WANA (We Are Not Alone) is an organization started by Kristen Lamb as a way for creative people to connect with each other to serve and support one another. WANA Con, their annual online two-day writing conference (in February), offered plenty of encouragement, as well as classes that focused on topics ranging from character development, scene structure, and self editing to social media and website building – all at a cost far less than a “real” conference, and much more convenient.
I attended WANA Con 2014 wearing sweats and slippers, with a bowl of popcorn and a cold soda within reach, expecting it to be a good experience. But it ended up being a great one. Here are ten of the best take-aways from this year’s online conference:
1. Jami Gold: An Introvert’s Guide to Twitter
“First, let’s accept publishing guru Dan Blank’s challenge to not define ourselves as an introvert simply for a blanket excuse to avoid being social. As he points out, we can respect the ways we’re introverted while still taking social actions. Our introversion is a starting point for finding methods that work for us, not an excuse to avoid all social activities.”
2. Marcy Kennedy: Put Your Inner Editor to Work: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
A main character must be interesting and likeable – but just because you’ve written an interesting character doesn’t mean you’ve written a likeable one. “Your main character needs to be interesting enough that a reader wants to spend 10+ hours with them…The reader also needs to like them OR pity them OR want to see them get what they deserve.”
3. Marcy Kennedy: Put Your Inner Editor to Work: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
A story needs an antagonist, but the antagonist is not necessarily a villain. “A villain is evil. An antagonist is just someone who’s standing in the way of your main character achieving their goal. You must have an antagonist. A villain is optional.”
4. Gilbert Clay and Stacy Brewer: PDMI Editorial Presentation
Writers have long been advised to know the rules before they break them. We also need to have good reasons to do so. Know the following before breaking the rules: what effect it will have on the story; if it will help tell a better story; how will it affect the reader’s experience. Just because a well-known author breaks the rules, doesn’t mean all writers should.
5. Ellie Ann Soderstrom: Collaboration Station
If you’re working with others to produce your book, it’s not a good thing to “defend your manuscript the way a mother bear defends her cubs. Your book is a gift, not a baby. If you want to write for yourself then keep it to yourself. If you want to write for others then give it to a trusted editor.”
6. Julie Duffy and Gabriela Pereira: Rock Your Revision
Rocking your revision starts with Character as Cornerstone – “get your character in place and trigger the domino effect.” Keys to a strong central character: an ordinary person who becomes extraordinary; a defining characteristic; the most interesting character in the story; must want something and need something (not necessarily the same thing).
7. Lisa Hall-Wilson: Beyond Basics: How to Write Effective Inner Dialogue
Internal dialogue is an indirect method of description. “That is, the writer does not directly describe a person, scene or event, but rather processes the description through the character’s consciousness. Once we enter a character’s internal world, we must consider how the character’s consciousness filters the description and shapes the telling of the tale.” ~ Word Painting
8. Shirley Jump: Writing the Compelling Scene
There are two types of scene goals:
♦ The Author’s Goal • What do you want to accomplish in this scene? • How will doing this change your reader’s perception of your character? • How will doing this increase the tension? • How can you accomplish your goals while showing (not telling) and using action instead of passive events?
♦ The Character’s Goal • What does the point of view character want in this scene? • What is so important about achieving this goal? • What will the POV character sacrifice in order to obtain this goal? • What actions will the POV character take to achieve this goal?
9. Sandra Brannan: Jumping Into Bed Between Explosions & A Firestorm of Bullets
Elements of plot can be found in CHOKE:
♦ Concern – Do I care? – Through belief in, and feelings for, the characters and understanding their conflicts.
♦ Heighten Tension – The plot thickens: handicap your characters; aggravate, confuse, complicate; master the twists; readers need to be embroiled in conflict
♦ Overload the Senses – Create crisis at the peak (“Oh, no!” and “Ah-ha!” moments), readers want to be surprised without feeling duped
♦ Kill Switch – Explain the outcome (wind down the engine and let it cool off); readers want to see and feel the pieces being tied together, and suspension of unbelief but not the unbelievable
♦ Ending – Tie up all the loose ends; readers should feel rewarded, satiated (best dinner date ever: good company, great food, didn’t overeat, no rush); leave readers craving the next book
10. J. E. Fishman – 8 Ways Nonfiction Colors Fiction
Research does not lend your story conflict, give your story structure, illustrate your protagonist’s moral dilemma, or shape your story arc (but fictional elements do). Nonfiction: Gives us a geography to borrow; Provides historical context; Provides social context; Leverages known stakes; Educates us and lends authority; Provides real-life characters to ground us; Reinforces theme; Builds a point of departure for real-life outcomes
WANA Con also offers attendees the chance to be credited for their conference fee through a giveaway. This year I was thrilled to be one of three people whose names were picked at random to receive this credit (which I promptly applied to other writerly odds and ends).
One of the best things about the conference was the reminder that I am not alone on this writer’s journey. I hope you’ll consider attending the next WANA Online Conference – I know I’ll be there.
Do you wanna be a part of WANA Tribes? Click here.
Have you attended a WANA Con before? If so, what did you learn?