Keep writing and keep rewriting was the unintentional theme expressed by multiple published authors at the Rose State Short Course on Writing, hosted by William Bernhardt on September 15-16, 2012. Here are few highlights (along with the fact that I won an award for my young adult manuscript, The Wedding Thief):
Phillip Margolin is a former crime attorney who has 16 New York Times bestselling legal thrillers. He said that empathetic characters and surprising plots are the two reasons a story works. Full outlining assures that he has a thorough plan for his book before he begins writing—but no Roman numerals, just writing notes about what will happen next. During his final read-through, he “reads it as if he’d paid money for it.”
Mel Odom is the author of 150+ novels, including tie-in novels for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Tomb Raider. In his humorous style, Odom shares that “funerals are the best place to go for entertainment and story ideas.” On a serious note, he said that the greatest gift from a writer to a reader is to let them know they are not alone and that all hurts have been experienced before.
Jim Tharp’s young adult novel, The Spectacular Now, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and is currently being filmed as a movie. Tharp shared his philosophy that “writers are scouts that make a trip into the unknown” and bring that information back to the reader; whether traveling into history, into the future, or into the intricacies of the heart.
Michael Wallis, a three-time Pulitzer nominee, is known as the historian of the American West. His 15 books include the topics of Route 66, Billy the Kid, and David Crockett. His distinctive voice is heard as the sheriff in the animal film Cars. He shared his childhood story of winning an essay contest about being the crossing guard. He won a dugout seat at a St. Louis Cardinals game—which led him to decide, “This writing is not a bad thing.”
Lauren Zuniga is a nationally touring poet. One line from her performance that spoke to me was, “cover the earth with your purpose.”
J. Madison Davis writes fiction and non-fiction novels, and is the president of the International Association of Crime Writers. He said that all books must fulfill the promise to shock you or change you. Unfortunately, real history doesn’t always tie together nicely with a good lesson in the end, therefore, “fiction is much more moral than history.”
William Bernhardt is the bestselling author of 29 books and founder of HAWK Publishing Group. He specializes in writing workshops, in which his skill and encouragement have resulted in many published authors. It is his belief that people read the newspaper for reality; they read novels to escape reality. Novels are “life-like,” but they have a storyline and closure.
Bernhardt offered suggestions to make characters likeable, such as an undeserved handicap or the ability to be kind to children, pets or elderly people. Of course, not all characters are likeable, but they are really good at what they do (example: Sherlock Holmes had many bad habits, but a genius for crime solving). In his closing remarks, Bernhardt reminded authors that writing is hard work that only succeeds with commitment: put in the time, expect rejection, take care of your health, and write an outline!
I was honored to interview Bernhardt at the release of his 2009 Novel, Nemesis. William Bernhardt: Lawyer, Author, Crimesolver, (Distinctly Oklahoma Magazine/May 2009)