I attended a fabulous workshop this weekend in Nashville titled “Plotting the Novel,” sponsored by the SCBWI-Midsouth group. The speaker was Helen Hemphill, author of three award-winning books published by Front Street and edited by Stephen Roxburgh: The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones, Runaround, and Long Gone Daddy.
Helen is an excellent presenter. She divided her workshop into sections – 1) Premise, loglines, opening lines and opening page, 2) Defining the protagonist/antagonist, sequence of story, self-realization and theme. After each section we were given writing assignments that we later shared with the group.
I am not a trained writer, no MFA in literature or such, so I am always looking for workshops or seminars on the craft of writing. I find the interactive workshop very helpful. Helen discussed specifics, gave examples, and required us to apply what we learned immediately to our own work in progress. If you have the opportunity to hear Helen – go. If you would like to schedule her as a presenter for your school, writer’s group, or other group, you can contact her through her website listed above.
Lunch was also informative. One of the questions that came up at my table was, “How do you find your writing topics?” Several people said they peruse newspapers and magazine articles –old and new, for interesting stories. They find an obscure or strange aspect to the story and run with it. Others brainstormed fun titles first, or played 20 questions with a character. My first novel just “came” to me. I free wrote for several days before I decided I should probably have a plan. Like I said – not a trained writer. This time around I’m plotting first. I have a premise and logline, character sketches and an outline. Now I need to do a bit of research and begin writing.
How do you generate topics for your books?