Creative energy filled the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference 2017 held in New York City
from Thursday, August 17 through Sunday, August 20. I attended the conference hoping to receive lessons and helpful hints that could facilitate my writing. The conference fulfilled my expectations. During the registration, I selected buttons that represented the genres in which I’ve focused my creative efforts.
I was delighted to meet Brian Klems, published author of Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl, and the online editor of WritersDigest.com, after he presented the orientation for the conference. During his talk, Klems encouraged attendees to talk to other participants to make meaningful connections. The genre buttons helped us begin conversations.
The first session I attended on Friday was “Perfecting Page One” by Hank Phillippi Ryan. She dissected and analyzed “acclaimed first lines and opening paragraphs” of published authors to “reveal the writing secrets” in those examples. “It’s never a good thing when the stewardess is crying,” is an excellent opening sentence. That beginning peaked my interest immediately.
Hallie Ephron, who writes stand-alone mysteries, presented the next session titled “Writing a Mystery Novel: A Crash Course.” Mysteries deal with “the whodunit, whydunit, and the howdunit.” She noted that mystery genre conventions include a puzzle, bad things happening, a sleuth who has a reason to investigate, rising stakes, a ticking clock, and credible unexpected plot twists. She said that we should write the backstory out of our system. Then put it aside and weave it into the novel when we need to do so. Ephron suggested that if you want to write action, read books by Lee Child.
Jennifer Probst presented “Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance and Navigating the path to Success.” She suggested using real life experiences to sketch out fully developed characters, give characters quirks or weaknesses, push them hard, and make sure the protagonist has a solid growth arc. Probst noted that sex scenes could go anywhere from stolen glances to the pornographic.
“The Thin Line Between Historical Fact & Fiction” by Crystal King, and Anjali Mitter Duva revealed the difference between history books and historical fiction. An historian can’t know the “why” of someone’s motivation for doing something. However, writers of historical fiction can explore the” why” and distort the truth, but the author must have a compelling reason for doing so. Authors must still hold true to the rules and customs of the culture.
Next month, I’ll be writing more about the well-attended conference and noting some common themes of the speakers.