Last Sunday in Oxford, 17 authors joined us at the truly excellent The Story Museum for an intense writing workshop. Did we have fun? You betcha. Did people go away inspired and educated? Here’s some of what they said:
The day-long event was run like a military operation, with our army marching on a diet of workshops, powerpoint presentations, brainstorming, creative writing … and a Sack Of Secrets! We divided the day into a variety of sessions covering:
- opening lines
- world building
- a Q&A
- and speed one-on-ones
Our favourite bit was actually at the end, with the Q&A. We were each asked for our top tip, but none of us could stick to just one. The ones I can recall were:
1. In your scene, highlight just the nouns and see if you can see what’s going on. Do the same with your verbs. If the story isn’t suggested by just those words, they aren’t working hard enough.
2. If you get feedback from an agent or an editor – wait. Don’t reply with that rush of emotion that screams they are wrong and the need to defend your work. Just acknowledge, sleep on it and think it through. Then see what you can work on and what you just can’t change for very good reason.
3. When you approach your writing session, don’t put huge pressure on yourself to get masses done. Consider that you only have to fill a one-inch picture frame. Just that, and you’ll have met your goal for the day. Anything beyond that is just bonus. (Source: BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott, a great writing book!)
4. Use a word cloud tool like wordle to see what words you use most in your manuscript. Is your main character the biggest? Do you have any unexpected words repeated than you need to tone down?
If you were there and remember some of the others, please post them in the comments!
We also ran a family event on the Saturday, aimed at families – parents and children – writing together. Half the Book Bound team are parents (the other half are pet owners!) and we know how important creative engagement is to literacy. Plus, writing together is fun!
As ever, we felt immensely privileged to engage with a group of willing, open, and oh-so-creative students. The real pleasure is seeing all the potential gathered in a room, and we have learnt that people attending our retreats really feed off the energy and friendship of the Book Bound team. It helps that we have all experienced the author journey first hand, as well as working in the industry.
We don’t claim to know it all, but what we do know we’ll share. And we know how it feels when you’re straining to push a rock up a mountain. Fortunately, we have seen the view from the top – and it’s breathtaking. We can’t wait to see more Book Bound students plant their flag at the summit.