Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Shore Leave 2014 - Writing Workshop No. 1

This is the fourth posts covering events at Shore Leave 2014, a convention of artists, performers, writers, scientists, and fans of science fiction and fantasy in general that took place from August 1 through August 3, 2014 in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

This year I attended the Annual Shore Leave All-Kinds-of-Writing Workshop given by Howard Weinstein, Bob Greenberger, Dave Galanter, Bob Jones, and Kelly Meding. Although Shore Leave is mainly a Trekkie / Stargate convention, there are guests, exhibits, and workshops for those interested in other genres.

From the Shore Leave website:
Our writing workshop team has about a century's worth of professional editing and writing experience between them! They'll be sharing the fruits and frustrations of all that jazz with all interested writers at their 2 hour workshop on Saturday. Since the basics of good writing and story-telling apply to many formats, the workshop will cover TV/movie scripts, novels, short stories, comics -- and non-fiction, too.

No matter what your age or experience, if you want to be a writer -- or want to be a better writer -- here's a chance to ask questions and chat about the craft and business of writing for fun and profit! (The workshop is free.)

The workshop was to cover a wide range of subjects, but due to the vigorous discussion, we didn't cover them all. The attendees were given handouts with some good examples. At the end, we were told if we come to the Farpoint convention we could pick up where we left off. (Maybe I'll go!) .

One subject we covered (with samples provided in the aforementioned handouts) was writing dialog. We discussed the overuse of dialog tags, when they are needed, and the structure of dialog and action. A sample of published dialog where nearly every spoken line contained a dialog tag were given, and then an example without tags to show how much better it flowed while still being clear as to which character was speaking. Also covered were ways to handle multi-speaker dialog without using too many tags.

Because the sample in the first discussion was from a published book, the subject of editing was brought up. Some of the panel wondered if anyone really has their work edited anymore. They stressed the need for the author to do as much editing on their own as possible since little help may be forthcoming even from large publishing houses.

After that, we went into a talk about cliches about writing, such as "killing your darlings," or those lines that the author feels are important for a book, but an editor may wish to leave out. They emphasized that it is the author's book, and if they feel that removing it would change the character of the story, the author must be willing to fight for the lines, paragraphs, or chapters they feel are necessary. Having a reason for their inclusion helps, but the final decision must be that of the writer. It was also mentioned that the editor may bring them into question simply to understand the book better, not because there is something wrong.

There was a good turn-out for this workshop, and the people attending had quite varied interests. Most were writing novels, but those working on short stories, screen plays, and even musicals were represented.

© 2012-2014 K. R. Smith All rights reserved


  1. The discussion on editing would have been interesting. I would have liked to hear from publishing insiders on the state of editing - or lack of it - in their houses and across the industry. Do they think their audience is shrinking because of it?

    Dialogue, too, is a useful topic, eh? It's tricky to get just right so the reader doesn't notice the mechanics of it all.

    Sounds like this was a productive weekend for you!

    1. It was a better weekend than I thought it might be. I hadn't done one of these conventions before and wasn't sure what to expect.

      The authors in the group didn't feel that audiences were shrinking because of the poor editing, but they were surprised at how some books sell so well despite poor editing (or lack of editing).


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