Write by the Lake: Day 2

The rain held off through the afternoon; it was another beautiful day on the UW campus.

Workshop sessions started at 9:30 this morning. There are seven of us in this particular non-fiction workshop, and most of us arrived early to our assigned room. We had time for some catch-up conversations before the instructor arrived: talk about our individual projects and about how we fared with our writing homework.

Then the instructor pulled us into our business of the morning. We went over the homework responses–how we imagined the possible endings to a particular scenario. It was an interesting exercise, a way of getting us to think about how and why people respond to certain situations.

We discussed how to construct log lines and the purpose for constructing them. You can never tell when you might need a log line (also known as an elevator pitch), but it’s a good idea to be able to explain, clearly and concisely, what your book is about. Most people really won’t listen to a long, detailed explanation–no matter how interesting the topic. It’s hard to boil down a book’s essence to one or two sentences, yet crafting a log line can really help you to keep focused on the basics of your book: who is the main character and what is their central conflict or obstacle?

We learned about the components for a book proposal. I wrote one for Angels of the Underground, and I’m in the process of writing one for this new project, so this was a helpful review.

There was also another very good discussion of another group member’s 2000-word submission. The instructor delivered insightful comments, and the rest of us added a few additional points. Overall, another productive morning.

Write by the Lake: Day 1

It was beautiful in Madison, Wisconsin, today. I drove in from the west this morning, leaving home extra early because I wasn’t sure how heavy rush hour traffic would be, especially through construction zones. It wasn’t bad (I learned how to drive in suburban Chicago), and I arrived about a half hour before conference registration.

I walked to Memorial Union, along the Terrace, which spans a portion of Lake Mendota.

It wasn’t crowded at all this morning. A groundskeeper was busy blowing away some trash, and a couple of women occupied different tables, swiping away on their electronic devices. Construction workers were the most conspicuous, applying themselves to a variety of projects that will make this portion of the lake shore even more inviting. Someday. Right now the construction is loud and annoying. But if you face away from it and look out on the lake, you can almost ignore it.

I wasn’t there for the scenery, though. After a good bit of a walk, I headed over to the campus building that was hosting this year’s Write by the Lake conference. For five days, very committed writers work in small groups, divided up by genre, to make their writing better.

Good writers know this is a never-ending process. There is always room for improvement, no matter how much or how little you have written.

In the non-fiction class I signed up for, today was mostly a getting-to-know-you day. There was also a very practical exercise about identifying themes, which are important in non-fiction works. One group member had her 2000-word submission critiqued. It was a friendly and helpful critique. I think it put everyone at ease about what will go on for the rest of the week. I don’t know when my submission will come up for critique.

I signed up for this conference because I want to get a solid start on my next book. I think it will help to have some feedback, even at this very early stage.

And now, I have a little bit of homework to do for tomorrow.