Getting where you’re going in five not-so-easy steps

We’re about midway through the Paradise Lost IV workshop, and I’m starting to realize that if there’s a theme to this weekend’s lectures, critiques, and discussions it’s this:  think about the long game, both in your career and in your writing.

Many of the talks and lectures have focused on structure, narrative, outlining and how to make pacing and dialogue work for you as you lay pipe toward your big finish.

How can you set things up? How can you pay them off? When & where do you want place the big reveals and redirects, and when do you give your reader a moment to take a breath? How can spoken interactions between characters function as action, advance the plot, and get the reader where they need to go? How do you make the beginning and ending of your novel echo back on each other?

In short, how do we think about structure?

This weekend’s instructors, J.A. Pitts, Melinda Snodgrass, and Walter Jon Williams are, perhaps by coincidence or perhaps by design, a great combination of guests. Their insights and remarks have dovetailed off one another in really thought-provoking ways, yet they’ve also provided distinct perspectives. Their advice, while generalizable, has also been personal and definitive. There’s something refreshing to hearing someone say, “yes, everyone has their own method, but this particular method really works, so listen up.”

Rather than zoning out during lectures and then going back to my room to surf the web or crash, I’ve found myself engrossed — the guest instructor’s remarks have stirred up ideas and insights on my current writing projects in spades. After each session, I’ve hurried back to my room to make notes on my outlines — full of new ideas to see my way through problems that had previously stumped me.

Basically, I’m getting a lot out of PLIV and enjoying the hell out the fine company at the workshop to boot.

What more can you ask for?

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