Tips for a Leading a Writers Workshop: Part 2 – Preparation

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If you have a passion for effective writing concepts, consider turning them into workshops you can share with others.

Here are tips to help you prepare a successful workshop.

6 Tips for Preparing a Writers Workshop

1. Start presenting at small venues and move up to conferences.

I started giving workshops at my local writers group. After each presentation, I honed the workshop and slides from what I learned. I moved on to workshops at libraries and then to one-day writers conferences. For a large writers’ organization, I’m leading a month-long online workshop.

To develop a workshop’s content, try writing blog posts on the topics you want to cover.

2. Restrict the number of topics covered to what easily fits the presentation’s time limit.

Err on the side of finishing early. Build in time for questions, exercises, and unplanned tidbits.

I have a workshop that offers fun techniques to improve scenes. The first time I gave the presentation I ran out of time, partly because I thought I had ten minutes more than I actually had. In preparing for a second workshop on this material, I realized five techniques were too many. One was more complicated and less fun than the others. I cut that technique. The improvement supported the saying, “kill your darlings.”

3. Include examples and stories.

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Many participants need applications to understand principles. They enjoy hearing stories that support ideas. Stories are a welcome break from stretches of listenig to information.

During lunch for one engagement, I told the woman beside me I’d appreciate feedback on the maiden launch of my presentation. She said, “Don’t cut any of your stories.”

4. Prepare slides that don’t overwhelm participants.

Limit word count on a slide to 40 words. Break up a 120-word slide into three. To send participants a cohesive document later, turn the slides into a document that puts dot points on one topic together.

For detailed teachings, include examples.

Provide simple tables, graphs, or screenshots to show a process’s steps.

image by jarmoluk

To break up the monotony of words, choose photos that complement your points. Make sure your photos belong to you or come from sites that give permission to use them. I use free images on Pixabay.

Slides should have plenty of “white” space. Make backgrounds a light neutral color. It’s easier on participants’ eyes than stark white.

5. Offer documents participants can review at home.

Convert slides to a PDF or Word document to email later to those participants who request them. During the class, supply a one- to two-page handout to jot notes on.

I recently attended a writers conference. Packed into seventy-five minutes, each workshop offered rivers of information, principles, tips, and examples. I tensed trying to listen, process, and take decent notes. When the presenters promised to send the slides or handouts to us, I relaxed, listened intently, and jotted a few supporting notes.

6. Besides practicing, time your presentation.

I time talks at least twice to learn how much time they use. After I start my stopwatch, I speak calmly and slowly. If there’s not sufficient time for speaking, questions, exercises, and extra tidbits, I tighten my presentation. Knowing I have plenty of time for my talk is huge in how calm I am during the workshop.

Part 2 – tips for leading a writers workshop – preparation. Click to tweet.

What questions or workshop preparation stories do you have?

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Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.

12 Story Plot Twist Ideas – Part 1

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Possibly you have the big, must-have twists, such as the inciting incident at the story’s beginning, the mid-story crisis in which the protagonist realizes his underlying problem, and the black moment event near the end. But plot twists are also needed during the in-betweens.

The list below gives the first 12 plot twist ideas, examples, and the expected questions readers will have. In Part 2 next week, I’ll supply a second set.

First, here are two tips for twists in general.

Twist Tips

 

  1. Avoid obvious solutions to a twist’s problem; don’t give readers what they expect.
  1. Don’t resolve twists with coincidences.

Twist Ideas, Examples & Readers’ Questions

 

  1. image by skeeze
    An accident leads to a bad situation. The backhoe that Hero operates injures or kills a worker. Will Hero be charged? How will he deal emotionally with his part in the accident?
  2.  

    1. A place or person no longer exists. Hero has tracked a man who knows the location of the cult, but he’s dead. How can Hero find his wife now?

     

    1. An overwhelming responsibility arises. Single Hero hikes a remote spot as a last hope to deal with mounting pressures in his life. He rescues an injured three-year-old survivor of a crashed Cessna, then loses all his equipment and food. Will he give up or cope?

     

    1. The truth about biological parenthood is revealed. Hero learns his sole teenage son, who is nothing but nasty trouble, isn’t his own. Will he take the easy way out and leave?

