WotFSC Workshop in Merimbula

Chris standing beside a poster of his Story Structure DiagramThis week I drove to the beautiful seaside town of Merimbula to give a workshop to the Writers of the Far South Coast, organised by the amazing Amanda Dalziel who worked tirelessly to make sure the event was a success.

The workshop: Creating Compelling Characters, ran smoothly thanks to Amanda’s great organisational skills.

Here’s some of the feedback from participants:

“Chris provided the tools I am looking for. Vital keys to character development. Resource use was excellent.”
-Margo

“Thanks. I’ve solved a few problems in my work. It was a shame it wasn’t a longer workshop, like a whole weekend.”

-Mary-Ellen

Chris Andrews standing beside a whiteboard teaching his Creating Compelling Characters workshop“Interesting & insightful.”
-Loretta

“Chris has an engaging presentation style. He is very natural but what I really enjoyed was his excellent use of examples to illustrate his point. Thanks – learnt a lot today.”
-Nikki

“Interesting Presentation – Variety. Attention sustained. Sing us a song, Piano Man. Story structure diagram. Videos – empathy with characters at beginning and/or end. Whiteboard used effectively and responses. Thankyou.”
-Rosslyn Thomas

“Thought provoking with very relevant direct ideas on effective characterisation.”
-Jacqui

“Excellent presentation! I found that Chris had highly worthwhile ideas for construction & development of characters as well as tips for enriching how well you have gone with your writing of such.”
-Peter

“Going through the questions about character/needs & wants, etc. brought me to a realisation of what I need to do with a story that I’m stuck on. Thank you Chris! The main conflict in my story is what the protagonist sees as her life and how her life really is & finally the realisation of what she needs. Very good.”
-Bridget

“I found the workshop helpful and will take a lot away with me. Activities help to cement ideas.”
-Sharyn

“I have a whole universe stored away in the recesses of my mind and a line-up of characters that have lives of their own… they just won’t cooperate and be written down on paper. Chris has made me realise that I don’t have to tell the whole story all at once and that testing the waters with a short story involving my universe and its characters is better than an epic trilogy, at least for now.”
-Amanda

workshop participants seated at desks
Some of the participants of the workshop during a short break

You can find more information about the Writers of the Far South Coast online.

Conflux 11 – Workshops, Panels and Fun

"Thank You" Certificate of Appreciation.

If you’ve never been to a writing convention, you’re missing out.

They’re a great place to meet other writers, attend free or cheap workshops, and listen to experienced writers discussing all kinds of writing-related topics.

There’s also the social side where you can catch up with friends a bar or coffee shop and talk, attend book launches, and even chat to famous writers, booksellers and publishers.

Volunteering is also a great way to gain invaluable knowledge and industry contacts.

At Conflux 11, I sat on three panels:

  • Page Turners with Richard Harland and Sean Williams
  • Writers Block with Richard Harland, Karen Simpson Nikakis, Shauna O’Meara and Katie Taylor
  • Writing Communities (pictured below) with Belinda Crawford, Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Tara Ott.

I also gave two workshops:

  • Creating Compelling Characters
  • Polishing Your Pitch (aimed at writers pitching to publishers and agents during the convention)

All in all, I had a thoroughly enjoyable time and I’m looking forward to Conflux 12 in 2016.

If you’d like to engage me to run a workshop for your writing group, please contact me. I can cover almost any writing topic you’d like.

Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Belinda Crawford, Chris Andrews, Tara Ott
L-R: Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Belinda Crawford, Chris Andrews, Tara Ott (in costume)

 

CIT evening course – the details

Short Courses at CITIf you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, my upcoming Novel Writing course at the CIT may be for you. All you need is a story idea and a desire to create something out of it.

If you’re an experienced writer and you’ve already written a novel (or several), but can’t seem to ‘get it right’, this course should help you turn your work into something readers will appreciate.

Evening 1 – 10 August

Understanding your writing strengths and weaknesses

Developing your story’s premise

Evening 2 – 17 August

Compelling characters

Evening 3 – 31 August

Story Structure – beyond beginnings, middles, and endings

Evening 4 – 7 September

Engaging readers.

