The Breathe Conference, Author Steven James, And Cutting Through The Woods

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the Breathe Writers Conference. It was a great experience, presenting from the podium, having one-on-one meetings with aspiring writers, and connecting with publishing professionals.

Steven James was the keynote speaker. He has written numerous thrillers and the Writer’s Digest Book – Story Trumps Structure and he changed my perspective on writing.

He's the cool one on the right
He’s the cool one on the right

As writers, especially in the beginning, we find ourselves listening to rules or following methods that other established writers tell us are law.

Mr. James destroyed several of those for me and set me free to reach for something higher. He said that writing a great story should be our goal. Wonderful stories are better than following rules that others have laid down for us (hence his book Story Trumps Structure).

He also said writers are strange and he couldn’t be more right.

After all, who sits alone in a room wondering what would happen if we stabbed our protagonist in the back? Or for that matter, who lays down a gauntlet of torture chambers (figuratively, emotionally, and maybe physically) for imaginary people that they are quite fond of?

Writers do.

I was challenged to go deeper, to ask questions, and blaze my own trail. Be weird. Write for a good story, not for money, fame or fortune, or an aged writer who says I have to write THIS way.

What rules are you following now that may not be right for you?

No writing path is the same.

I hope you cut through the woods.

5 thoughts on “The Breathe Conference, Author Steven James, And Cutting Through The Woods

  1. Bob–Gotta tell you that your class was pure gold for me. I’m soaking up the notes I’d taken. What I loved is that, yeah, Story Trumps Structure, but you sure helped this writer out by reminding her that every project is different and sometimes Structure Roots Story. Here’s a verse I’d pondered a day or so before your class, one of those rare deals that come along and your gut says, Heads up, this is a Writing Verse: “Prepare your work outside, and make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house.” Proverbs 24:27. That verse made way for the stuff I got from you–confirmed my gut. The story I’m working on is different from what I’ve done before, and requires far more structure and root than I’d given it. My notes from your class are gorgeous! Thanks a million! I hope you teach this again at a Jot!

  2. Whoops–also meant to say, yep: no writing path is the same. No book is the same. We create our own apparatus for telling a story, and sometimes, our apparatus needs to shift so we can tell it the way it wants to be told. I’m doing two things I haven’t done in a very long time, with my current story: I’m telling it in a P.O.V. that I don’t usually use, and I’m rooting it in structure, Tolkien style–going after history, place, society, atmosphere. (Sound familiar?) And I’m taking my time to do it. (Another rarity for me.) But these three variables come from my gut for this particular project, and my gut says yes, I’m on the right track. Blazing a new trail. Wary, but exhilarated. Bret Lott: “Write what you don’t feel like you can write. Write something you don’t know HOW to write.”

    1. Tracy, I have to admit when I saw you in the class I thought two things. One, oh no, an award winning writer is in here, I’d better be good! and then, shouldn’t she be teaching this class?

      In all seriousness, I am humbled that I could have helped contribute to your project in any way and thrilled you found value in the workshop. I love to teach and encourage, it’s what I want my life to be about. I plan to be brave and send my YA fantasy book out for another round of rejections in the next week to two.

      Here’s to stepping out into the unknown!

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