June 28, 2014

Writing For Success

Writing For Success
By John R. Greenwood

My copy of Chris Millis's latest book, "God & California"
I attended a writing seminar at the Holiday Inn in Saratoga Springs today. The first half of the day focused on good storytelling and set-up; the second half of the day on the many challenges of publishing and multiple ways to get your book idea to print. There were authors, a publicist, a literary agent, an illustrator/web designer and publishers present, all of them at the ready to give advice and direction to the nearly fifty people in attendance.

I was interested, hesitant, excited, and a little nervous. I wasn't 100% sure why I was going but I was 100% sure that I was going. Things have gone that way for me over the last several years. I've learned not to question the questions, but to ride them out to the end of the wave. I have yet to be disappointed.

The Daily Double Room at the Holiday Inn was full of chatter and smiling faces when I walked in. People were spread out, in many cases with an empty seat between them. Even the most social writer tends to shy a bit. I was no exception. I am always quick to introduce myself but I sometimes trip over the smallest of questions as if being graded on the response. Even tipping the scale at the high end of my fifties I find myself fearful of being evaluated by every passing set of eyes. I may always carry that shy boy syndrome. It seems to creep up on me no matter how prepared for it I am.

I had my red and white name tag on over my heart and my $9.99 TJ Maxx backpack hanging by my side. It was stocked to the nines with my writing essentials; notebook, pens, camera, IPad, business cards, emergency Slim Jim's, 3 hour mints, and muted cell phone. I am prone to choose an aisle seat at these things. I require ample leg room in the event of a Charlie Horse outbreak. I've gotten braver over the years though, I will now levitate to the front of the room versus the furthest point from the overhead screen.

After all the presenters were introduced we were treated to two hours of author, screenwriter, producer, cartoonist Chris Millis sharing his expertise on the art of storytelling. His knowledge of the craft shown bright and his ability to share it in layman's terminology laid a solid framework for amateurs like myself. You can sense the passion Chris has for his profession. It's easy to tell he's never over-saturated with anything attached to writing or creating. His Robin Williams-like mind seems to be full throttle at all times. You get the feeling when you're around him that he's just getting started. He attributed much of his early success to Neil Landau one of his Goddard College creative writing professors. Chris said Neil was brilliant at structure. Chris emphasized that structure is one of the most important aspects of putting together a successful book, screenplay, or movie. 

The goal of this post was not to reiterate every detail of the days curriculum it's goal was to show that there are always more things to learn, more connections to make, and more views to view. Today's crowd was a cross section of young and old, male and female. All in attendance were spending a gorgeous Saturday in June in a hotel conference room for one reason, and that reason is they possess a passion for writing. Yes, the myth of the glamourous life of a writer hold up in an oceanfront loft, while churning out million dollar best sellers was pretty much squashed but the seminar was about reality. The world of publishing is changing so rapidly even the literary agent in attendance was hard-pressed to share any definitive forecast about the future of his profession. The one common conversation was that to succeed you must remain open-minded and you must keep learning ways to stay in touch with your audience. Technology is changing our world and if we plan to write for success we must not only be good at storytelling we must also be good at listening. 


  1. I'll bet you are energized by the event, John. I so hear you about the shyness and I HAVE to have an aisle seat, for bolting, if neceesary, hee hee.

  2. What popped out at me was "not questioning the questions, but learning to ride them out to the end of the wave". That's being brave, - that's joining the game, riding this wave we call life. Cherish the shy boy in you that has never hardened himself to feeling deeply. Thank you for this post.