Top Takeaways from the Writer’s Loft, Part Two

Yesterday, I wrote part one in this series on things I learned at the Writer's Loft last weekend, and you can read that post right here.  In it, I talked about the presentations by Jimmy Carl Harris and Kory Wells.

Today it is time to turn attention to Richard Goodman's workshop, "5 Things to Learn About Writing in 90 Minutes."  (I also wrote about Richard's book in this blog post before I left Portland.) This was a great workshop that was really inspiring to me–as was his book.  Here are my top takeaways from it:

  1. "If you can focus, you can move the world."  Richard says that focus requires time alone and I tend to agree, though sometimes I can get in the zone writing when I'm in a crowded coffee shop.
  2. Always go for the exact meaning of the word you are using.  Richard talks a lot about finding le mot Juste, about checking the etymology of a word, and about looking up the definition of the word, even when you think you know it.  Because, you probably don't.  And the true definition can be a delightful surprise.
  3. To make yourself appealing as a narrator, share a fault.  (Some of the most entertaining pieces of the day came out of this exercise.)
  4. "At least 40% of really good writing is written by the reader."  Gotta admit, I'm still pondering this one. 
  5. Titles are under-rated.  They are where the book actually begins, how the essence of the book is communicated.
  6. The music of prose is the sound a writer makes on the page.

So, there you have it, good advice all.

Next up is a brief rundown of a talk by David Pierce.  Brief because he came at the end of the day and I was again, doing admin stuff.  However, it will be brief but powerful, I promise!

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7 Comments on "Top Takeaways from the Writer’s Loft, Part Two"

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Derek
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Derek
01/21/2010 06:57

“At least 40% of really good writing is written by the reader.”

That struck me as being very Zen when I first read it, but then it occurred to me that it was well… quite Zen..

If we create our reality, we create what we read. I have noticed that if I am really into what I am reading, after a while, a writer and reader “disappears” and I am creating my own world. There is just the characters and their world, and through good writing they would become my characters in my world.

Charlotte Dixon
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01/21/2010 11:41

Thanks, Derek, that sheds some light on the quote. I love your Zen outlook on life!

Christi
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01/21/2010 16:42

The 40% thing could mean that really good writers are also readers, as in they read a lot of books?
Christi
http://christicorbett.wordpress.com

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/21/2010 17:08

Christi, I like your interpretation, too. I’m going to have to ask Richard exactly what he meant one of these days, though the conjecture is kinda more fun.

Jessica
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01/22/2010 06:38
I might as well add my two cents. 🙂 When I read the 40% point I thought of a discussion a friend and I were having recently about ‘can a story technically be called a story if it does not have a denouement/resolution at the end?’ When I am writing, I often say just enough to pop an idea into someone’s head but stop short of saying it outright. E.g. One fine day Evangeline the walrus swallowed an umbrella. That would have been fine, had her molar not bumped the button. Although I don’t spell out what happens next, the… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
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01/22/2010 07:43

Excellent take on the 40% thing, Jessica. I’m always going on and on about the “telling detail” because it is important to choose the one detail that illuminates the scene–and let the reader fill in the rest.

I liked your other question so much I’m planning a blog post on it. 🙂

Jessica
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01/22/2010 16:38

That is not to say I’ve broken my habit of putting in too much (or not enough) detail. I still battle with it in everything I write.

Looking forward to the post. 🙂

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