~ Step by Step ~

Posted: September 1, 2022 in books, creativity, Fiction, notebook, Story, Top Tips, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Last weekend, I went to our local writer’s festival. It was fantastic. I learned a lot and thought I’d share some of the content over the next few weeks. My first event was the Step by Step writer’s workshop, run by bestselling author, Graeme Simsion. It was an intensive hour and a half of Graeme ‘drilling us’ as he put it with information. I wrote copious notes in my big old notebook. In this ancient tome, I have kept notes I’ve taken during writing workshops, courses, and lectures dating back thirty years. My friend from the Fabulatores (we’ve decided on the name now!) may have been surprised at how much I was writing. But, I have learned from experience you can never keep enough notes. My memory is faulty, and if I don’t record the tips, I’ll have forgotten half of the content by morning.

Graeme based the workshop on his method of working, detailed in his recently published The Novel Project: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Novel, Memoir, or Biography. Billed as a simple guide to the writing process, he led us from premise to proofreading. A fast speaker, Graeme crammed a lot into an hour and a half. I had to write like the wind trying to keep up with him. He gave us an overview and then detailed his process of how to write a book in a series of concrete steps, as well as giving tips on how to develop character and what drives a good story.

At first, I thought I had made a mistake being there when Graeme made it clear that the class was for planners, whereas I am a pantser. In other words, I don’t plan anything. I set up the right conditions for my writing schedule and then write whatever comes into my little head. Graeme made it clear from the outset of his lecture that this was a formal planning approach. I hadn’t realized that key detail when I decided to take the workshop. Yet, I liked when he said that even if we were pantsers, perhaps one day in the future we might decide our approach wasn’t working anymore, then knowing how to plan a novel would be a great backup. “Think of it as a safety net.” That sounded sensible, so I stayed, and it turned out I took copious notes and learned an astonishing amount.

Graeme said he starts from the top with his stories; he likes to start with the concept at the outset, nailing down his soundbite or elevator pitch. As a teacher, he said he had met countless writers who could not tell him in a statement their story concept, which is a big mistake. Once he sorts out his story concept, Graeme works on a synopsis for the whole story, detailing the plot, the characters, and their decisions. He said a book should have an inciting incident to kick things off, a few key events hopefully linked to the characters’ decisions, a couple of things to twist the plot around then a resolution.

Graeme had other excellent tips too. I could see myself using his idea for a “bucket of scenes.” When brainstorming the content for our stories, Graeme advocated having an actual bucket and using index cards to jot down a couple of ideas each day using the cards. We can then toss the cards into the bucket, aiming for 180 per book, though we might only use 120. Usually, when I’m roughing out a new book, I catch notes on serviettes and the backs of envelopes, grabbing whatever is to hand. I liked the idea of using index cards and getting more organized in my approach. Gee, thanks, Graeme. You see how I’m changing already.

I love Graeme Simsion’s bio. He was born in New Zealand, became an IT consultant and the author of two nonfiction books on database design, and then decided at the age of fifty to turn his hand to fiction and virtually became an overnight success. His first novel, The Rosie Project, published in 2013, has been sold in forty languages and the movie rights have been optioned to Sony Pictures. The two sequels altogether sold more than five million copies.

There was such a wealth of information in this one workshop that I can’t fit it all into one post. I will write follow-up posts, More Step by Step, and Even More Step by Step at later dates.

What a fabulous evening. I might be a pantser writer, however, it never hurts to learn new tricks. There is power in information. What do you think?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

“If I get writer’s block I lower my standards.” ~ Graeme Simsion


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  1. davidprosser says:

    If I get writers block I learn to live with it.9 years so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a very worthwhile event.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bagderasimon says:

    Bonjour à vous deux !!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You looked like you were enjoying yourself. That’s wonderful. I don’t live in an area close enough to any writing retreats any longer. Darn. I miss being with writers. Happy IWSG Day, Yvette.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Happy IWSG Day, Joylene! The funny thing is we took a few pics and when I first saw this one I wanted to delete it. Yet, now it’s my fave because it captures how happy I was to be back at another writer’s festival. Perhaps sometime you could plan a weekend trip to coincide with a writers conference/festival and just treat yourself to one? 🙂


  5. […] play with.” See the ‘bucket of scenes’ method in my first post on this subject, Step by Step.Organizing the story: “Put the cards (from your bucket of scenes) in order. Usually, the […]


  6. Thanks Yvette for all these tips. I will shortly read through the step by step 2 and 3. Wishing you a delightful spring.


  7. […] When brainstorming the content for our stories, Graeme advocated having an actual bucket and using index cards to jot down a couple of ideas each day using the cards. We can then toss the cards into the bucket, aiming for 180 per book, though we might only use 120. ~ From my blog post, Step by Step […]


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