Writing Retreat – FCRW 2010

FCRW Writers Retreat

This past weekend I had a rare treat that advanced my craft learning light years. The FCRW Chapter of RWA hosted a Writers Retreat with Anna DeStefano and Anna Adams

The retreat was held at the beautiful and charming Epworth by the Sea in St Simon’s Island, GA, a Methodist Church retreat facility. The Retreat was organized by our chapter president, Maria Connor An amazing woman, Maria’s author’s voice is a scream. I laughed so hard at one of her scenes I about fell out of the chair. She is a free lance writer and has had several great articles published in recent issues the RWA magazine.

I had several eureka experiences over the weekend. Those of you who have been on this journey with me know the growth arc I’ve been traveling. Suffice it to say that two years ago when I found the FCRW chapter I was on my second organically written book. While that sounds fairly sophisticated let me clarify for the bottom line. . . I vomited words onto the page. Not a pretty picture.

So for the past little-while I’ve been continuing to write with a more thoughtful approach. I’ve been trying to learn to plot, trying to wrestle what I wrote into a marketable format. I’ve been learning conflict, conflict, conflict motivation and goals. I wrote the third book.

I’ve plotted using power point, sticky notes on the wall. Sticky notes falling off the wall sticking to my shoe, butt and computer bag. I’ve recently fallen in love with 4 X 6 Cards for plotting. With help of my lovely and talented critique partner, Charlie Alldredge I pulled the book apart and revised, edited and looked at character progress, filled plot holes. Whew, it ain’t called a writer’s work for nothing, baby.

Friends that read my books LOVE the characters I create. So do I. However, I’m like ‘the little engine that could’ chugging along learning to plot, plot, plot and putting my characters through conflict. Lately in the throes of revising book three and writing book four I started having feelings of unrightness. Not really about the book(s), or about my emerging skills. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. But, something was there. Or rather, something wasn’t there.

Now trust me when I say I would rather poke my eye out with a pencil than write pages of character study charts to help me know why my heroine could never wear lavender panties. If that was the missing link between me and quality writing my little train would have to become a lawn ornament under the bougainvillea.

I’ve pretty much been able to create characters based on my training as a psychologist and the exhausting amount of personality inventory research I’ve been subjected to in the name of team building with my recent day job. I mean seriously, I can tell you what color I am, what letter of the alphabet, extroverted, innovator, briggs myers, bla bla bla ad nauseam. Truthfully it was useful in crafting three dimensional realistic characters but there is a limit to what one woman can take.

The first session with Anna DeStefano blew me away. I wanted to be the love child of the two Anna’s. OMG The session on Character arch was incredibly simple, taught in a hands on experiential manner. The perfect answer to all my anxt and woes.

There is something very liberating to seeing in full clarity what you have been struggling to do in the dark. Somehow wondering if you were right and asking the writing cosmic gods, if there wasn’t a better, easier way to do it. It’s like I’ve been trying to put a puzzle together with a few of the pieces missing. Once Anna provided those pieces in her workshop everything came together. If the collision had escaped my brain the sound would have been deafening.

Bamn to the forehead with the smack of a palm. “She is healed!” The voice thundered. Okay, I got a little carried away there but we were on a church retreat facility. *grins sheepishly*

Dang, I learned, I’m a character driven writer. I can develop my character’s personalities in a well planned conflict lock with each other. “Their character arc is their growth and it’s the plot that’s getting them there.” A.D.

I’m still processing everything but WOW. One of my critique buddies, Shelby Reed said it was the best money ever spent. I’ll add my amen to that.

We had a relaxed schedule with plenty of time to write. The workshops were awesome. We had informal plotting sessions together. Valerie Bowman hosted the cold reads and group critiques of pages. Then we had an opportunity to have individual sessions with the instructors. Amanda, Shelby, Madeline and I teamed up, rolling our appointment times into a group. The four of us trapped Anna DeStefano at the table in a tag team attack and asked our barrage of questions about craft, character advice, business advice, and can we be Face Book stalkers?. . . in the nicest kind of way.

She is a gracious lady and we all wish her success and health. She facilitated giving us all something illusive and precious. . . validation, respect, and friendship.

One response to “Writing Retreat – FCRW 2010

  1. I’m so jealous! Wish I had enough money to attend both the retreat and nationals. it’s amazing how our chapter finds such awesome presenters for our conferences and workshops.