10 Takeaways from Write on the Red Cedar


I’m returning to the real world (and blogging, apparently) on the heels of a fabulous conference put on by the Capital City Writers Association called, Write on the Red Cedar. Donald Maass was the headliner and–wow, wow, wow! My brain resembles an overstuffed suitcase! I fancy this a very good thing. 🙂

Yet recapping the event feels as confounding as math to me. So instead, I’m going to offer up 10 pearls of writing wisdom I gained from the weekend…

10 Takeaways from Write on the Red Cedar:

  1. More than plot, what we crave is meaning and emotion. We want to experience it. (Donald Maass)
  2.  Every character is the hero of his/her own story. Even the assholes believe they’re right. (Kristina Riggle)
  3. The one craft book that seemed a universal fav among many of the speakers (ahem, other than the Donald’s) was Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott. Interestingly, I got this one for Christmas… *moves to top of reading queue*
  4. Prediction #1 for 21st century fiction: There will be new levels of freedom in writing. The concept of genre is dying. Genre-bending and blending is the future. (Donald Maass) 
  5. Prediction #2 for 21st century fiction: 21st century novels will change the world. Books are now leading the way in global diversity! Authors: What legacy are you leaving? (Donald Maass)
  6. Micro-tension. This is another Maass-ism, and a true gem at that! If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’ll absolutely want to be. Because it’s that invisible force that compels you to flip page after page. It’s what makes a “page turner.” You ignore the fact you are a carbon-based life form, and decide you can live solely on the written word. See more on micro-tension here.
  7. The things we want the most are the things we’re most afraid to get. (Donald Maass) Love this so hard! And such a universal truth of being human. Are you creating these same conflicting fears and desires for your character?
  8. Readers bonding with your character is one thing. Having staying power is another. Don suggests finding 12 places in your story to give reasons for your readers to care about your character. Ideally, have one on the opening page.
  9. Identify your time stealers, space problems, and muse killers. What are 3 specific ways you can solve these issues? (Erin Bartels) Discover these answers and you will rule the world! (fictionally speaking)
  10. Some additional ways to ramp up ANY scene? Ask yourself… What has changed? What is different at the end of the scene from the beginning? Has the question deepened/become more mysterious? Did the dilemma deepen? What is said/seen/perceived to trigger the change? Mark them with symbolism. (Donald Maass)

5 Takeaways You Could Leave & Still Lead A Fulfilling LIfe:

  1. I require twice the amount of time to get ready than my roomie counterparts Alyssa Alexander and Tracy Brogan. I point a blaming finger at the Chewbacca pelt on my head.
  2. There are few things more fun than eating truffle fries at midnight in your jammys, while answering the question: What’s your worst tequila story? 
  3. It is possible to get a blister in under 20 minutes. (Alyssa proved this.)
  4. The greatest ongoing practical joke of the weekend involved a corn pad.
  5. My quest for a ficus photo op was an epic fail. I’m taking this disappointment one day at a time. 😉

A final note of thanks to Louise Ahern (CCWA president), and the entire CCWA crew for an amazing conference, and for inviting me as a panelist! Lifetime supply of hot fudge sundaes to you all! 🙂

Write on everyone!

♥ Darcy

Writer's Life
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24 Responses to 10 Takeaways from Write on the Red Cedar

  1. Charming, witty AND talented?!? Darcy, if I didn’t like you so much, I’d hate you.

  2. Oh, I love this! Thanks for the gems, Darcy, and congrats on taking part in your first panel!

  3. …furiously taking notes…

  4. Thanks for this! Is it OK for me to link to your post? My chapter is bringing in Maass in March for a workshop. I’ve heard him on an RWA recording and also read the breakout book. I’m looking forward to it.

  5. Anne Stone says:

    Awesome and accurate! Thanks for this great synopsis of the weekend. It was lovely to see you again.

  6. Nancy Gideon says:

    Great info, Darcy! Kicking self for not being there. Truffle fries . . .

    • Darcy says:

      OMG, Nancy…those truffle fries were the fruit of the Gods! So bummed to have missed you, but happy you could perhaps glean something from my notes. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Sandra Owens says:

    Sounds like a fantastic conference, Darcy, and thanks for sharing the pearls you gathered. They’re all great, but I think #2 is my favorite and something all writers should remember when writing their characters.

    I’ve heard of a lot of different quests, but a ficus photo quest is a first. 🙂

    • Darcy says:

      Haha! Well, there is a silly story behind the ficus as you can imagine. I’ll tell you in NY. 😉

      And I agree about #2 being a great reminder! I think it creates SO much more dimension and complexity to convey that even your antagonists, believe their actions/motivations are just.

  8. Melissa Keir says:

    Conferences always make me feel revitalized! This is one I MUST go to next year!

  9. Thanks for this awesome list–so jelly I wasn’t there. I love Donald Mass–his book, Writing the Breakout Novel was amazing. 🙂

    • Darcy says:

      Hey Michelle! Thanks for dropping by. So glad the list was helpful, despite your gelatinous state. 😉 Yes, I definitely recommend attending one of his workshops if you can swing it. They’re fantastic and engaging!

  10. Holly Bodger says:

    Ahem, #11. If your novel is lacking in sympathetic characters, add a sock puppet. Everyone loves a sock puppet, right?

  11. Lucy Kubash says:

    Thanks for the post, Darcy. Some interesting and helpful things to think about. Wish I could have attended, sounds like it was a great conference.

  12. Diane Burton says:

    What a great wrap-up of what sounds like a terrific conference. Wish I’d been there. I’ve heard Donald Mass before & he is very entertaining along with educational. I agree about Bird By Bird.

    • Darcy says:

      Thanks, Diane! And absolutely agree, Don was both engaging AND enlightening–great combo. Hope you can join us next year. Appreciate you stopping by! 🙂

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