Developing your story into a cohesive whole

Evening 5 – 14 September

The elements of story craft

Evening 6 – 21 September

Writing software

Agents, editors, publishers, self publishing

 

Each evening will contain a mix of practical exercises and easy-to-understand information, and there will be plenty of time during and in-between classes to apply what you learn to your writing projects.

By the end of the course you should have a solid understanding of what you need to do to develop a novel into an engaging read that people will want to share.

Novel Writing at the CIT

Workshops update

Creative Manuscript ServicesJust a quick reminder that my Creating Compelling Novels workshop is on a little over a week: http://actwriters.org.au/events/upcoming-workshops-events.shtml#chrisandrews

Also, I’m running a six-week course at the CIT on Novel Writing beginning August 10: http://shortcourses.cit.edu.au/modules/details?ModuleID=RED2342

So if you’re looking for a fast, cheap and effective way to tap into my knowledge and experience, please come along.

Five things fiction writers should do before showing anyone their work

Learn story-craftScull and book with the words: five things writers should do before letting anyone see their work

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who believe the ability to write well translates to the ability to tell a great story. It doesn’t. Technical skills like grammar and punctuation help tremendously, but in the same way the ability to talk doesn’t translate into the ability to give a good speech, the ability to write clearly and concisely doesn’t give you the ability to write a good story. Writing fiction is about story-craft. Learn your craft.

Read a lot

If you’ve never read a book in your chosen genre but think you can write in it anyway, think again. Before you start writing fiction, read books. Lots of books. At least a hundred novels in your genre would be a good start, and just as many outside. Old books. New books. Bestsellers. Books by authors you’ve never heard of. Free books. Recommended books. It’s all part of the learning process. Mostly though, you need to know your genre.

Write several books

Unless you’re a genius or incredibly lucky, you’ll learn most of your trade by writing. So write. Write a lot. Write different stories too, not just sequels. Try different genres and formats: first person, third, omniscient. Play. Experiment. By the time you’ve written your third or fourth book you’ll begin to see just how problematic those early stories were. That doesn’t mean you can’t go back and fix them, but with a little more experience you’ll have a much better shot at it.

Plan stories

While some writers couldn’t consider writing a novel without planning everything first, for just as many it’s the opposite. If this is you, then here’s the secret: plan your story after you write it. Treat your first draft as your outline and break it down once the words are out. Done backwards is still done, and it’ll help you see problems. Planning saves a huge amount of editing time, so plan to edit if you can’t bring yourself to plan the story.

Love itCreative Manuscript Services

If you don’t love it, nobody else will either. Don’t write for the market or because you think it’s a great idea. Write it because you love it. The fact that you love it will show in the story and give it soul. If you can’t see yourself writing a romance, then don’t. The same applies with fantasy, crime, and any other genre. It’ll only come across as contrived otherwise. If you write the story you love, others will love it too.

You might also like Translating The Story In Your Head.

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Creating Compelling Novels – Workshop

Writers Centre LogoIf you find yourself in Canberra on Saturday 25 July, come along to my full-day writing workshop at the ACT Writers Centre.

The workshop, Creating Compelling Novels, is a masterclass for beginners and experienced writers alike.

It will begin with a simple exercise to draw out the premise of your story, and over the course of the day we will develop that premise into a compelling overview designed to create intense reader engagement.

Participants will gain practical storytelling skills in the areas of theme, conflict, character development, story arcs, structure, and much more, with the aim of creating the kind of novel readers will want to tell their friends about.

The invaluable knowledge and skills participants will take away can be applied over and over again.

To book or find out more, visit the ACT Writers Centre website.

 

Translating the story in your head

A woman with a book, looking at the cameraWhen working as a fiction editor I’m sometimes asked by my braver/more enthusiastic clients: Did you like it?

It’s a big question with a lot of emotional baggage.

Its also the only question that really matters to both a writer and a reader.

