Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WRWA Fall Conference, Part II

If you slept late Sunday morning, you missed the best speaker of the convention. John Lehman shared his thoughts on "10 Things I Think I Know for Sure About Writing and Getting Published." Lehman went into depth on each point. I will present the highlights here.
  1. START
  • S tory Ideas: Lehman feels you should have three or four ideas formulating in your mind at a time. Writing is the art of discovery and stories should lead to a greater understanding.
  • T reatment: Don't limit yourself; write everything. A poem, short story, or essay, is a glimpse; the novel, a full look.
  • A udience: Know who your audience is. Write what people are curious about. Spending time in a bookstore and watching people interact with the material can offer insight into what an audience wants.
  • R esearch: Where will your book go in the bookstore? If it doesn't fit nicely into one section, it will not find any home there.
  • T imeline: Set a schedule and stick to it. You need to write consistently and on a regular basis to build the writing muscle. When the time comes for you to produce quality material on short notice, you will have the skills to deliver and get paid for your skills.

2. Increase your circle of of identity to include editors and publishers. Lehman says we all have our circle of acquaintances and this circle must include those that can further your writing career. The right place at the right time is often knowing the right person when the time comes.

3. Journal your activities. Track your writing production and research. A good record mixed with solid goals leads to regular output.

4. Write in scenes. In every scene, each character has an objective. There is a winner and a loser.

5. Editors love metaphors. Editors want to see how characters deal with issues compared to other things.

6. Editors like titles and endings. Even though your title is unlikely to make to the final cover, a good title grabs agents and editors. Endings are the most important part of the story. If the ending is a disappointing, the story fails, and will not sell.

7. Who you know is important. Lehman enunciated he may catch flack for this point, but sticks to his guns on the statement. You need to build a circle of acquaintances in the industry. Editors buy, you need to know editors. Lots of them.

8. We are shaped by our early experiences and must move beyond these experiences. To be successful at writing, you must grow beyond your current comfort zone and learn.

9. There are stages to story development. First we absorb information, then formulate a story (a lesson learned), create the story, and finally, send it out into the world for other to see and learn (publication).

10. Writing myths and truths:


  • You are a writer.
  • To give up is hard. To give up is like not breathing.


  • It is hard to succeed. In fact, it is hard to stop. You want to write, you must write. Continued effort will lead to sales. Quiting is impossible to swallow.

As you can see, Lehman provides powerful advice for all writers, published and unpublished. Never be afraid to write, send out material to editors, or get disheartened by a rejection. Your story will find a home in time.

1 comment:

  1. Nice conference wrap-up, Keith. I got something useful from every speaker, some more than others. Purely in terms of how the presentation was delivered, I'd give top marks to Eva Apleqvist, who spoke brilliantly and engagingly on writing children's literature. I don't, but if I did, she said what I'd want to know.
    I thought Greg Peck's presentation was very helpful for anyone contemplating publishing a book. We can benefit from his experience. Many people saw it as depressing and, in a way, it was. He had a rather bad experience with one small publisher. But his overall experience--with researching and writing his book and selling it (it's virtually sold out) was very positive.
    I had much the same reaction as you regarding Barbara Poelle. If a writer is inclined to being depressed by the prospects of finding a big-time agent, hers was depressing. You have a 1 in 7,500 chance of scoring her as an agent (based on the numbers she presented). But she really encouraged me.
    I wasn't quite as high on John Lehman's presentation as you, but it was good, and your summary is excellent.
    I enjoyed Cassie Hansen because she gave the floor to some young writers who were pretty good and who seem serious about their writing. They are our future and it's great to see them participate in a room full of ... well, let's just say older people.
    Jean Feraca's talk was interesting, but I took something away that others might not have. She read some of her poetry and she read from her book. A lot of times these days, people write what they call poetry that seems more to me to be strong prose paragraphs in which the sentences are chopped up and arranged artfully on the page and lebeled "poetry." I kept asking a friend (a poet) seated next to me, "Was that poetry or prose?" I wasn't being facetious, though. The "paragraphs" were strong writing. It turned out they really were prose paragraphs taken from her book. That reminded me in a forceful way that strong prose writing benefits from attention to some of what makes poetry equally stand out--good rhythm, alliteration, metaphor, imagery, and attention to the precise word. Thank you, Jean.
    And thank you, Keith, for an excellent blog.