Thursday, October 15, 2009

SinC Into Great Writing

Yesterday was the long afternoon and evening writing workshop and dinner sponsored by Sisters in Crime. It was outstanding. The four hour session with literary agent Donald Maass was exhausting and demanding. We had to think and work all afternoon. I have more than ten pages (college-ruled notebook) of notes and ideas that will launch a writing frenzy on my WIP when I get home. The method he used to get those writerly brain cells working was to suggest a topic related to character or story and then start asking questions about the topic while we jotted down answers off the top of our heads.

For example, he might ask, What is the one thing your protagonist would never do? What if your protagonist did that one thing? How would she feel? What would be the worst thing that might happen as a result? All the while he would continue asking more and more questions, delivering them as writing prompts. I came away with more story ideas that you can possibly imagine.

Maass is a topnotch speaker with a great sense of humor. If you ever get a chance to attend one of his workshops, I highly recommend it.

Our dinner speaker was the wonderful mystery writer and entertaining speaker, Nancy Pickard. After dinner there were two workshops to choose from. I selected Hallie Ephron's workshop on Plot Twists to sharpen my plotting skills. Again, more pages of notes.

I'm excited. Can't wait to get back to the book. I may even steal a bit of time during the conference. If you ever wondered whether good workshops, conferences and conventions are worth the money, I'd say yesterday's money was well spent.

Tomorrow I'll write about today's convention panels.


Karen Walker said...

Sounds awesome, Patricia. Is Halle Ephron any relation to Nora Ephron?

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I want a writing frenzy!

I'm really, really intrigued about the plot twist one. I'd love to have attended that...

Mystery Writing is Murder

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks for sharing, Patricia. I like the one thing my character wouldn't do. I'm going to have her do it!

Alan Orloff said...

Sounds great. Maass's book, How to Write a Breakout Novel is well worth reading, too.

Alan Orloff said...

Oops. Maass's book is called Writing the Breakout Novel. (By any name, it's good!)

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I've got his book flying toward me through the magic of my local library system. Mr. Maass certainly posed some thought-provoking questions at the seminar. Thanks for sharing!


Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Wow, wish I could be there! I'll hope to see some of the ideas on your blog.

Hallie Ephron said...

Wasn't it a great day? I enjoyed Donald Maas's talk, too, and ended up with copious notes for revising my novel...once I manage to type THE END for the first time. And Nancy Picard's talk was positively inspirational and funny.

Thanks for the kind words on my workshop!

And yes, my sister is Nora Ephron. My OLDER (and amazingly talented) sister!

- Hallie (

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hallie, thanks so much for dropping by, and especially answering Karen's question. My mind is still buzzing with story ideas, and I've picked up some great additional thoughts from the panels I attended. Bouchercon has been very, very good for me.