Being subjective, there’s only one satisfying answer: Yes.

While editors need to maintain emotional distance to retain objectivity, readers can’t be given that same luxury.

If they don’t like a story they’ll have no interest in it. Game over.

On the flip side, if you were to read a friend’s story and they asked you if you liked it, it’s difficult to say no without hurting their feelings.

That’s because authors invest themselves emotionally in their stories.

Which makes sense. If an author doesn’t care about their own story, why should anyone else?

Yet that can lead to problems.

What author doesn’t hope everyone will love their story? They care, and they want everyone else to care too.

Logically we know this isn’t going to happen, but emotions don’t care about logic. Logic and emotion come from very different parts of the brain, and those two parts don’t talk to each other. Ever.

Have you ever seen huge lines of fans waiting to get a book signed, sometimes for hours? I have. It’s an author’s dream.

It means the author has created an emotional connection between their readers and their book.

Why else would anyone spend hours lining up for what amounts to a squiggle of ink on a page?

That’s not logical.

Emotion sells fiction regardless of whether logic checks the bank account first, so as an author you need to tap into a reader’s emotional side.

That doesn’t mean writing a romance. It means you have to make readers care enough about your story to want to buy it.

That kind of emotional bond rarely happens by accident. The ability to passionately engage fans takes skill and practice.

It also takes a solid knowledge of story-craft.

The truth is, no story you can dream up will ever appear on a page the way you see it in your head, yet many writers assume it does. Most readers do too.

Text: Emotion sells fiction, not  logic.Talk to an author and you’ll hear about very a different story to the one you’ve read, no matter how good that author is.

Stories must be translated into words before they can be passed on, yet words are only used for the first translation.

A second translation occurs when someone reads (or hears) those words. Writers have absolutely no control over a reader’s experience, so the first translation needs to be exceptional for the second to produce a story even close to the way an author sees it.

That means it takes two translations to move a story from an author’s dreams to a reader’s imagination, and it has to change formats twice to do it.

If you write a movie script or play, there’s a third translation involved – to the screen or stage. Give a script to ten different directors and you’ll get ten different movies.

As translations are never perfect, no reader is ever going to experience the exact same story you do.

If you don’t believe me, try this: pick any story you love and try to explain it to someone who’s never experienced it.

Can you see the problem?

Even the best translation won’t be exact.

However, with skill and a lot of practice you can give them a translation worthy of the story you’re trying to convey.

Maybe even better.

If you’re good, really good, you can even make them care about it just as much as you do.

And that begs the next question.

How do you convert the compelling story in your head so it remains compelling when the reader translates it second-hand from the words you’ve written on a page?

Here’s the list of story elements you can use to do that:

  • characters.

Here’s the list of story elements you can’t:

  • everything else.

Remove your characters and you have no story; no conflict, no drama. All you have are ideas, concepts and explanations. Museums are nice, but unless you’re the curator you can only spend so much time there before boredom sets in.

Characters are therefore essential to a compelling story. Museums aren’t, though they’re interesting to the right people.

If you put a single character in a void you can still create a compelling story, but it doesn’t work the other way around even if you fill the void with cool stuff.

At best it’ll be interesting for a time. Interesting isn’t compelling though.

Even the most interesting characters only become compelling when they have to struggle for the stakes they’re invested in.

Like an author who doesn’t care about their book, a character who doesn’t care about anything that happens to them won’t induce a reader to care either.

The more your characters care and the harder they have to fight for what they want, the greater the chance your readers will care about what happens to them too, making your story compelling.

Only by getting people to fall in love with your characters can you get them to fall in love with your story.

Only people who love a story will spread the word.

The cool stuff is always going to be cool stuff – but compelling characters will draw a reader into a story and never let them go.

Creative Manuscript ServicesSo make your readers care enough about your characters that they want to blog about your book, tell all their friends, and write reviews everywhere.

Translate your story so well they get emotionally caught up in it and can’t not do those things.

Do that and they’ll be lining up for your next book before you can even announce it.

 

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