Monday, August 8, 2011

Words motivate and keep us engaged, lessons from #wwcon11

Writers pitch agents at the Willamette Writers Conference, Portland OR
When a reader cares about what unfolds in front of them the author wins. They win because they entertain, educate and influence their audience. Writers perform this feat while being invisible.

Invisible until the story ends.

Once the last page of the novel is turned, or the last click of the Kindle is pushed, the enthusiastic reader sets the book aside and turns to other sources to learn more about the person who sent them on the intricate journey of words.

This past weekend, 800 writers journeyed from all corners of the U.S., but mostly the Portland/Vancouver area, and appeared at the Portland Airport Sheraton for the Willamette Writers Conference to become that sought after writer. Invisible no longer, they pursued personal brand awareness, writing platforms, and tackled even the very basics of story structure.

“Writing is a solitary activity,” said one participant. “Willamette Writers is when everyone crawls out of their caves.”

A focus on the written word and the fantasies spun with film played out in many exciting and just as many disappointing ways.

Everyone had a story. Every story a journey. Many stories needed to tromp back to the beginning and be revised to better hook the reader’s interest and to really make them care. This is the job of the first two sentences.

Hook the reader. Even if it hurts.

Once the reader is hooked, the person tumbling into the pile of words needs to feel something. That is the job of the rest of the story.

Keep the reader engaged.

Writing is fascinating. The right words positioned in the right order can drown readers in make-believe and motivate them to feel something. Words provoke the reader to reflect, to take action, or to release the anxieties of the moment and float down the river of commas, spaces and letters.

How the words flow down that river creates an expedition of the imagination--an actual picture that is seen in the mind It teaches, it launches laughter, or builds spaces of silences as crocodile tears roll down cheeks.

Words move the reader into action.

Words moved 800 people to crawl out of their writing dens, emerge and mix, and cast out hope that they could capture an editor, literary or film agent.

Once you hook one of those, the size of your writing pond gets a lot larger, big enough to come out of that writing cave, sniff the fresh air and realize it is the spring of your career.

Hibernation season has ended.

Other posts on the Willamette Writers Conference:
Curing Love at the Willamette Writers Conference
Willamette Writers Conference and Computer Sex