Monday, June 20, 2011

David Farland's Professional Writer's Conference

Or, How Dave Ruined Movies as Entertainment, Too.

Last week, my sister and watched "Second-hand Lions," a coming-of-age story about a young man,Walter's, attempts to find a place in this world after his mother drops him off with his wacko uncles (Best line in the movie is when Walter and his mom first arrive and Uncle Hutch asks the other brother "Did you call for a hooker?") Great movie.

I couldn't help pointing out Walter's first try-fail cycle as he begs his mom not to leave him and she drives off anyway. Later I pointed out how Uncle Hutch is a classic hero- impetuous, brave to the point of foolishness, loves only one woman his whole life, and brings a sword for his enemy to fight him with, because as we all know, a real hero would never take advantage.

At which point she told me to go away. I held my tongue after that, but oh, the plot points I dissected and the tropes I picked out. I can see how it might get really annoying. Dave suggested that we study movies when studying plot because it's so much faster than reading a book. Interesting, right? But it works.

Our class. Dave is standing behind Kevin (guy with gray hair), wearing a black shirt. I'm in the black and white shirt. 
 I can't cram a whole week's worth of classes into a blog post, even a week's worth of posts, but here are a few nuggets:

1. Editing isn't about subraction. It's about making what you've written better so that it works. Not that you'll never have to cut anything, but if you cut the things that aren't working and forget to replace them with something better, you get an over-edited story with no life.

2. If you ever get a chance to seel rights to Hollywood, don't fall for taking money on the back end. Movies NEVER make money, the money just changes pockets.

3. It's fun to laugh. I've never really gotten to know a group of writers in person before, and everybody was so funny and quick. It was awesome to be around people who can zing your funny bone with a one-liner. We seriously laughed more than we did anything else.

If you have a chance to go to an intensive workshop like this, I highly recommend it. The instant feedback from the group was great. I was a little nervous (haha- shaking in my boots is more like it), but everybody had positive and helpful things to say. Not that you can listen to everybody's advice about how to improve your story, but it's really good to get a range of reactions so you can understand how your story is hitting people.

I made some new friends, some of whom I expect to be around a long time. Dave himself was amazingly generous with his time, and I could feel how much he wants his students to succeed.

And he's hysterical. For instance, early in the week he talked about what twisted advice Hemingway gave, like telling a woman that he always writes standing up. Painters do that, but you can't write like that for long.

Dave gave his opinion that Hemingway said that to thin out the writers that were dumb enough to believe it. Dave said that Hemingway learned to write in the trenches as a war reporter, and possibly felt that if someone couldn't learn to write in the comfort of their nice safe home, then they had no business writing.

On the last day, Dave opened the floor for questions, and expressed disappointment that none of us had asked him what sort of desk he wrote at. His eyes twinkled, and he said that the real secret was to write standing on your head because all of the blood rushing to your brain would really improve the writing. Good times. 

On our two movie nights, we watched "Avatar" and the new "Star Trek" and Dave gave commentary on the movies, explaining the hero's journey and plot elements- like the reveals in Star Trek- "Surprise! It's Captain Kirk! Surprise! It's Spock! Surprise! It's Bones!" Tons of fun.

Dave isn't doing any classes for the next few years, but if he starts them up again, I highly recommend heading out to St. George. Plan for an extra few days so you can see Zion National Park and the dinosaur run.

There were writers from all over- North and South Carolina, Alaska, Idaho, Texas, California, Connecticut, Utah, Montana. I could be missing some, but you get the point. Ages ranged from 19 to about 60 years. Almost everybody was fantasy or sci-fi, and there were people literally from all walks of life. Several people who'd worked in Hollywood as writers or producing plays, some teachers, some stay-at-home moms and even a S-A-H dad. Some were already involved in self-publishing online. Some dreamt of holding their books in their hands and nothing else was even tempting.

I'm going to post a few of the "wowsers" comments that Dave made on Wednesday. I hope Summer is going well for you guys! Happy Writing!
Glutton for Punishment?