Who is Clint Johnson? He’s the author of Green Dragon Codex and a mighty fine writing mentor. I’d heard about him through my writer’s group via other writers who had used his services and was pleased to learn I would be in his critique group.
I wasn’t sorry. I got a lot of good feedback, as did the other members of our group. Clint is the kind of critiquer who tells you like it is, but in a way that inspires you to go write that next better draft. So after all that I thought, why not attend his forum?
It was supposed to be about education and teaching the right way so kids became more engaged in what they were learning. But because we were a small group, he offered to do either his presentation or talk shop. In the end we opted for a quick presentation and talk shop afterward.
And this is the unfortunate part, where technology became a bane for me. Remember that old advice, save and save often? That I did not do. So I lost a good portion of the notes I took, but I’ll do my best to present the parts I do remember back up to where notes began again. (Worst feeling ever…)
He said figure out why you’re writing and the goals for writing. Remember that what your character notices or how they describe things reveals a lot about that character without having to “tell” your audience anything. He used an example of a woman walking into the room and the character describes her shoes. What kind of person immediately focuses on shoes? He said now the same woman walks into the room, but the character notices cleavage instead or other physical characteristics instead.
The point being, whatever your character notices or whatever you describe should be conveying something about the character or the story.
Craft can be learned, if you’re willing to work and put in the effort, you can write publishable stories. Discouragement is a distortion and a lie.
Writing is an emotional thing. We are conveying emotion through story. That’s what readers ultimately come for, to experience some emotion-filled story.
When you get feedback, ask yourself, is it empowering or not? I think what he means is, does the feedback give you a roadmap to something better or does it just tear you down. (Although I should note we shouldn’t assume our hurt feelings means poor feedback.)
Just remember that publishing is not fair. Don’t think that somebody is the end all be all. Nobody has the capacity to tell you that you’re a bad writer.
The way you describe things can give some emotion. The things you don’t say does that too. And then there are the things you think reveals it. If you combine that all and it doesn’t feel heavy-handed, you’ve got it (meaning good writing or a good scene/story).
You can have a person say “I love you” and actually mean “I hate you” or vice versa. We never use the words of these emotion, we just use elements of the story that put all of that into our minds. An emotional word is a flag because you haven’t figured out how to show that emotion. Emotion is usually the thing that comes last.
You’re in good company if you struggle with that. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of trial and error. You know what it feels like.
I really appreciated this idea of using world description as a way to reveal your character or how they are feeling without saying: Jane was scared or the like. Show us that Jane is scared. Write it in a way that we can come to no other conclusion but that Jane is scared.
What did you think? Any tidbits you agree with? Any you would add?
More notes coming tomorrow. See you then!
13 thoughts on “WFC – Clint Johnson Panel”
“Kate was pleased with this post.”
Aww, crap. I did it again.
Telling! *points* She’s telling! I’m telling that she’s telling. Somebody!
Stop tattling on my telling! *sticks tongue out*
I agree with all the tidbits, especially the part about empowering feedback. It’s difficult, mainly for beginning writers, to know what’s useful and what’s harmful when being critiqued. Clint Johnson spells it out pretty simply.
I’m glad you found some useful tidbits. Yeah, Clint does a very good job. How do you sort out what’s useful and what’s harmful?
I guess the best question you can ask yourself is, “Does this feedback improve the story I’m trying to tell or does it take things in another direction?” I find that to be a good rule of thumb for me, anyway. A lot of times, the person providing the feedback is unintentionally trying to put things in their voice
I agree. I tend to try and understand what they’re saying is the problem and address that rather than follow their suggestions blindly. Maybe it’s just a problem of mine, because I’m a very honest critiquer, but have you ever run into people whom you feel like are trying to take revenge because they thought you were attacking them personally?
That’s a great way to provide feedback! And yes, I’ve run into folks like that. They tend to be fairly new writers who feel they have natural talent and aren’t really looking to improve, but instead are seeking praise. I’ve learned to move past those as quickly as possible and focus on those who genuinely want to get better.
Aaaah, the natural talent ones. What? Hard work? No, I was born with gold dripping out of my pen. 😉
Oops, meant great way to “accept” feedback, not “provide”. My comments could use some critiquing. 🙂
I figured that’s what you meant. Blame it on autocorrect? 😉
Great summary Jae (especially from memory)! I barely write a few words without automatically hitting CTRL + s on my keyboard. I don’t even think about it anymore. Guess I’m a bit paranoid about losing stuff and it hasn’t happened often, but when it does … AHHHHH! 🙂
But back to the tips – these are great reminders. “An emotional word is a flag” — I’m going to go through my WIP, search for as many flags as I can find (I’m sure there are many) and see what I can do about them. Thanks again.
It does help with editing when you know how to search for flags.
I think I could do to be a bit more paranoid like you. I’d still have my notes, after all. 😦