Monday, September 12, 2016

An Immersion Excursion by Nola Passmore



A few weeks ago, I was immersed.  Totally submerged.  Out of my depth.  Drowning in a sea of visceral responses.  Diving for a fresh metaphor.  And loving it!

The occasion was a writing immersion course run by the inimitable Margie Lawson (pronounced Marj-ie, as in Marge Simpson only without the blue hair).  Over three full days and two half days, we lapped up fabulous instruction, applied lessons to our manuscripts, discussed examples, and worked one-on-one with Margie to make our words dance off the page.

So who is Margie Lawson?  She's a former psychologist who now helps authors use psychological techniques and other insights to empower their writing.  Through her own analysis of hundreds of top-selling novels, she's developed a deep-editing system to help you analyse your own manuscript and lift the prose from mediocre to stellar.  Many of her immersion graduates have secured publishing contracts and some have even gone on to write New York Times bestsellers.




As the name 'immersion' suggests, it was pretty intense.  The full days went from 8:30 am until 8:30 or 9:00 at night and we also discussed work over lunch and dinner.  But there was a lot of variety, laughter, and M & M's to keep us going.  (Thanks to hosts Sheila and Shane for the never-ending supply of snacks!)

The preparation was also intense.  In order to do the immersion class, we had to first complete three of Margie's 'lecture packets' that are available online: Empowering Characters' Emotions; Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues; and Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices and More.  The 700 or so pages of lecture notes are filled with tools and exercises to help you take your writing to the next level.  If you feel daunted at that volume of lecture notes, don't be.  They're easy to read, packed with examples from best-selling novels, and laced with Margie's sense of humour and encouragement.  She cheers you along and helps you believe that you can write a page-turner.


I wanted to do the immersion course because I knew there were areas of my writing that needed improvement.  I can write clearly and accurately, but readers rarely say, 'Oh you must read so-and-so's new novel.  It's really clear and doesn't have any typos.' Readers want an engaging plot, well-developed characters, and prose that leaps off the page.  I still have a lot of work to do, but the immersion class gave me strategies to help me write fresher and empower my manuscript with body language, rhetorical devices and subtext.

The more polished and original our writing, the greater chance we'll have of landing an agent or publisher.  However, that's not the whole story.  If we're called to write and have a God-given ability or talent in that area, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of that gift.  Why would we want to send a mediocre manuscript out into the world?  We owe it to ourselves and our readers to produce the best work we can.

Margie is based in Colorado, but will be back in Australia in February/March to run more immersion classes in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.  Hopefully there will also be a one-day workshop in Toowoomba.  I'll post a message when the dates are finalised.  In the meantime, why not download one of the lecture packets from Margie's website and try it out for yourself?  I'd suggest starting with 'Empowering Characters' Emotions'.

Writing a bestseller isn't guaranteed. However, if you have a teachable spirit and are prepared to work hard to hone your craft, your writing will shimmy and shine in ways you never thought possible.


Nola Passmore's short fiction, poetry, true stories, articles and devotions have been published in magazines, journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas.  She and her husband Tim operate a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. She is currently polishing and revising her debut novel.  Based on Margie's advice, she's still working out how to 'Save Essie!'

www.thewriteflourish.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/TheWriteFlourish


22 comments:

  1. Thanks, Nola for the update on Margie's immersion class. So many writing friends have done one of them now and speak so positively about them that I must see if I can make the Sydney one in 2017.

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    1. You won't regret it, Ian. But get in quick. Word is spreading and they fill up fast. I've done a lot of writing courses, but got so much new info from this one. I think it will take me a year to apply everything I learned :) Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  2. This is great, Nola. It was so good, wasn't it? Go Essie!
    Don't forget to pop over and read my post if you have a chance:

    BLOGSPOT, my premier blog: http://dencovey.blogspot.com.au/2016/09/iwsg-post-is-our-writing-ever-good.html

    or if you prefer WORDPRESS:

    https://denisecovey.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/iwsg-post-is-our-writing-ever-good-enough-theres-help-out-there/

    Can't wait til next Feb/March! I've said YES to hosting at Peregian Beach.

    Denise :-)

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    1. That's fantastic news about the Peregian Beach option. Am hoping we can work out a date for a one-day experience in Toowoomba. Great blog from you too, Denise. I really valued those one-on-one times too. My head's exploding from that information alone. Good luck with the rest of your manuscript.

