Several of the Inkpunks recently returned from the amazing Rainforest Writers Village Retreat. This was my third year attending and I cannot say enough good things about it. It takes place at the The Rain Forest Resort Village, situated on Lake Quinault in the Pacific Northwest Pennisula. It’s not only a gorgeous setting which inspires you to write, there’s limited cell phone reception and internet, and given it rains most of the time, you’re pretty much forced to write! When you’re not writing, there are two optional sessions put on by pro authors each day and whenever you take a break from writing for a meal there are dozens of other fabulous authors to talk to. I already want to go back!
This year I wanted to share a few things I learned at the Rainforest retreat:
1. When I listen to music while I write, I head bang a lot (not a problem in private, but in public, little embarrassing).
2. I often tilt my head back and forth while I type. Also embarrassing in public.
3. I stare off into space or at people when I’m not typing.
4. It’s not just me who does the prairie dog stare….and it can be awkward when you make eye contact with another writer as they’re doing the same thing
5. When I’m really tired, my spelling is atrocious. (Oh, look! Got that one, I must be caught up on sleep now)
6. From Amy Sundberg’s talk on Social Media: despite my doubts and fears of “if I write it no one will come,” I CAN blog and attract an audience. She suggested trying themed days of the week, so for me, Monday and Friday I might blog about writing, whle Wednesday I could write about martial arts and fitness related things. Most importantly, Amy said, was to solidify your voice, then readers will go along with you on other topics. She also says you have to be consistent and focus on quality versus quantity, so even if you blog less (but on a regular schedule) make them good posts that will be compelling to someone.
7. Amy also told us her theory of the four pillar system to support your social media. The first should be a website or blog and the other three can be any you choose. The important thing is to choose ones you like and will use consistently, but have at least one of those that you will do no matter how crazy life gets. Most importantly, don’t forget that your writing is always first. You can check out Amy’s blog here: The Practical Free Spirit.
8. Mark Teppo convinced us that you don’t need to have Nuns with Guns show up in your story to save it. When you feel stuck, or that you’re forcing the story, go back and see where it fell apart. There’s something driving you to write this story, instinctively there’s a difference between a tough scene to write and when the scene is wrong. Think about whether you’re asking yourself the right questions. What are you trying to achieve in the scene? Mark sums it up well, “Don’t write any sh*t you don’t want to read.”
9. Mae Empson gave an impromptu talk about submitting to themed anthologies. She gave us so much good advice, but what really stood out for me was to pick two anthologies with different themes and write your story for both at the same time! Combine the two themes. You’ll be original to both themes and if it doesn’t sell to the first one, you can send it off to the second one.
10. Daryl Gregory gave a great talk called Acting Like A Writer, encouraging us to figure out what your character wants, moment by moment and to remember that every scene is an action scene. If you do the emotional work for your reader, it’s off putting but if you underplay it, the audience will fill it in. Give them the physical responses (chest tight, hands cold) and we’re evolved to respond that same way, we’ll feel what they’re feeling. I could write an entire blog post on Daryl’s talk and I think that’s exactly what I’ll do. Another time.
11. Nancy Kress taught us about Characterization and again it was the kind of talk that could fit an entire blog post. Most importantly, Nancy told us three things make a strong character: They’re an Individual, They’re Plausible and They’re Active.
12. The talk on Agents, Contracts and Deals with Mark Teppo, Daryl Gregory, Jack Skillingstead and Ted Kosmatka taught me that while the journey to publication may not be easy, it can happen in any number of ways if you don’t give up on writing. They all had different stories about how they found their agents and became published. None of the stories were instant, “easy” successes. They fought through low times and didn’t give up. The important lesson I took away was never stop trying and never stop writing.