#ROW80 Checkin – Learnings and Leanings

My blog is a bit sparse round here nowadays. I’m busy revising Blue Daisies, that’s why.

Yep, still going — I’m working through Draft No. 4, then will want to go through again for some copy-editing, and an oral read through for dead-writing. I’m aiming to get the final draft out to my first beta reader – my husband – by 1st September. He has no experience with beta reading, but I’ll be after an overall – “does this thing really work, or not?” approach from him.

Learning about Thrillers

I went to my first real life writer’s course last week, a 5 week Thriller Writing course held by the Sydney Writer’s Centre. It was an eye-opener in more ways than expected. I found initially that I was the only participant who has written her story (or anything for that matter), with the majority having come to the course without an initial defined story idea, hoping to work on that. We were asked to tell the tutor our favourite authors (I can never pick favourites when put on the spot like that), and it became interesting to find that a few of the participants didn’t read in the genre either.

Our second question was to give our story idea in one sentence. For those that didn’t have one, this became a simple stumbling around. For myself – it highlighted some complexity. I hadn’t worked on a logline / tagline or elevator pitch, so came a-scarper when trying to pinpoint the story in one sentence.

The discovery worked through me during the last week – mutating into the realisation that I don’t work fully via the more normal process – story idea, one-two sentences, larger outline, scenes, writing… Instead, I get a story idea, outline to some extent, then jump in and develop as I write. At a later date, I reverse -engineer to document and stabilise the full plot and character arcs, and down to the pitch lines or one-sentence summary.

Shocking! I always thought of myself as a plotter, not a pantser. But as I develop my writing, I’m maturing into a hybrid process – and it changes for each novel too.

Before the overall sentence issue, in the course we had briefly discussed types of thrillers, and I was flumoxed to hear that of the ten men participating, all of them thought thrillers should involve global level disasters, conspiracies and a good mashing of terrorism too. One of the three women there agreed.

The tutor was mindful of pointing out one example book and author who was known for their “domestic thrillers” – ones that basically involved danger to a small family unit in some way. However, given that the tutor has written global thrillers where human kind is in jeopardy, her advice on story ideas was towards these types of scenarios also, fitting the men, and the one woman who were short of their own concepts.

The combination of these discoveries – that I couldn’t zero in on a one sentence pitch for my heavily outlined story idea, and that most of the people in the room didn’t consider my psychological domestic-focussed ideas as something they were interested in, meant I started off early on fretting over my own story.

Plus I went bright red due to my embarrassment in public speaking.

Later on, the tutor gave us a “What-if” exercise, straight out of the agentfest for Thrillerfest this year.

We were put in groups to try to work out a story idea using the what if elevator pitch scenario. I’d been trying to think of mine for over an hour, but the exercise was defunct – in my little group we firstly tried to come up with a story idea for the woman beside me (somehow it developed as a spaceship and antagonist who wants to be the first to plant a flag on a new planet, then something about an android, and I still am not clear on how there would be a threat to the entire human race out of that one…) and then we moved onto the man on my other side, who had a protaganist who blows up an entire prison as a whistle-blowing exercise against high level corruption.

There wasn’t enough time to discuss my own idea, which suited me, because I need to muse over things like that. But the man to my side read my basics on the paper I had been doodling on, and suggested several times to me that perhaps my psychologist could be volunteering at a domestic abuse shelter (somehow relating a stalker with such domestic abuse) – but importantly, then I could have a disgruntled husband BLOW the shelter up.

Yeah. But.

No, I’m not going to do that, I think stalking and murder is a big enough issue in itself, but –

I’m sure that each person in the course will come out with a good working and developed idea at least. I’m not even giving bets on the fact that the man to my side will involve a large bomb explosion in his.

Leaning Towards Work

In the meantime, having gotten over the fact that my story is a little different from the rest of the rooms (and unexpectedly so, for me), I’ve been working this last week on some homework and ideas inspired out of the course –

  1. Sitting in the course, despite baulking at some of the initial ideas other participants were playing with, gave me two new ideas for novels. Just like that. I’ve written them down.
  2. I’ve spent several days ruminating and working on (ie. rewriting and rewriting) several forms of elevator pitches for both Blue Daisies, and Blue Suburbia. I don’t seem to get on well with the “What if” starter, so have worked on simple one-two sentence loglines, and slightly longer paragraphs that would work given 20-30 seconds of pitching.  I believe I’m nearly there with those, but will test them out with somebody in the future. Or perhaps with the thriller group.
  3. I also listed out and considered any rewriting needed for my current novel’s motifs and themes – there are several.
  4. And I changed my main series character’s surname. She’s no longer Blue Finchett, she (and her parents, obviously) are now Raynes.

According to the agenda, this week in the course we will be focussing on characters.

I am aware that I have reasonably rudimentary profiles for the main Blue Daisy characters – I understand them in my head, but haven’t bothered to summarise them to any extent.I need to do that.

As for Blue Rayne, the series MC, she still requires a lot of development to make her more real to me. I know she’s quite austere, straight-up, perhaps even icy externally, but haven’t yet grasped her main personality problems. I thought about actually giving her a small physical handicap, but then began to try to picture how a missing finger would impact the selection of any actress to play her in the television series later on. See, how ridiculous a consideration is that one? But it’s working to stop me putting her down yet as a fully fledged profile.

There we have it – I have some more work to do, goals and tasks to achieve. Oh, and I still have a baby doggy writing companion who needs constant attention towards his toileting needs, and am beginning to wonder just how long it will take for full bladder control (him, not me, but come to think… too much coffee today).

More ROW80 writers can be found here, sans bladder-weak puppy companions, no doubt.





One thought on “#ROW80 Checkin – Learnings and Leanings

  1. Your experience in the course is similar to what I found out about my own writing in the past six months or so. It sounds like it was very helpful for you, if not in an expected way.

    Great work toward your goals, Hunter. I hope the rest of your week is lovely.

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