Things I Learned at the 2011 James River Writers Conference

What an amazing two days of inspiration, camaraderie and creativity!  The 2011 James River Writers Conference has ended, but the experience will fuel me until we meet again.

Things that I take away from this year’s conference:

  1. If you don’t know where to start in your project, put a stake in the ground and go from there.  Get the concept, idea and/or first draft out of your head.  THEN, edit to your hearts content.
  2. Great characters are the heart of any story. Contrasts within the character can make an average character compelling.
  3. Entertainment law – KNOW YOUR BASICS! Fiction is a completely different beast from non-fiction.  The best word of the legal session?  The word De Minimis.  It tickled my fancy.
  4. Conflict is your friend.  Without conflict, a story is just a series of words.  The conflict can be discreet or overt, but it must exist.
  5. Everything is fair game, with the caution of be kind to people that might be real. They didn’t ask to be written about, so be careful.
  6.  Agents, oh agents.  While their view point is subjective to their tastes, they all demand quality and professional writing.  A great title is a miniature high concept, one that will sell the book.
  7. All good stories, regardless of the genre, is about the human experience.  Life is an experience that never ends.
  8. A good query letter is your foot in the door.  Don’t skimp on creating the most concise summation of your work.  Make sure it includes – Character, Conflict, Story Arc and the genre.  The query tells the agent/publisher that you know your story.
  9. Discretion about deals, agents and publishers is essential.  This is a business, do not compromise your opportunity by being crass, rude or trollish as you seek your deal.  The Internet is a small universe.
These are just the high lights.  I’m exhausted and invigorated.  Thank you James River Writers for a great conference!
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