Thursday, May 16, 2013

Top 10 Things I Learned at the Zurich Writers Workshop


As the co-founder of the Zurich Writers Workshop, Writer Abroad also has the benefit of learning from these events. At the spring workshop, From First Draft to Bestseller with Lee Weatherly, here are ten things Writer Abroad learned about writing fiction:

One: Draw out dramatic moments/moments of tension. If a car crash happens in one sentence, you have a problem.

Two: Get inside the character’s head and stay there. Would they be thinking what you’re describing? If not, get rid of it.

Three: A novel synopsis consists of the main plot points only. It should mainly focus on the action story arc but should also touch on the emotional story arc. (For more on how to plot a novel, see here.)

Four: Every scene should center around tension and the scene should start as close to the tension point as possible.

Five: To discover your character’s backstory, come up with contradictions in your character. If they are stubborn, maybe they are also compassionate. And why? Perhaps because when they were young they were bullied so they won’t be able to tolerate others being treated that way.

Six: Holding back information is just as important as telling it. Even if characters know things, they don’t necessarily say them. Resist the urge to explain everything on page 2. Hold back as much as possible until later. It keeps readers hooked.

Seven: When revising, look for emotional words, like happy or sad. Then take them out and figure out how to get across that the character is happy or sad without saying those words.

Eight: Always stay in the moment.

Nine: Let the reader make their own connections/interpretations about what’s going on. For example, you shouldn’t have to say something like “she is in danger.” The reader should get that.

Ten: Use specific nouns. For example, instead of saying “expensive car” say “Ferrari.”

For those who want more information on these topics, check out Lee Weatherly’s book (co-written with Helen Corner) called, Write a Blockbuster and Get it Published.

To hear more about events with the Zurich Writers Workshop, join our mailing list.

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