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  • Writer's pictureSheila R. Lamb

Surrey Notes…

Trying to encapsulate the highlights, off the top of my head here:

SiWC Idol Workshop: Jack Whyte read the first pages of writer’s who were brave enough to put their work before the panel. (I was not – instead I had my own red pen and scribbled through most of my first chapter). Janet Reid, Rachel Vater, Cricket Freeman, Jenoyne Adams , Sorcha Fairbanks,Anica Mrose Rissi (editor) made up the judging panel.

Jack read very few entries past the first three sentences before the agents raised their hands, asking him to stop. Too much description, not enough action. Whether to have dialogue at the start received mixed reactions. A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was nixed after the first three sentences (too much description of the red paint on the gym floor). Two or three lucky writer’s did receive Ms. Reid’s business cards…I believe two were YA. The openings were spunky, with tight dialogue.

The Mystery of History: Gabaldon, Humphreys, Winspear, Perry and Whyte – Good basics in not getting bogged down in research. Details and accuracy is important but the author is a storyteller. Storyteller first, historical details second. Several panelists commented on how they chose their particular time period for setting their stories…each had a passion for a particular era. Jack Whyte had a particularly compelling story about researching the name “Excalibur.” Humphreys — working out at the gym and making a correlation between his neck and Anne Boleyn’s. 🙂

How to Survive Writing Historical Fiction with Andrea MacPherson: Another good workshop with the same message – storytelling is first, historical details second. MacPherson discussed good resources (archivists!) and primary source documents to use. Make sure you understand and portray all the details of the time period (lighting, clothing, customs, political-religious issues of the day, etc.)

Writing Extremely Weird Non-fiction for Kids – Sarah Lovett: A fun workshop brainstorming extremely weird ideas for non-fiction…do your research to make sure the topic hasn’t been covered. Or if it has, what is a new angle or new twist you could do?

Fear In Fiction – Donald Maass: This is a workshop I needed. How to make your bad guy three dimensional. How to make him/her/it believable – even though in reality the villain is doing unbelievable things.

Think about his actions — in reality, he would be stopped (Maass used the “nuclear bomb in a suitcase example). The military would stop him, TSA would stop him, satellites that monitor nuclear materials would stop him…so HOW does your bad guy get around all of these obstacles?

Don’t make the bad guy “lurk” and just be bad (I’m guilty of this. Maithghean is a bad lurker). What are his motives? Can you get the reader to understand and even agree with his motives? For example, what is your villain’s daily routine, what kind of coffee does he drink, what does he put in his coffee, how does he treat the barista at Starbucks? What is his/her/it’s reason for doing what he does?

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