Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Applying What You Learn at Conferences

I was recently blessed with the opportunity to hear Debra Dixon, author of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

I first heard of "GMC" through Seekerville.  Here are a few great posts:

Tina Radcliffe on Why I Love GMC
Deb Dixon's Seekerville Post
GMC Chart for One of Missy Tippens' Books

Wow, this was a packed conference.  I was even fortunate enough to connect with a few ACFW members and find out information about some of the face to face groups and opportunities in my area. 

One of my most valuable conference takeaways was the fact that Debra asked us to take two sets of notes.  One on what she was saying and another set entitled "My Story."  She explained that our story and application should be the bulk of our notetaking.

Now I have to admit I do try to apply what I learned to my story, but taking this set of notes made me far more conscious of the fact that if I don't apply what I learn I've wasted my time.

Debra first had us write down our expectations of the day, what we were specifically hoping to learn in terms of improving our story.  I plan to take note of this from now on when I listen to audio conferences.

So I asked myself: How can I build sense of urgency even further in the scene where Rachel ______________(her action)?

I named the starter goal in my story, then listed items that gave Rachel's goal increased urgency.  Examples for this particular character are: abuse, her own thought processes, fear of being replaced, and the loss of a family member.

In which spots along the way do I need to make Rachel's goals more clear?  When the characters' goals have changed is it obvious to the reader?  How can I ramp up the conflict in every single scene?

I find as a result of the conference I am asking these questions as I write my scenes.

I really suggest if you're having a hard time putting GMC into practice, journaling the GMC for several movies.  Once you've done that I think it really helps charting the goals, motivations, and conflicts of your characters to come more easily.

Have you ever attended a conference or listened to relevent audio on writing?  What tips do you have that have helped you apply what you've learned to your writing?


Tamika said...

I haven't had the privilege of attending a writing conference yet. Soon, Lord willing. I do hope that I will take every advantage to strengthen my story!

Susan Anne Mason said...

I first attended a Debra Dixon all-day workshop at our Chapter meeting and was blown away. I ordered her book the next day and now I always start my books with GMC charts for each character.

A huge help in my writing! I recommend it to any writer who has never heard of her. Easy to read and lots of relatable examples. (You'll never look at the Wizard of Oz in the same way again! LOL)


Casey said...

Hope everything is going well for you today, Julia!

I find that listening to conference recordings has become as enjoyable as listening to an audio drama for me. As for reading books, highlighting! Then going through and reading over the highlights again. You pick up even more the second time around. :)

Pepper said...

Sounds like a power-packed conference, Julia. Wow, what fun!!
I'm very visiual. Watching movies and plotting them/doing GMC is something that helps me. It was a great help to me to do the plot structure of Tangled and look at the internal/external goals of the movie. How much more would I learn if I broke it down into 'scene' goals. WOW!!!

Angie Dicken said...

I am learning to focus in on my scenes now that I have the overall GMC for the story...I just recently heard of keeping GMC in mind for each scene...it has made such a difference in my writing. This sounds like a great book.

Julia said...

OK, blogger really needs to work on the comment feature. I took Casey's advice and logged in under URL this time around. Thanks, Case :)


I hope you have the opportunity to go to a conference. If you don't have one nearby or lack the funds there are so many audio workshops you can listen to. I think starting each book with a GMC chart for every character is a great idea and one I hope to implement with my next book.

Susan Ann,

I agree. I have definitely entered a new era of movie watching after hearing Debra Dixon.


Thanks! Yes, I love listening to CDs and I wish I could have been able to record Deb's talk because there were things I wanted to ponder further.


It was great fun! I love Tangled. I haven't really written scene goals down but I've found now I sort of do them in my head each time I start a new scene.


To be honest, I haven't read the book yet, but it is definitely in my TBR now.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I get excited and energized attending conferences. Ideas flow like rivers for months after. I equally enjoy conference cds because I can play them over and over to hear what I missed the first time. Of course, like Casey said, the advantage to books is highlighting what pertains to me personally. I highlight different colors each time I go through a book. That helps me see what I've learned, and am lacking.
Great post :)

Julia said...

Different colors, that's a great idea. Thanks, Mary!!

Beth K. Vogt said...

Wow, I liked the idea of two sets of notes!
The best way for me to apply information/technique from a conference or workshop is to repeat the workshop. That's why I've attended Susan May Warren's Deep Thinkers Retreat twice--and plan to go again.
And it's also good to partner with someone else who is working through the same information so we can talk it out together.

Julia said...


Great idea. I would love to go to a Susan May Warren retreat. I love listening to her on audio though. Great idea about partnering with someone who is working through the same thing.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oooh, that sounds like a great conference. There's so many things we can ask ourselves about each scene or each character, and knowing what our weaknesses are is a great place to start. I've been to the ACFW national conference, and a smaller one-day ACFW conference and they were both amazing. One of the most helpful things I learned was about what genre I write and who it will appeal to, as well as editing tips.