Sunday, June 7, 2009

Debra Dixon Workshop and The "Aha!" Moment

It is my belief that a writing workshop is time well spent if you can walk away with one valuable piece of information. And if that information completely changes your writing or solves a problem, it can be called an awesome event.

Yesterday I attended an all day workshop given by Debra Dixon. She spent the morning discussing her book GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflct. The afternoon was spent discussing Christopher Vogler's book, The Writer's Journey. Both publications should be part of your personal writing library.

I have listened to Debra twice and both times I found myself busy jotting down notes about my own novel - a practice she highly recommends. It is almost as if she were my muse for the day. Her voice and presence directs me toward fleshing out my hero and heroine while she is standing there at the podeum discussing these key elments of character development. I had pages of notes before we broke for lunch. I jokingly told her I needed to listen to her speak every time I wrote a novel, but I know I should at least skim her book while writing each of mine.

This is when we come to the "Aha!" moment. Debra was discussing her own writing process, which is writing the story once through, but correcting mistakes as she goes, so it is a slow process. Mine is mult-layering. I write out a GMC chart for my characters, storyboard the suspense, character arcs, romance, etc., then type out the rough draft which is mainly dialogue and action. Later, I go back and deepen the characters emotions, the romance, and add more description. The problem is I hate going back time after time again. I am envious of those writers who can do a clean draft once through. I asked Debra if there was a trick to connecting with the emotions of your characters using the GMC chart so this would be possible. Her answer was probably not. She had not been able to change her own process either. Not exactly the news I wanted to hear.

On the way home from the workshop, I had my "Aha!" moment. I realized that when I was working on the storyboard and the first draft (dialogue and action), I was utilizing mostly my left brain. I am mainly a left-brain person. It was only when I focused on emotions and description that I forced myself more into my right brain. That explained why it had been so difficult to change my process, but it took her telling me it might not be possible to change for me to figure out why. Now, instead of fighting my process, I will embrace it and spend more time on delving into my right brain before beginning that stage, since it does not come as easy to me.

One research study reported that a second before "Aha!" moments, there is a sudden burst of high-frequency brain waves. That may be the case, but I also believe a train of thought, a new way of looking at something, must occur before your brain puts the pieces together and you feel like screaming, "Aha!"

I would like to thank Valley of the Sun RWA for flying Debra out from TN and Buffy for making the Hilton Garden Inn available to us. (Perhaps their caffeine induced that sudden burst of high-frequency brain waves.) It was an awesome event and I hope everyone had their own "Aha!" moment.


Donna Del Grosso said...

I'm sorry I missed her class. I also find myself very left brained. I do outlines, worksheets and all that stuff. Getting the emotions is a little harder for me but it gets there. Usually after I stop forcing an issue to let the characters have their way!!!

Tina LaVon said...

Good point, Donna.
Sometimes I'll think about the scene as if it were in a movie.

Tia Dani said...

What a wonderful workshop. I'm sorry I had to miss the last half of her program because I hear it was great. We can talk about it when we walk.

Donna Hatch said...

I wish I were more left brained. I'm almost totally right brained, which means during the editing process, I have to trim out a lot of rambling. It makes for a lot of edits and cutting scenes that don't really progress the story. I have found that if I do a loose outline, my right brain feels free enough to create, but cuts down on the wandering. (a little)
I had to do a ton of that to make my Regency The Stranger She Married a faster read. I admire those of you who can do story boards, etc. Good luck to us all as we "aha" and journey our way to the best sellers' list!

Carol Webb said...

It sounds like Debra's workshop was fantastic. I wish I could have made it, but I'm glad it helped you out.

Alexis Walker said...

I actually had two "Aha" moments around my current ms and went right home Saturday and wrote 5 pages! It really was an excellent workshop. Unfortunately, I'm one of those who writes the whole novel through without any revisions and then goes back in and fixes it. That means throwing out pages upon pages and adding others. I find I have more depth that way, especially with the emotions. Not sure if that's right or left brained :-)