Finally, I’ve made it back here (to the blog I mean). I’ve just had the most amazing, inspiring, productive weekend at the SCBWI Nevada writing retreat at Fallen Leaf Lake – but it has been so busy – and my head is spinning with all the information I’ve absorbed and the memories of the wonderful people I have met.
So I’m finally sitting at the computer a couple of days late to do the first post. I’m still confused about time – went to bed after midnight last night because I didn’t know what time it was. I might just get used to the time difference the day I hop on the plane to go home.
I boarded the plane from Australia at 11.45am on 24th October and arrived before I’d even left, at 11.15am on 24th October. I’m not a science fiction writer, but if I was, I’m sure I could make a great story out of that.
NZ to San Francisco was a twelve hour flight – so I watched a lot of movies and read The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson. I figured it would help me get into the writing mood.
One of the things that really resonated with me was Martha’s suggestion not to dwell on your start – to just keep writing. As she points out, once you’ve finished the novel, the start will probably change again anyway.
As we soared over the Pacific Ocean I gained many other great insights from Martha’s book. She has a great plot planner, and one of the things I really like about the Plot Whisperer is that Martha identifies that there are different types of writers so different things work for different people. I read Martha’s book into the wee small hours.
I love the way life constantly throws up opportunities for a writer – whether it’s dialogue you can use, an interesting character or something you overhear.
Most amusing moment of the flight was when the person next to me ordered a vegetarian meal, but it was accidentally given to someone else. (That wasn’t the funny part).
Flight attendant: I’m sorry you didn’t get your vegetarian meal. Do you eat fish?
Passenger: No I’m a vegetarian, that’s why I ordered a vegetarian meal.
Flight attendant: Oh, so you’re a serious vegetarian?
Queues are a fabulous place for a writer to either read a book or to observe and let their imagination roam free.
On the first day of my trip I stood in many queues, perfect for people watching. I love watching people’s actions and reactions – how they relate to each other. I love trying to guess their relationships to each other, where they have come from, where they are going, why they are going there.
It’s one of the greatest things about being a writer – even without a pen or computer, there’s so much you can do to develop your craft, just by harnessing your people watching skills and injecting your characters with some of these same traits, habits and circumstances (either real or imagined).
So I guess my tips from day one are:
- Embrace the experience.
- Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities.
- Look for traits, body language, dialogue etc that you might be able to use in your own characters and their stories.
- Have something to record your notes on.
- Use long plane flights to read good books about the craft of writing
- A lot of the time involved in writing a book actually involves thinking about your characters and their lives so allow yourself the time to do this.
- Be excited about the journey ahead.
If you have any travel tips for writers or information to share about making the most of your writing journey, please feel free to share.