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!

7 thoughts on “Top Takeaways from the Writer’s Loft, Part Two”

  1. “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.

  2. I might as well add my two cents. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 reader sees it clearly. In fact I think they see it clearer and with more humour than I could ever provide with further description.

    As writers, we cannot write every little detail of the character’s background, emotion, surroundings etc. We don’t want to, and we don’t need to. In fact, it’s surprising how much you can take out, and not only does the reader not miss it, they enjoy the experience that much more. The trick is providing just enough detail so the reader can fill the rest in themselves. Describe the sound of the waves and they will see the whole beach.

    That’s my take on it, anyway. Whether that’s what he meant or not, I don’t know. ๐Ÿ™‚

    On another point, I was wondering if you could enlarge a little on “To make yourself appealing as a narrator, share a fault.” That one really interested me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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