Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Writing Workshop--Thinking Sideways

A few weeks ago I signed up for a six-month writing workshop put on by multi-published author Holly Lisle. She's the gal who founded my writing home-on-the-web, Forward Motion, and I've been following her weblog A Pocket Full of Words for the better part of six years now.

I've watched from the sidelines as she's pitched novels, sold them, written them, revised them. I've watched the misses, too. The pitches that didn't sell, the books that were hard to write. I've seen the determination and drive that characterizes Holly and her absolute willingness to be transparent with us all. I've bought several of her writing clinics from Holly Shop, and while not every one of them has clicked with me for every project, I've learned a LOT from her in various formats over the years.

When she began brainstorming a full workshop, I was intrigued, though I wasn't sure I could afford to take it as the various price points were debated. When registration finally opened at just under $300 for the six month program ($47US payable via PayPal every month), I jumped at one of the few remaining seats. And I'm so glad I did.

How to Think Sideways has been worth every penny from the very first lesson. Holly started off by looking at the things that prevent many folks from giving their all in any circumstance, writing included. From there we began clustering, which is something I've resisted doing as I just thought my brain didn't work that way. It was hard at first, but because I loved Holly's recommendation of Scrivener so much, I decided to download the free trial of Inspiration as well. It's a mind-mapping tool that allows you to associate words in any number of ways. Not only words, but many can be swapped out for clip-art and photos, to grab ahold of the more visual part of the brain.

Using the skills we had begun to learn in clustering, our next task was to *call down lightning* in the form of three viable story ideas that we would be excited to write. If you've been reading much here, you'll know I've been struggling with this for several months. And while I don't currently have THREE solid ideas, I did come up with two pretty decent ones. The fourth week taught us how to refine those ideas into something we couldn't bear NOT to write.

(Yes, this is making focusing on Tempest a bit difficult, but I'm managing some words every week there, too!)

I'm really quite excited for the next few weeks as we take those ideas and learn how to transform them into novels. So far the experience has been better than I'd hoped for, and we haven't yet begun to touch on the core reason I, at least, signed up for the course.

The core reason? The thinking sideways part. Holly's good at convoluting and twisting the plots of her stories so that they are very hard to put down. If I can begin to learn how to do that, this course will be a total success. Right now, I'm very optimistic about the five months yet remaining.

She's currently planning on repeating this workshop, and I'd encourage anyone who wants to write tighter books to consider signing up.


Unknown said...

Hello, Val--

Texanne here, dropping by to check out your place. Very nice, I must say. Like you, I'm very happy with the course, and like you, I'm having trouble combining the new lightning with the WIP, but I will keep trying.

Thanks for putting up the site.

Jean said...

Hey, Val, I'm afraid my lightning is more an intermittent spark, but I think I'll get the hang of it.

*waves* to Texanne.