Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fire In Fiction: The Maass Workshop Intro

I'm going to make an attempt to convey some of the greatness that is Donald Maass and his teachings on my blog. While I can't possibly live up to the experience of taking one of his workshops or even reading his books, I'm going to post some of my revision notes based on th workshop in an effort to help out people who can't afford to take classes like this.

That being said, if you can afford it, you're cheating yourself by not going. Interested? Visit Free Expressions for information about when Don Maass might be in your area. My experience and recommendation comes from taking the Fire in Fiction class. I was so impressed that I've already signed up for the Breakout Novel Intensive in Oregon next April. Also, you can order his books on writing from - Writing the Breakout Novel and Fire in Fiction. These are must haves for a writer's shelf. I own them both, I've read the Career Novelist (which is really more for published authors, but you can download the pdf for free from his website I believe).

I also want to say that there are two ways to look at these posts. First off, this class really felt like something for people with completed first drafts (at the very least) and more for people deep in revising and trying to add the shine that will catch an agent. Of all the classes, agent blogs, seminars, etc I've ever taken on the web and in person, Don's workshop really felt more advanced to me. This is about taking your fiction to the next level, even beyond just landing an agent. He talks about these techniques as something that makes the difference between publishing one book that does okay, and having a career as a successful novelist.

That being said, the second way to look out these notes could be as a tool box of techniques, and something you can elect to be aware of as you're writing something new. But consider how many people get stuck in the limbo of trying to make draft one perfect, and never finish? Remember that its okay to write your story, have it be a sucky first draft, and then use teachings from various agents, books, blogs and workshops to go back and refine your writing. Trying to do everything at once might not be impossible, but is an alarmingly high bar to set.

Based on my personal experience and where I was at in the this whole process - I'd finished my revisions on HOUND and was planning to start querying, but decided to wait until after this workshop - I really think these are things to apply when you start revising. At least at first. Once we're all cranking novels out for contracts every few months, we'll all learn to do this stuff in two or three drafts instead of ten. And I really am glad I waited to query. I think HOUND would have been marketable and I might have found an agent, but I feel that after this workshop my eyes have been opened and that if I can apply these concepts and techniques to my novel, my chances of success will be significantly higher. At least, one can hope right? But this kind of thinking comes from spending two days with a wonderfully impressive and extremely inspirational instructor.

My thoughts aren't going to give you the amazing experience I had, but I hope they might give you some ideas for your own revisions and inspire you to take one of his workshops if the opportunity presents itself.

So now I've written this huge post, so I'll leave you with this. Here's the basic overview Don gave us at the start of the first day. And don't forget to pick up the full Fire in Fiction book.

Fire in Fiction with Donald Maass

How are we going to get through to the reader and bring them back for next novel? What techniques can make the next book as great and as impassioned as your first? We need to get in and get the tools to make every story great.

Here are the things you need and areas we will talk about:

  • Appeal of protagonist
  • Microtension
  • Finding tools to find our unique voice for ourselves and our story – this can vary between books
  • How to push your story to interesting and dramatic places – and make it believable
  • What is the purpose of our story?
  • How do we hang on to this during the whole long process? How do you find the power and passion buried in the story in draft 10?

"These are the techniques I hope to teach you." - Donald Maass


Mandy said...

I have been waiting for you to post on this! I'm so excited to hear more. I don't live anywhere remotely close to where seminars, conferences, etc. are offered so I'm super stoked to hear about your experience. Thanks SO much for sharing it!

Lady Glamis said...

Can't wait to read your notes. :)

Lost Wanderer said...

I haven't been able to attend Don's workshops, but since I read his books, I have become a total fan. Thanks for posting this, and looking forward to more.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Don gives the most advanced techniques you'll find outside of a grad school program. And much easier to apply!

Good luck with the editing!