Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Non-Plotter Plots a Workshop

For the last few days, I've been working on putting together my workshop for the First Coast Romance Writer's February 13th meeting in Jacksonville. (Which is scary enough, because they're billing me as an "award winning author". That's not a lie, but my awards aren't exactly the equivalents of the Oscars or Golden Globes.) And speaking of awards, I seem to have garnered a couple more blog awards, which I'll address in a future post.

The group asked me to speak on the way I plot, which followers of this blog will know is very loosely. In addition, by now you should be aware of my dislike of spoilers. I don't want to know what's going to happen until it happens.

My preference for the workshop would be to have an informal chat, a little brainstorming, and chat about what other folks use for their plotting. I think back to my school teaching days, and of lesson plans, which sends a shiver down my spine. I tended to teach by discussing, questions – more the Socratic method, since I was teaching junior high Science, and trying to lecture to those human bags of hormones was a guarantee to elicit the eyes-glazing over syndrome.

But experience has told me that it's possible I'll end up with an audience of people who look around the room and shrug when the speaker asks a question. Even those sketchy lesson plans made notes of what points needed to be covered, whether the class brought them up in discussion or not. So I need a framework.

First decision – do I use a brand new idea, something the group directs once I get them started? Or do I use something I've already written, something familiar, something where I know the plot points, the characters' goals, motivations and conflicts?

I decided to go with an existing manuscript, which seemed a little more reliable. Next question – which one? My storyboard is still intact and tucked under the futon in my office. But it's a mystery, and this is a romance writer's conference. Scratch that one. I've got 4 romantic suspense books published, with another due out in July. If I use that one, will it whet appetites to watch for it's release? Or is it too far in the distance, so any buzz will have died away?

But, the bottom line is, I do these presentations not only because they're fun, but also as promotion. If I discuss a book that's available now, will the attendees buy a copy? Now the spoiler factor enters. Odds are, if I talk about the July release, they'll have forgotten the plot. If I use an uncontracted manuscript, it might never see a bookshelf. But if I talk about a book that's out, will they decide I've given away so much of the plot that they don't feel the need to buy it? Or will they be curious to see how all my plot points, themes, goals, motivations, conflicts, and characters come together on the page.

The hubster said if the book sounded interesting, people shouldn't care that they know a lot about it already. However, this is a man who refused to see Titanic because "the boat sinks." For me, it's kind of like watching the Australian Open Tennis matches – the time difference, and the lack of desire on my part to stay up all night to watch them live means I'm catching up on the tapes in the afternoon. But then the spoilers start showing up, as there are teases about what's going to be on during that night's live coverage—which often reveals who's won the match I'm watching. I'm not someone who really appreciates the nuances of the game, so I can't appreciate watching the quality of the play, and knowing who's going to win spoils it for me.

I finally decided I'd use Hidden Fire and try to avoid too many spoilers. Perhaps I'll use only the first 1/3 of the book. It's got a few quirks – it's unorthodox in that the hero and heroine are returning after their HEA in Finding Sarah. It'll give me the opportunity to discuss filtering in back story, and I can demonstrate tracking mystery clues as well as romance threads. Only trouble is, it's tedious for me to prep. I know the story, I know what's going to happen, and what's already happened. I guess that's why I prefer not to plot much in advance. Once I know what's going to happen, a lot of the fun is gone.

I'll have my story board and my idea board, and I'll pray that people will contribute and ask questions. Because one thing I know I could never do is give a lecture. And it's going to be Valentine's Day weekend. I guess I'll bribe and reward participants with chocolate!

Tomorrow – Field Trip Friday. You'll have to come see where we're going, because as I'm writing this, I haven't decided.

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Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Good luck with your workshop!

Occasionally I've done one where people looked like they were falling asleep, but most of the time there are some really interested, note-taking people at writing workshops. Good idea to put some teasers in there...get those folks to buy!

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Terry Odell said...

I suppose that anyone who comes around for the afternoon session is probably interested. I hope! This is a new format for this group, with two distinct workshops, morning and afternoon. We'll see how it pans out.
(And if anyone reading this is in Jacksonville that day, please come by!)

Ann Elle Altman said...

I'm not a romance writer but I hope you have success. ann

Jemi Fraser said...

Good luck - I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time. It'll be a lucky audience :)

I'm soooo with you on the Australian Open. Federer's match starts in the middle of the night tonight. And I have to be up for work at 6. But I still want to get up and watch, because someone will spoil it for me!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Jemi -- I'm hoping I can catch the end of the tennis match if I get up a little earlier than usual -- I don't think they're rerunning them in the afternoon the way they have the rest of the tournament. Hubby has learned NOT to mention sporting results if I'm watching the show. Hmm.... maybe I'll set the recorder.

Maryann Miller said...

Hope the workshop is a lot of fun. I'm with you on how you like to run a workshop, as well as the plotting approach.