Pam here. I have a 30 minute commute each way five days a week. I’m in the car alone and it’s mostly through a rural area so I’ve got plenty of time to listen to writing workshops every day. Recently I broke down and bought a pink iPod. Okay, I’m not a pink kinda gal, but I have two sons, and I figured they wouldn’t dare steal a pink iPod.
So far, so good.
Anyway, after a bit of technical assistance from the IT guy at work, I figured out how to download my ACFW Conference recordings. So far I have 2007 and 2008 downloaded, and when I get a few free minutes, I plan to download 2005 and 2006. That’s a lot of workshops!
Here are a few of the most recent that I’ve listened to that have really helped me. I listen to some of them over and over. They’re that good.
Seekerville’s own Camy Tang gave a great workshop entitled Story Structure (ACFW 2008). This workshop is for pantsters and plotters alike detailing the different types of structures to use to plot your book. Camy explains three act structure, the hero’s journey, plot points, inciting incidents, etc. Great workshop that I’ve gone back to more than once.
Krista Stroever’s (Steeple Hill) You Had Me at Hello (ACFW 2007): If you want to know how long it takes for an editor to make a decision about a manuscript, listen to this workshop. Krista takes a stack of proposals, and gives a thumbs up or thumbs down after reading a few lines. Great workshop stressing how important it is to hook the reader from the first word, the first sentence, the first paragraph.
I’ve Got a Contract, Now What (ACFW 2007), hosted by authors Camy Tang, Robin Miller, Cara Putnam, Cheryl Wyatt, and editors Sue Brower (Zondervan), Krista Stroever (Steeple Hill). Good give and take between 4 authors who were newly published at the time and two editors. Candid comments about what they learned during those first few months with rebuttals from the editors. Bonus: You get to hear Camy laugh! lol
Jeff Gerke’s (Marcher Lord Press) Synopsis: Writing for the Summary Impaired (ACFW 2008): Another great workshop that I’ve listened to several times. Jeff also uses the three act structure and a couple of other forms of plotting to plan a synopsis. I love this workshop. He explains 4 methods to plan and write your synopsis: Method 1: Sixty Seconds and the Bus Will Be Here; Method 2: The 3-Act Structure; Method 3: The 3-Act Structure in Reverse; Method 4: The Multi-Threaded Story. Don’t let #3 confuse you. It’s a wonderful plotting tool that I love. I don’t want to go into too much detail here. These people are the experts, and they put all the work into these workshops. But I will tell you that Method 3 teaches you how to plan to succeed by plotting…uh…backwards! Love it, although Ruthy might have the vapors just thinking about plotting backwards or forwards!
Agents Steve Laube, Chip MacGregor, and Janet Grant hosted a late night chat (ACFW 2007) titled “So You’re Ready to Pitch”. Wow! They took a bunch of pitch sheets from the audience and did cold reads and gave their immediate response. It was amazing. Granted, I wasn’t there, and didn’t get my pitch sheet shredded or praised, so maybe I might feel differently if I had, but I still enjoyed the workshop a lot. What made it work for me was that with 3 people on the panel, it was almost like American Idol. One panelist might say that they liked a pitch while another said it didn’t grab them. As a matter of fact, Steve even mentioned that it was like a reality show. Fun… At least for someone who didn’t have a proposal on the table.
Anything by Margie Lawson: ‘Nuf said. Margie has this mesmerizing voice that I just love to listen to. And she’s so sweet in real life that once you meet her, you’ll love her forever. I especially enjoyed her “Style Inventory” workshop from the 2008 ACFW Conference. Tried and true techniques to identify your style to improve your books. The workshop helps authors determine if they’re right-brain, left-brain, or whole brain. There’s a couple of color-coded worksheets that sound so cool (I’m going to have to get copies). It’s the Style Survey & Cognitive Style Inventory. Without going into detail, once you answer all the questions, it identifies your personality, and you end up being blue, green, yellow, red, etc. For instance, if you’re yellow, you might enjoy writing historicals because you’re analytical. Not only can you use this personality test to determine that your personality strengths, you can identify your weaknesses and learn ways to strengthen them. Bonus: You can use the charts to figure out personality traits for your characters.
I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. In addition to all the workshops given by talented authors, there are those by editors and agents. Sometimes just listening to an editor or agent helps you get a feel for their personality. Are they quirky? Humorous? Ivy-league educated? Down-to-earth? (I remember one mentioning that she came from a farming background once. Interesting.) You can hear the voices of the following editors and agents from the ACFW 2008 Conference alone: Jeff Gerke, Allen Arnold, Sue Brower, Steve Laube, Chip MacGregor, Dave Lambert, Natasha Kern, Andy Meisenheimer, Emily Rodmell, Kelly Mortimer, Rebecca Germany, JoAnne Simmons, Joyce Hart, Terry Burns, Tamela Hancock Murray, Stephanie Broene, and Karen Watson.
Wow! Double wow!
If you can’t afford to attend a conference, purchasing the workshop recordings is the next best thing. Or, put it on your Christmas wish list or ask for workshop CD’s for your birthday. You can purchase individual workshops or a package deal. So if you missed the last few RWA or ACFW conferences, all is not lost. The recordings are available at the following sites.
Link to ACFW Conference workshop CD/MP3s: Conference Media
PS: I just scratched to surface on the ACFW workshops I’ve enjoyed listening to the last few months. Feel free to share ones that have really helped you in your writing, or in getting to know an agent or editor better.
Link to RWA Conference workshop CD/MP3s: Bill Stephens Productions
PS: I haven’t gone to the RWA Conference in several years, so if someone wants to comment on the best of the best workshops you’ve listened to from RWA, please do. We’d love to hear what you liked.