Seven Sentences Seminar Registration is Open
I’ve now published over a dozen novels, and here’s two things that seem true:
1. Gene Wolfe once said, “You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.” Every time I start a book, I try to convince myself that it’s going to be easier this time because I’ve done it so many times before, and every time I finish a book, I realize how true that wisdom is. There’s no system to getting to “the end,” just a unique problem-solving process that eventually answers all of the questions that specific story is asking.
2. The first seven sentences of a well-written novel convey an incredible amount of information about the rest of the book. Tone, setting, character, theme. I’ve been asked many times in my profession to just jot down a page or two so folks know what I’m working on. That’s impossible for me to do quickly. If I’ve figured out enough of my story to be able to write seven killer sentences into a document, I know enough to be able to finish it.
These two points combined are what brought me to the idea of the Seven Sentences seminar. Because of the first point, I’m not a huge fan of writing systems. You can plug characters into character sheets and plot points into structure charts all you like, but those only work for a certain kind of novel and only for a certain kind of writer. Anything that limits creativity by imposing too many arbitrary rules makes me wary. It would be better, I thought, to instead learn yourself as a creator — to understand the sorts of things you personally need in order to translate your amorphous idea into a story that others will fall in love with. The problem with that is that it’s daunting. When you take away short cuts and beat sheets and proven rules and pithy methods, writing can seem like a fathomless and impossible enterprise. It’s not difficult to understand why people try to explain it in smaller, more easily chewable pieces.
Which is where the second point comes in. At a workshop in 2016, Court Stevens and I taught a brief session on how to get from idea to actual drafting. Court assigned the students the task of writing the first seven sentences of one of their ideas. In order to make sure it was actually doable in the time allowed, I worked the problem alongside them with a new idea of my own. I already knew from experience that I was going to need to know an incredible amount about this story before I wrote those sentences. What I didn’t know was if I could provoke my brain into generating all of that information in such short a short amount of time. The answer was
yeah totally yeah
I mean, yes, it was a tall order to complete in an hour. But not impossible. It was harder, really, to explain how I got to those seven sentences in that short period of time. So Court and I vowed to tackle the exercise again, only this time, with more time to break down the process. That’s what the Seven Sentences seminar intends to do. We’re going to take 8 hours to teach attendees how to generate an idea and walk it all the way to seven first sentences. To get there, we’ll have to go through idea, tone, setting, character, premise and language.
it’s not a short cut
It’s helping you learn how to organize your creative thoughts and prioritize your writing decisions. It’s a way of getting to the end of a novel faster by learning how to compress doubt and know your story inside and out. We’re hoping to send attendees with seven glittering sentences and a burning desire to write all the sentences that come after them.
the nitty gritties
$190 tuition, which includes two signed books. 17 and under must attend with an adult (teachers/ parents: groups of 17-&-under only require one adult to attend with them). The waitlist folks have already taken several hundred seats, so please don’t delay registration if you want to be sure of getting a seat.
no pressure but
Registration is limited by the number of seats each venue has (generally around 200 for each), and in 24 hours, the wait-list folks have already filled several hundred of them.
Fountain Bookstore is sponsoring a few seats for those who cannot afford to go to the Richmond venue — we’ll share details when they send them to us. If you would like to sponsor a seat, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.