     

    1. People think the liberator they’ve expected has come. Hero comes home to his family and an old girlfriend. He’s broke and defeated, but townspeople think he’s the one who can save their town. Will he tell the truth, take advantage of them, or run?

     

    1. Success turns out to be failure. Hero thinks he’s won Heroine, but she’s upset with how he treated the other contender. How can he show that his competition is an evil person?

     

    1. Guilt won’t let go. Hero has performed a wrong and legally gotten away with it, but guilt grows and begins to consume him. Will he do what must be done to make things right?

     

    1. An enemy is necessary. Hero’s enemy is the only one who can help him, so he allies with his enemy. What will happen after they succeed?

     

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      Revenge presents itself. Heroine’s harassing ex uses evidence that wrongfully gets Hero arrested. How will Hero escape injustice?

     

    1. Disbelief attacks a relationship. Hero doesn’t believe Heroine visited his enemy to help Hero’s cause. What will this do to their rocky relationship?

     

    1. Moral standards lowered to satisfy a goal. Heroine lies that her illness is terminal to keep Hero from going on a dangerous mission. Will she lose Hero when he finds out the truth?

     

    1. Temptation lures a poor choice. Just when Heroine is gaining her family’s trust by staying home more, she takes a career-promoting assignment overseas. Will her husband once again wait for her?

The first 12 story twist ideas with examples of a two-part series. Click to tweet.

What is a favorite plot twist you’ve read?

4 Tips in Using Your Personal Stories in Your Writing

“I write a lot from personal experience, but I also embellish a bit.” — Miranda Lambert

 

by Rgaspari
by Rgaspari

Why is it important to include our personal stories in some way in our writing?

Well, few can imagine catching a sailfish better than a person who actually landed one.

When you don’t use your personal stories in your writing, you ignore your best resource . Click to tweet.

Image courtesy of cuteimage at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of cuteimage at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some avoid using personal stories because it’s difficult to relive the experience. But when they do, readers reap the blessing.

How to Use Your Personal Stories in Your Novels

Knowing it’s your list to use as you wish, brainstorm your experiences. Here are categories to help you:

Funny
Embarrassing
Difficult
Hurtful
Eye-opening
Disgusting
Sweet
Exciting
Frightening
Tender

Tip 1

Many situations from your list are nonthreatening to you or others. So use those incidents in the life of your character to tell a richer story.

by anairam_zeraria
by anairam_zeraria

Example: As an actuary, I shared ideas with my analytical team, making notes in every direction on a piece of paper. I added boxes, squiggles, arrows, and circles as I talked. When I finally stopped, a team member always grabbed my “collage” and made copies for each team member for documentation. That struck me as humorous. I used this in Calculated Risk, but Nick, the actuary, responds differently to the “collage” Cisney, the marketing rep, creates.

Tip 2

Instead of using the actual incident, give the feelings you had to your character in her similar situation.

by creative_xen
by creative_xen

Example: A boyfriend took out his frustration verbally on me when he played poorly on the tennis court. So, after the first time my future husband mishit a golf shot, my heart pounded, and I feared he’d act similarly. He didn’t. Cisney’s ex took his aggravations out on her. So, when Nick and Cisney have a flat tire, her first reaction is to scrutinize how he handles the situation.

Tip 3

When you use a significant event to shape your character’s experience, pull in all the elements. Include how all your senses reacted. The thoughts going through your head. What you learned about yourself or others. Your first and second reactions.

Example: Working for three insurance companies, I knew several actuaries whose behavior was considered weird. In one job interview, someone asked if I minded working with odd people. A little scary. But I learned weird means interesting, less affected by peer pressure, and loveable. I used my friends’ unusual behaviors in the tale Cisney’s overbearing father tells about actuaries. His story offends and embarrasses Cisney. As I did, she’s learned to look past harmless external habits.

Tip 4

Be careful to avoid elements of an incident that identify an actual person. Change the props, actions, and mannerisms so the new ones produce the same reactions received from the real-life situation.

Example: In the last example, I used some of the actual behaviors of one actuary. I realized his actions were unique and others would recognize him. So, I changed the behaviors to fictional habits equally unusual to most people.

How have you used personal experiences in your writing?