As a Neo-Renaissance practitioner (Neo Ren), I’ve developed a philosophy over the years when it comes to taking courses of any sort. Remember, a Neo Ren is one who is a life-long learner. One of my philosophies of life is, the more I learn, the more I discover how much I don’t know.
My goal when taking a class, workshop, or seminar, whether I pay for that education or not, is to come away with at least one solid fact, usable piece of knowledge, a tangible skill, a means to improve what I already can do, or an inspiration that propels me onward and upward. With that in mind, I give you my list of the 13 best things I learned last weekend at the 25th Annual Writers’ Institute Conference in Madison, Wisconsin.
- A good logline has four elements: Originality, Plausibility, Inherent Conflict, Gut Emotional Appeal. From Donald Maass via instructors Laurie Scheer and Angela Rydell.
- The most important of Nathan Bransford‘s “10 Commandments for the Happy Writer” is KEEP WRITING.
- Kimberli Bindschatel says hire a professional to design your book cover when self-publishing. It’s too important to leave to an amateur (such as myself).
- Home is many things to many people and can be the source of powerful emotions. From Roy Hoffman.
- Christine DeSmet taught me to use the “Rule of Three” to solve many of my plotting problems.
- Dale Kushner stressed the importance of writing about subject matter that interests us.
- Using humor to free up one’s writing can do wonders for even a serious story, according to Ken Krimstein.
- Michael Perry is a charming, brilliant storyteller who advises staying true to oneself.
- Designing a book is extremely complicated and best left to a professional when self-publishing according to Kristin Mitchell and Dana Gevelinger. They convinced me!
- Celeste Anton showed me several things I can do to improve my website. Most amazing—I can schedule publication of blog posts in advance. Who knew??
- Kimberli Bindschatel convinced me that marketing one’s self-published book is NOT asking or begging readers to buy your book. It is seven times harder to sell a book to a stranger than it is to ask a friend or follower to buy it. So cultivate friends, fans of your writing, and followers. They are your target market.
- Marilyn Atlas gave me many excellent suggestions for creating three-dimensional characters who are memorable and non-stereotypical. The standout idea here is to figure out the character’s wound—the one thing with which the character won’t allow him/herself to be identified.
- Jane Friedman confirmed and expanded on the fact that book publishing is undergoing a metamorphosis and savvy authors who are quick to adapt to changing business models will succeed.
The instructors were outstanding and the facilities and logistics were first-rate. I came home inspired to write more, write smarter, write inspired prose. Congratulations on 25 years, UW Writers’ Institute. I’ll see you next year.
My question to you: What’s your strategy for learning when you attend a class, workshop, or seminar? Attended any exceptional conferences or conventions?