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    2. Wow, Denise - that's fantastic that you're hosting. Great post and it was a wonderful experience.

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  3. Thanks for the post Nola. It was a superlative experience - I learnt so so much over the 5 days. I especially like that Margie showed me what I could do rather than a litany of can'ts (ie can't use adverbs, can't use creative speech tags, etc, etc). It was interesting reading an excerpt of 'Ruhanna's Flight' at the Omega Writers Book Fair - and noting that I had already been using fresh visceral responses and dialogue cues with subtext - but Margie's Immersion has expanded that repertoire and given me ways of keeping it fresh and compelling. A full day workshop next year is a fantastic idea.

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    1. Thanks Jenny. I was looking at a short story that I've recently had published and can see at least two places on the first page that I would write differently now I've been Margi-fied :) But it's all a learning curve. I knew I was really bad at body language and visceral responses, so it's given me a lot of great tools. Now I just have to apply them! Thanks for your comment, and so glad I could do the immersion with you and Raelene :)

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    2. Yes, I can see heaps of places in my current WIP that I can write fresher and stronger, especially with body language. It was wonderful doing the Immersion with you and Raelene :) Hoping others get to enjoy the Margie experience.

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  4. So pleased you enjoyed your Margie experience! I got a lot out of mine as well.

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    1. Thanks Iola. One of the main reasons I did it was because I'd heard such great things from those of you who'd done one. Has also helped with editing too. I'm much more on the lookout now for rhetorical devices, 'un'fresh writing and invitations to skim :) Thanks for your comment.

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  5. You've described immersion very well. This line: readers rarely say, 'Oh you must read so-and-so's new novel. It's really clear and doesn't have any typos,' says it all.

    We all want to engage readers and Margie's courses help develop those skills.

    Great blog!


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    1. That's so true, Elaine. I totally reworked the beginning of my novel after the class and it's so much better. Now just have to do that to the other 70 000 words - LOL Thanks for your comment.

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  6. I assume the class is just for fiction? Does she run anything for non-fiction writers?

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    1. Hi Susan - Yes, it is geared more for fiction writers. To my knowledge, she doesn't run any for non-fiction, though some of the rhetorical devices she teaches would still apply.

      For non-fiction, the best book I've come across is still Lee Gutkind's "You Can't Make This Stuff Up", which I think you might already have? He also goes through methods for analysing your non-fiction work.

      Creative non-fiction uses a lot of the same principles, such as dialogue, character development, story arc, specific imagery, strong verbs etc. However, Margie's courses are aimed at novelists (and would-be novelists).

      Thanks for your comment. I should have clarified that.

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  7. I can very well imagine the fun you had at the workshop, and its influence shows in this post. Thank you for telling us about Margie (I had never even heard of her), and thanks even more so for the tip regarding Lee Gutkind's book. I have ordered it :) I hope I will meet you in person at the Sydney writer's weekend in October?!

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    1. Thanks for your comments Margaret. It will be great to finally meet you at the conference. A bunch of us are coming down from Toowoomba. I hope you like Lee Gutkind's book. I found it really valuable. Take care.

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  8. Great post Nola and sounds like a wonderful learning experience. Looking forward to reading your novel especially now that it's getting "Margie-fied"! :) I'm sure it will be a winner!

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    1. Thanks Anusha. I was working on Chapter 1 again yesterday and was reminded how long it's going to take me to Margie-fy it - LOL But it will be worth it. Lots of valuable lessons to apply.

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  9. Love this, Nola. I have a photograph in my head of your face while there. The smile goes on for a mile. I don't have that. I am on the farm by my writing self. We have no other writers here. And Asheville is over an hour away. So I have to depend on you guys. I felt like I was there. I could reach out and touch you.

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    1. Oh Robyn, I'm sorry you're so far away from other writers. I know it's not the same as meeting with people face-to-face, but have you tried any online critique groups? Margie and others at her writing academy also run online courses where participants interact with each other and have critique partners. Or maybe others in your area will be inspired by your writing and want to join you to learn your secrets. I'm glad we can share with you on this forum. Take care my friend xx

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    2. Hey beautiful Robyn. I too am sad there are no writer friends near you. I wonder if you would think of starting a writer's group? Perhaps that's what God's whispering to you today? :) Or perhaps you should zoom over here on my magic carpet to join us! Praying for more writing connections for you right where you are while keeping you connected to us too!

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