One Year Blogging Anniversary- Packaging Your Imagination 2014
The Packaging Your Imagination conference put on by CANSCAIP is a great benchmark for my one year blogging anniversary. After all, my first post felt somewhat nerve-wracking; I had put it out there to the world that I wrote a book and had attended PYI 2014. Putting myself out there was something I knew I had to do; I’d been told to build a community, be proud of my manuscript, and explore the world of blogging. It was really hard to do, but now, one year later, I feel as though I’ve jumped over the hurdle of feeling shy and cautious about what I have created. It still makes my face burn when one of my friends tells someone at a party, “Kelly wrote a book,” but I’m slowly learning to embrace my supportive friends and just be happy and excited that I have achieved one of my goals.
What I have learned though, is once you write a book, the real work really begins. My favourite part of the book writing process is the creation. I love writing line by line, and I love when my characters jump out of the page, doing something that surprises me, making me laugh or causing me to roll my eyes. I love bringing fiction to life; and maybe the characters just seem real to me because I have been working on them for so long, I imagine them as real people, but whatever the reason, it ignites something inside of me.
The editing process has been really difficult; I’m someone who loves fluffy, detailed synonyms, descriptions and throw-away words. Cutting down sentences and removing chunks of paragraphs at a time was really challenging for me, but as Stephen King says, I had to kill my darlings. It’s hard to press delete on a section that you have mulled over and over; you want to save that sentence but eventually realize you need to get rid of it because it’s unnecessary to the story.
The next part of the process is researching agents, and this is the area I’m referring to when I say the work really begins. (Obviously every stage is an enormous amount of work, but I had it in my head that writing and editing a manuscript would be the hardest part). I have been taking webinars, Googling agents that I think would be the best fit for my novel, searching the back of past books I’ve read to see if the authors list their agents in the Acknowledgments section, researching each agent on Writer’s Digest and reading their interviews, creating query letters and submitting them to courses for feedback, and I created an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my queries. Needless to say, it’s exhausting. But it’s also invigorating. I feel a sense of empowerment as I research and write my letters: I almost feel as if I’m controlling my ‘luck’ and my future as a writer. The more work I put into it, the more I will get out of this process.
And this leads me to the 2014 Packaging Your Imagination Conference. Last year I went into the conference with a nearly completed manuscript, wide-eyed and bushy tailed. This year, Kristi and I went in as more experienced, well-researched writers. And this year, while I didn’t get as much out of the conference as I had hoped, here are the highlights:
Workshop 1: Erin Bow: Details: How little things bring your writing to life.
Erin Bow is a Canadian author who was energetic and informative. Here are some of the key points she made:
- Good details are the heart of good story telling, and also the heart of bad story telling.
- Three ways to use details:
- Don’t just confine yourself to sight and hearing when describing something. Incorporate smell and taste. Smell evokes an emotion.
Session 2: Lesley Livingston: ARC is a Four Letter Word: Plot Structure Considerations for the Architecturally Challenged.
Many of the attendees were disappointed with Lesley, and while I didn’t get much out of some of the conversation that was had (she went off on tangents a lot of the time), I DID get some good direction on plot structure and characterization. I found Lesley helpful in this sense, as she brought examples of how she plots out her story and her characterization.
Here is an example of how she breaks everything out:
The Acorn (Quick Pitch):
- Plot cultivation.
- Don’t fly blindly; think of it as intuiting.
- Doesn’t require a building permit before you break ground.
- You don’t have to build a structure to hang your story on. But your plot structure needs to be valuable.
More about The Acorn: Embryonic stage of the book: 3 pages single spaced.
- Don’t start with plot.
- Characters are the most interesting thing in your story; they are the drivers. They will give you so much to work with. They will be all the mechanics behind the book, even though you think you are just following along.
- POV is very important. YA is common in first person; immediate point of view. Sense of discovery, intimacy is great for first person POV. For example, first person present is immediate and driving. You are in their head and in their moment; will drive a certain energy for the reader. Confining and daunting. (This is the point of view that my own manuscript is written in).
The Tree (Building):
- Fertile ground: Prologues (Ground work; setting, themes).
- Foundation: need to know everything that the characters don’t necessarily know. We need to churn all of this out for the first five chapters. Write the hell out of the beginning and just get to the end. The end will help you decide on the beginning; help you massage. (I definitely felt this way with my story!)
- The Trunk: Lifeblood and layers of bark.
- Pruning and shaping. Pruning first chapter; a lot of the time there is too much information in the first half of the book. Write the hell out of the story and then prune. GET RID OF SH*T. What DON’T you need? It’s crucial for pacing, energy and drive. And letting your reader know that it is possible to keep up. You will find your beginning in your ending.
Keynote Address: Susin Nielsen (wrote 16 episodes of Degrassi, Hartland, Ready or Not, Real Housewives, and 4 Degrassi novels among other novels):
Her books steal your heart and make you laugh out loud.
I really loved listening to Susin Nielsen speak. She’s a confident, engaging woman and I found her inspiring. Some of the main points that stuck with me from her keynote were:
- Love of reading and vivid imagination are necessary tools for writers; is the imagination nature or nurture? Authors have acute emotional memories. We are able to tap into emotions from our life to this day in our work.
- This is the breakdown of being a published author: 3/5ths hard work, 1/5 luck, 1/5th (I hear this breakdown time and time again).
- “Sometimes to be good at something, you just have to keep showing the f*ck up.”
- Children live somewhere between fantasy and reality and then when you get older you can’t move freely in between those worlds anymore. That’s what can make writing and creating difficult.
- Everything we write makes us better; quantity leads to quality. (This stuck with me. I think about how long I have come, even since the day of my first Humber creative writing class on a cold January night in 2012.)
So there you have it.
If you’re still reading, thank you. I’m assuming you are a lover of reading and/or writing, otherwise this most likely isn’t of interest to you.
Thanks to everyone who has been reading my blog over the past year. It’s so nice to have subscribers I don’t know across the world (it’s very cool to see where the traffic comes from!), and close family and friends in my circle who support my passions. I’m going to keep on reading, writing and challenging myself and we’ll see where I’m at in a year’s time. I hope that with perseverance and determination, I’ll be able to report some exciting news on the book front.
Until next time,
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