Claire McEwen, hopeful romantic.

Lessons Learned from the Masters – The RWA National Conference Craft Workshops

Before my publishing contract, I spent a lot of time thinking about writing. I had endless time to ponder things like sentence structure and voice because I was writing just for fun – the only deadlines I was under were ones I set for myself.

Nowadays, I need to write a bit faster and I’ve got less time to play with my writing. That’s why I felt so fortunate to attend the national conference of Romance Writers of America a few weeks ago. It felt so luxurious to spend time just learning about writing! And that’s the great thing about writing – there’s always more to learn.

But that can be overwhelming too. You can have so many lessons and shoulds and shouldn’ts in your head that it paralyzes your writing. So now that I’m back home, and racing to meet a deadline, I’ve been focusing on just a few of things I learned at the conference as I revise my third book, Convincing the Rancher.

I’m on the very final revisions. This book goes into production in (gulp!) just over a week! I can’t go changing the plot at this point, so I’m going to have to save all the great lessons I learned about building a novel for my next book. Right now it’s all about applying the final polish. So here are a few polishing tips.

I learned to make my writing SPICED from award winning, best selling author Robin Perini. She takes the show not tell rule to a whole new level in her writing, and by using her acronym, which stands for Specificity, Powerful verbs, Image making, Compelling dialogue, Ending hooks (and beginning surprises) and Deep POV, hopefully I can do the same. Robin is an incredible teacher and the notes from her workshop are available on her website.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn, I learned to avoid “Mother Goose syndrome” in my dialogue. Bye bye to the he said thoughfullys and the she answered gleefullys. I was a little shocked to find more than a few of those scattered through my draft of Convincing the Rancher and it’s been fun to find more creative ways to indicate who is speaking and in what tone.

Virginia Kantra gave an amazing workshop on creating strong emotion in your writing. There are a million things I’ll try when I draft my next book, but for now I’m keeping in mind her advice about dominant mood – to focus on one mood, one tone, with fewer asides and reminders of things past. I love to put in reminders and my poor editor is constantly cutting them out. Things like “After all, she had disappeared on him in Phoenix.” The reader already knows that! And I just interrupted the story!

There is so much more to put into practice. So many amazing ideas and lessons about ways to make my writing better. So in two weeks, when I jump back into the rough draft of my fourth book, the fun will really start! I have a bunch of practical knowledge about ranching now, thanks to two workshops led by real ranchers. I have Virginia Kantra’s advice on creating motivation, on character torture (yes, that is a thing!) and payoff moments. And most of all, I have the joy of writing – rekindled and rebooted – thanks to a few days at the RWA national conference.

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