What an English Major Learned at Writer’s Conference: A Guest Post by Hilary Bowen

Recently I attended a writer’s conference in a foreign country. To all of you wondering, foreign in this context means not America.

There were twelve of us there and we were there together for one week. Everyone learned lots of things. Including me. Five years and two English departments at institutions of higher learning and—I still don’t know it all.
So in light of that illuminating statement allow me to share with you three things I learned in my week away.

1. It All Started Because of a Dream:

ross-errillyEvery blog post you’ve read, every lecture you’ve attended, every book you perused, and all of your own experience will tell you that you must buckle down and work. Write that book, edit those sentences, iron out that plot, blah blah blah blah blah. But sometimes you have to cut loose and live a little. The writer’s version of a wild party. Remember why you like to write.

For two of us at the conference, that meant remembering a rather silly dream that turned into a hilarious and soap opera style WIP about a boy named Tom. (Yes, this is an inside joke and maybe, just maybe you’ll read it in print and wonder why we think it’s so funny). We trade memes back and forth, write down snippets of scenes and fangirl at our own imaginations.  This is permissible. This is necessary. You should do this.
I was not the only one whose stories have come to life because it first existed in their imaginations. Our pens are what breathe reality into the imagined. REMEMBER YOUR DREAM AND KEEP IT ALIVE.

2. It All Boils Down to People:


Don’t be a closet writer! It’s never too early to share the seed of your story with someone—perhaps not everyone, but someone. Someone who can water this story: scattering seeds that will perhaps be weeds to be pulled later…but who knows maybe they will tint the sky or pave the roads to new corners of your story.
I am convinced that creativity becomes more potent the more it is shared. Every person you walk by on the street has worlds contained inside their head. Writers choose to let those worlds out. Your world, the characters you discover can—just like in any type of art turn gray if they don’t get out and rub shoulders with other worlds once in a while.
At the writing conference, people were one of the greatest benefits. New eyes on each other’s stuff, new ideas floating around, new critique partners, new friends, new strengths, and your book entering into another’s heart. SHARE YOUR WORK.

3. Allow Yourself to be Surprised…


After I rubbed shoulders at the conference and my work was out there, a funny thing began to happen. Spark! Discovery! New Roads to Travel down with my story. Then…Revision! Here is my advice:
Channel that surprise into further discovery and deepen of your plot as you begin to revise. Whether you are a pant’zer (a new word I learned at the conference—and my new own spelling of it, that basically means to fly by the seat of your pants)* or a planner, the unexpected idea will pull you deeper into your story and the souls of your characters. Know your story + Know your characters = Amazing Book.
You may start, but you will never finish a story whose protagonist you do not know as Anne of Green Gables would call a “bosom friend.” So, if your character feels glued to the page or is wandering around your newly created world without you, go grab them and talk shop over a glass of raspberry cordial.
Bring a writer friend along with you to pull you back to the land of the living and/or convince you that you’re not totally crazy when those new ideas start taking you in a new direction. Don’t be afraid to revise and explore. That bravery in writing is what makes your book great.
Here is a great resource for Crafting Unforgettable Characters from KM Weiland. The Link should pop up the moment you go onto the site.
Thanks for reading. And writing. And creating new worlds.

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