award for posting them, but such a thing is not in my gift, so I'll just say thank you very much.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

zinnia cyclamen - glad you've found the notes useful and thanks for saying so.