|Looking way too serious before the panel|
I sat on a panel Saturday that discussed writers' dilemmas and how to solve them. After sharing a few of our own problem areas, we asked the audience to share theirs.
We could have stayed all day.
The funny thing is that in the final analysis, they're the same. How to overcome a stalled story (I recommend a break, even if it takes a week or two). How to cut to a reasonable word count (I listen to the MS read by my computer. Others read it aloud to themselves or to others). How to beef up a MS that's too short (I added a subplot; others add a secondary character). How to recognize your "personal errors," those things we all do that irritate readers (I use SmartEdit, which points out how many times I used the word just or how many sentences I started with I). And how to make your characters behave (You can't. You can only react to what they've done, sometimes with horror).
What's great about such discussions isn't the sage advice the other panel members and I gave. Yes, maybe we've been at this longer and have worked out some strategies, but we're all in this together. My editors still point out things they've been pointing out for years, things I should be able to see but don't because I'm working so hard to get the story
So authors talk about writing. We trade ideas. We give enthusiastic synopses of our projects. We ask questions.
And we go away fueled up to go at it again--writing the great American mystery novel.