Another year, another Can-Con. And what a great weekend it was! I didn’t do every possible thing that I could have, but it was still a busy, fabulous three days.
Friday began with workshops. There were two time slots with a choice of two workshops in each one.
In the first time slot, I went to the one titled “Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seat” that was supposed to be taught by Matt Moore. Unfortunately (especially for him!), Matt was sick and unable to be there. However, Kate Heartfield stepped in to do the workshop in his stead.
Using Matt’s notes, Kate offered a great discussion of how to cultivate tension through character, conflict, and raising stakes. The whole thing was useful and clarified things that had been floating around in my mind without specific form, but I particularly appreciated the mention of Dan Harmon’s approach to talking about story structure and how characters progress through the story (all the characters, not just the protagonist). This makes so much sense to me, not as something new so much as explaining something in a really good, clear way that I can see the immediate application of. So that was good!
Then, in the second workshop time, I chose the one by James Alan Gardner called “Nailing Your Beginning.” Each of us brought in the first 800 words of something we were working. We each read our work and the rest of the group, including Jim, commented on it in the context of it being the beginning of a work, the introductory material that the reader is presented with. I find this sort of thing really helpful and, indeed, this workshop was great. Of course, you always learn a lot about your own writing from other people’s work and what you see as problematic in what they have written! And the comments on my piece (the beginning of my draft 2 novel, Onwards to Enceladus) were so helpful, as they focused on issues that I had been uncertain about and gave me clear ways to adjust things.
When I was younger, I loathed sharing my own work (especially something not ‘finished’) with others in such a setting, but I’m (mostly) over that now. (As an aside, I think that taking Writers Studio classes, where you have to share your assigned writing every week, week after week, was super helpful in getting me over sharing issues, as well as accepting criticism, because it was a very respectful approach to it — critiquing the writing, not the writer; including positive and negative comments; etc. Being online and not face-to-face probably also helped in getting used to it.)
That was my Friday. Saturday comments coming soon!