Sunday, November 24, 2013

When A Workshop Works

A couple of weeks ago I went to a workshop - StoryMasters - that was one of the best I’ve ever attended. It was a four-day affair, run by three of the giants of the writing world: Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass.

Vogler is renowned as the man who brought to the writing world the mythic structure identified by Joseph Campbell in Vogler’s fabulous book The Writer’s Journey. Bell, in addition to being an award-winning fiction author, is also author of a couple of my staples, Plot & Structure, and Conflict & Suspense. Maass, a high-powered agent, has written what I consider to be the best revision guide on the market, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, plus a couple of other great craft books, The Fire in Fiction and Writing 21st Century Fiction.

I felt as if I’d ascended Mount Olympus. (I confess to having a fangirl moment meeting the very friendly and warm Vogler, whose book was the first I read when I began to write. And, by the way, all three of these guys were friendly and warm and totally accessible.)

Each of these masters of the craft took one entire eight-hour day to dissect and explain all aspects of story-telling. They used examples from books and movies – the entire fourth day was devoted to a scene-by-scene analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird. Their approaches were radically different and meshed perfectly (they’ve been friends for a long time, and Maass is Bell’s agent.) And they sprinkled, or in Maass’s case larded, their lectures with exercises.

It would be impossible for me to distill what I heard: I took forty-two pages of notes. I can only encourage you to check the schedule for a future workshop by one or all of these guys. The StoryMasters Workshop was sponsored through Free Expressions, and they host a number of workshops and intensives. 

This workshop resulted, once I returned home, in a frenzied revision of my WIP, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Some workshops really do rise above. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s had a similar experience – let’s share!

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