LUW Conference – Notes Part 4

PLOT DEVELOPMENT by Maxwell Alexander Drake

Accept what type of writer you are. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter or a little bit of both, know how you work and work with yourself. If you must outline things and spend time on the front end plotting out arcs and character development, spend the time and get it right. If you prefer flying by the seat of your pants and discovering what your story is by writing it with lots of rewrites later, go for it. Either way if you think about it, you’ll be doing the same amount of work either on the front end or the back end, but neither way provides a shortcut (if you want the best story possible).

And know that if you do outline you don’t have to stick to it like it’s written in stone. If your muse takes your story in a different direction, let it. Likewise as a pantser, if you get to a point where you need to take some time and write a few things down, it’s okay to do that too.

Being prepared as a writer does cut down on writer’s block (in Max’s experience). He prefers working out the details up front so that he has a good idea of where he’s going when he does finally sit down to write it.

Create a story that resonates with the reader. As yourself: Is this story going to have an impact on the reader? It’s okay to write things for yourself, but if you’re in the business of making a living off of your writing you’re going to have to consider your audience and what will resonate with them. You can’t just right things solely for the purpose of pleasing yourself. Although you should still be passionate about your project, otherwise it won’t be a good story.


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Getting Back to Business

Fridays are usually reserved for movies, but I feel like enough has been going on lately it’s time for an update. No big news as of yet, but lots of upcoming plans and projects to be had.


First of all, I’m officially querying out SHADE. Thanks to help from a lot of you good people out there, I finally got together a good query letter. Hopefully I’ll have good news to report soon. It feels good to be back in the querying game. I certainly feel a lot more prepared this time around.


I have a couple upcoming conferences, both Utah-based. The first is one I attended last year called Writing for Charity. Last year the big name attender was Brandon Sanderson, this year it’s Shannon Hale. But there are other authors you may have heard of as well. It’s not a huge conference, it’s a one-day event only. But you can get feedback from published authors on your stuff as well as attend forums. I found it super helpful last year, so I’m attending again this year. This one is at the end of April.

The other is LDS Storymakers, and this one does have a few agents attending. The big name author for this one is Anne Perry. There are a few agents attending. The one I’m hoping to catch the eye of is Hannah Bowman. I have a few workshops with her, so hopefully something might come of that. Plus they have a sort of writer’s bootcamp which I’m looking forward to taking SHADE through. Never hurts to have some extra polish. This one is longer, I think from Thursday to Saturday. This one is the first week in may or so.

I’ll definitely post notes from both.


I think I’m going to fill a lot of my query response waiting time with seeking out and entering contests. I plan to enter something in the big Writer’s Digest Contest, but I intend to do a little flash fiction and short story writing. I think building a little clout while you’re waiting is always a good thing, don’t you?


While I’ll occasionally edit SHADE as things progress, and certainly after novel boot camp. But I’m going to see what contests I can put Trick or Tree in and I’ve got a short story that needs finishing I’ve tentatively titled Dog Shy. I think it was inspired by my Ray Bradbury reading stint. Well, probably both short stories are.

I’ve also got something from a much older WIP—this piece I think I’ll enter in the Writer’s Digest contest. I was going to use a newer project I’m working on, but I don’t think it’ll be ready in time. My older WIP I already know the characters really well, so it will be easy to take a selection and use it as a short story of sorts (or I guess I should say easier, because I know their motivations). I’m taking that to writer’s group next week.

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Developing Story Ideas

This is another prompt from the 105 Author Blog Prompts/Ideas post I spoke of yesterday. Seriously, you should go take a look. Not all 105 apply to me and probably not to all of your either, but it never hurts to have a few extra blog post ideas up your sleeve.

So the prompt:

How do you develop your writing ideas?

First I’m going to start with where my writing ideas come from: EVERYWHERE. I’m serious. It could be a movie, a book, a life event, a dream—it really doesn’t matter. Inspiration is a fickle thing, an uninvited guest that drops by, often at inconvenient times. But I’m always glad when inspiration pays a visit. Thankfully I have my smart phone to jot a few ideas down if needed. I recommend keeping something with you, whether phone or pad of paper to capture your inspiration when it comes bursting in.


Now, how do I develop my ideas? I’m a ponderer. I love to think about things. There’s never a wasted minute in my life because when I’m stuck waiting for an appointment, or—if we’re being honest—stuck in boring conversation, I think about an idea I’ve had for a story. I’ve done this nearly all my life, so now it comes fairly easy to me.

Training your brain to explore like this makes it a lot easier when the time for rewrites and revamps in your novel come. My brain is already used to thinking up different possibilities, so when I give it the bad news that the story must change, it immediately goes to work and presents me with options.

Although there are plenty of occasions when I can’t use anything my brain comes up with and send it skulking back to the drawing board. But struggling like that makes my imagination stronger and teaches it to reach beyond the typical in the future. That’s how I feel like it’s been progressing lately.


I may give something a lot of thought, or a little. But I also couple the thinking with pen and paper brainstorming, although digital brainstorming has been known to happen. I just like the idea of being able to trace where my thoughts went on the pen and paper. Sometimes the digital brainstorming is too clean. There are still times when I’m doing graphic design that I have to sketch it out on paper, even if it’s rough, before actually designing it.

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