Revising as Tackling, & Other Thoughts
PWC: Day 2
Attending Day 2 of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference proved even more wonderful than Day 1, because the three-day sessions got deeper and the single sessions were the best of all three days. Not to mention the heat simmered down just a bit, thank gods.
Here’s what I learned in Day 2!
1) Tackle, don’t tinker.
I can’t even articulate how awesome I found Stuart Horwitz‘s session on his Book Architecture method. He provided a plethora of actionable ideas for drafting and revision and working with beta readers. I loved it so much, I left the session with the urge to give him more money!
So I went ahead and bought one of his books, Blueprint Your Bestseller. I haven’t read much of it yet, but this book appears to go over the types of strategies presented in the session, whereas his second book, Book Architecture, seems to provide a lot of well-known models of the strategies (including The Great Gatsby, which I can never get enough of!).
So anyway, the overarching idea I learned from Stuart, that is quickly becoming my new writing mantra, is the idea that you need to tackle, and not tinker.
Hello. My name is Nicole DeGuzman. And I’m a tinkerer.
Tackling your writing means being strategic, making active decisions, and taking no prisoners. Tinkering means agonizing over a single word choice and losing steam. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (as I’m sure many of you have as well). I can’t wait to try some of Stuart’s ideas and start tackling with new gusto!
2) Use culture and stereotypes to your advantage.
Suzanne Palmieri‘s character class on this day explored how culture and stereotype can be useful ways to both communicate efficiently with readers and develop layers within characters. As someone writing diverse YA, her ideas about culture and stereotype really got me buzzing.
Culture can build internal conflict in a character. Stereotype can communicate efficiently with a reader. And vice versa. So as a writer using culture and stereotype intelligently, you’re freed up to skip the building and get right to the layering. Suzanne gave a smart word of caution though that writing about something you are not comfortable with is a bad idea. However, writing a character who is uncomfortable with an “issue” that you are comfortable with can provide a lot of power. She gave the example of a racist cop who doesn’t know s/he is racist.
In addition to Suzanne’s ideas, I would also add this: all characters have culture, and all characters are subject to stereotyping. The key is to identify and use (exploit?) those cultures and stereotypes intelligently to strengthen your readers’ connections to the character. I think I’ve already got this in my story to an extent, but now I know how to approach it in a stronger way.
3) Develop website content around your story.
The social media session with Don Lafferty continued to roll today! One thing I heard will change the way I approach this site/blog: you ultimately want to find readers… so develop content that your readers care about. Who is your ideal reader? And what does a reader of your story care about?
I’ll tell you what your reader (probably) doesn’t care about: how to write in your genre.
“How to write [your genre]” is not what you want to be found for on Google, because your product–your book–is not for writers (unless it is). So yes, I will still blog about writing and about my progress towards publication. But I also know I want to write more about things like riding horses, and eating Puerto Rican food, and supporting urban schools… because those are the things my readers will be interested in too.