Crafting the contemporary genre novel with Jane Ann McLachlan

It’s been a busy weekend for Jane Ann.

After a reading and book signing in southern Ontario Friday night, Jane Ann drove up to Sudbury for a book signing at Chapters.

I went out to visit her, say hi, and meet her daughter, Amanda.

Attracting a new reader

Of course, I have to buy some books as well <chagrin face>.

Jane Ann did well signing and selling 11 copies of The Occasional Diamond Thief, and practicing her schmooze 🙂

Today, she delivered a workshop on crafting the contemporary genre novel.

She started off with some resources.

Her top five blogs for writers:

Her top five writing craft books:

Her top five pieces of advice for beginning writers:

  1. Try writing poetry as well as prose,
  2. Read across genres and analyse what you read (the same goes for movies),
  3. Learn grammar and spelling; these are the tools of your trade,
  4. Join a critique group, and
  5. Think beyond the cliché.

Then, she asked us to provide the top five elements of a good story:

  • Conflict
  • Character
  • Goals
  • Stakes
  • Difficult obstacles

Then, Jane Ann discussed the story idea, which must contain,

  1. a universal theme
  2. an inherent conflict
  3. a perennial premise, which you have twisted to make it unique to your story
  4. gut-level emotional appeal

It should be stated in the following form: What if (protagonist) in (setting/situation) had (problem)?

The discussion progressed to world building and the inevitable research that must take place to make the story world believable, even if the setting is contemporary.

The caveat is that, having done all this research, the writer must then resist the temptation to display all this knowledge in the text of the novel. It’s called info-dumping.

Every story has to have compelling characters who have strong, clear wants and desires. We did another writing exercise, in which we defined our protagonists. Jane Ann advised that this process should be repeated with each of the main characters in the novel, including the antagonist.

We then looked at point of view (POV) and tense, and the considerations writers need to take into account when deciding whether their stories should be told in first person, present tense, as many young adult novels are written, or in deep third person, past, as many adult novels are written.

There was another exercise in identifying lapses in POV that was quite interesting.

Finally, Jane Ann shared with us her outline for novel writing, as well as a couple of other templates that could be used. She confessed to being on the pantsing side of writing, but that she’s never started writing a novel unless she had a clear idea of what the main plot points were.

At the workshop

Then, there was a drawing for two bottles of The Occasional Diamond Thief wine, books were bought, and a brief Q&A ensued where other issues were discussed as time allowed.

Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in the activities and making notes . . . I forgot to take more pictures 😦

Overall, it was a great afternoon, but I think Jane Ann will be happy to get home and put her feet up 🙂 She’s one busy writer, promoting the heck out of her novel.

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Sundog Snippets: Renny DeGroot launches Family Business in Sudbury

Renny reading

Renny reading from Family Business

After the Tweet chat and HVC, I shot downtown to catch what I could of Renny’s book launch for her novel Family Business at the Fromagerie Elgin.

I managed to be in time for her reading and to purchase a book and get it signed.

Renny signing a book for a fan

Renny signing a book for a fan

The afternoon also included performances by one of the tenors Renny manages, and a classically trained pianist.

Music feeds the writerly soul.

Artisan cheeses, fruit, and baguettes were provided.

Though smaller than her Toronto launch, the afternoon met Renny’s expectations and generated additional publicity for her novel.

You should really check it out.

 

 

 

 

Here’s what Amazon says:

Family Business

Family Business

Set in the Netherlands against the backdrop of the Great Depression and through World War II, Family Business follows the story of Agatha Meijer and her sons, André and Johan, as they build their textile business, a business Agatha is determined her sons will carry on, regardless of their own desires. Family tension comes to a head when the boys each take a stand, sending all their lives spinning in directions none of them would have ever anticipated, and making each of them question the true meaning of loyalty, love, and freedom.

 

Caturday Quickies: John R. Cameron book signing at the Fromagerie Elgin Jan 13, 2014

I posted my wee interview with John back in November.

He’s kept in touch with me through Facebook and let me know when his signings were. Though I had to miss his Coles appearance, I wanted to get out a meet John face-to-face at some point.

Last Monday was my day.

John at the Fromagerie

John at the Fromagerie

John set up in the Fromagerie Elgin from 5:30 to 7 pm to sell and sign copies of The Second Lives of Honest Men.

We chatted for a bit about social media and self-publishing.

Caturday Quickies: The launch of Spooky Sudbury

Spooked authors :)

Spooked authors 🙂

Barnaby

Barnaby

What was I up to today?

Between 11 am and 1 pm, I went to Chapters to celebrate the launch of Mark Leslie and Jenny Jelen’s Spooky Sudbury: True tales of the eerie and unexplained, which just happens to feature a wee tale from yours truly as well as a number of my friends: Kim Fahner, Mat Del Papa, Charlie Smith, Rob Sacchetto, and a pile of other local contributors.

Upon my arrival, the gracious Mr. Leslie brought me my contributor’s copy and my Spooky

My Spooky Sudbury swag

My Spooky Sudbury swag

Sudbury Swag Bag.  I met Jenny, and hung out with Scott Overton, Kevin Closs, and a crowd of other people.  Really.  It was a crowd.

An hour into their three-hour stint at Chapters, Mark and Jenny were sold out.  Fans were heading down to Costco to buy copies and bring them back for Mark and Jenny to sign.

This afternoon, Mark and Jenny were at Coles in the New Sudbury Centre, and tomorrow morning, from 10 am to 12 pm, they will be at Costco.  This will be your last chance, Sudbury, get your copy of Spooky Sudbury before they’re all sold out and read the true tales of the unexplained through the month of October.

Getting interviewed-yes, the media was there too!

Mind you, you can always go online and order a copy.

Either way, it’s scary stuff, kids (in my best, Count Floyd voice)!

What writerly fun have you been up to this weekend?