Sunday, 23 February 2014

RNA workshop/retreat day on 15 Feb 2014 - and what I learnt

Last Saturday I made my way on bus to Holborn to go to the RNA London/SE workshop/retreat day. I passed where that car was smashed in by falling bricks from a building. Horrible. Feel so sorry for her family. Anyway, I got there in time to get a good seat.

It started at 10.15 with Julie Cohen and her talk about learning structure with Pixar films. I've not seen it before and thought it was great. We watched the beginning of Wall-E, and I got a new take on it. It's about a lonely robot who finds love in a deserted world of rubbish. I liked the underlying message about recycling more or the world can be like this. We also watched a clip of Finding Nemo, where the main plot and the subplot meets. This is what I learnt: plot structure is structure of the emotional arc. We were given the three act structure of the film Cars. Backstory at the start of the story can be used in the setting as in Wall-E, where we see papers on the ground about trash covering Earth. Pixar starts their films with emotional arc. They have repeated motifs eg in Wall-E, holding hands means love. The subplot - thematic plot. More plot and add to character. Cars has a circular structure where the ending reflects the start of the film - the main character is in a car race, which is how he began the story.

After Julie came Laura Longrigg and Laura Gerrard, Jean Fullerton's agent and editor. They both said that it is the voice and USP being great is what they look for. If you are a member of the NWS, you can mention this in a query letter to them. Also, add a section about you. Your background, why you wrote the story, what you like to read etc.

Then came the '10 Common Mistakes that authors make' and this is where I learnt a lot and came to a decision.
Plotting - know your characters inside and out. Never forget your readers are interested in relationships. Start at a critical point in the story. Work in any backstory subtly. Don't put in mundale details such as making cups of tea. Know your market and readership. Know your publisher requirements (I will check the few publishers I have in mind for a romance I will shortly be working on). If it has a saggy middle then the story hasn't been thought through properly. Have a satisfying ending. Make your characters likeable. The reader has to ID with them, so the story has to be believable. The hero - the reader has to desire him, and want the heroine to want him too. Understand where you want the story to go before starting or the characters won't progress. Don't make the plot entirely driven. In an edit, you can highlight the external and internal conflicts to work this out).
POV - don't head hop unless you're Nora Roberts. Tell not show. Get POV right and experience what your character is feeling. Use emotion and feeling not reportage. And get your punctuation right for speech.

What I learned from that last talk by Melanie Hilton, the NWS organiser, was to make your story believable. In the romance novel that I plan to work on later this year, I was going to have a ghost in it, but I now feel that won't be believable so what the ghost was going to do will be done by the young male neighbour, who falls in love with a librarian, who happens to be the granddaughter. I can't wait to rewrite the book now, but have two projects to work and complete before that.


Jill Barry said...

A great post, Julie. Thanks for sharing your experience of what must have been a fascinating day.

Jude said...

Thanks for posting this, Julie. It sounds like you learnt lots and had a really good day. Julie Cohen is such a good teacher, I've learnt so much from her talks.

Gbonz Gatz said...

What a great way to spend a retreat! One can also join in a detox retreat which helps cleanse the mind, body & soul. Read also: