In Conclusion…

Hey all,calendar_25

We’ve had a great time talking about conventions, conferences, workshops, and seminars throughout the month. We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. I wanted to take a minute and summarize our posts for the month as well as mention a couple of venues that didn’t quite fit into our schedule:

Some local conventions:

The big babies:

Workshops and seminars:

  • Superstars Writing Seminar (mention fictorians when you sign up and receive a free, autographed copy of one of Kevin J. Anderson’s books)-Colorado in May
  • Caravel Writing Workshop (6-day cruise with David Farland, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, and Grammar-girl Mignon Fogarty; from Vancouver B.C. to San Diego)-October
  • David Farland’s Writing Workshops (mention fictorians when you sign up and get $20 discount or dinner with Dave)-throughout the year, most in Utah, but not all
  • Dean Wesley Smith Workshops (online also available)-Oregon, varying dates

These aren’t all the workshops and conferences in existence. There are many more. But these are the ones fictorians members have either attended or heard good things about. As you plan your year, and plan your goals for the year, we hope this list can help.

Stay tuned next month as we talk about romance in writing: levels of heat, as a main plat and a sub-plot, where to get information and instruction, writing different types of relationships, relationship conflicts…. It’s going to be a good month.

Novel Rewriting Workshop and Other Dave Wolverton Semimars

Did you every have one of those stories that you know “missed it by that much”? I did. While there were some obvious fixes I knew I needed (like beefing up my descriptions), there was a fundamental flaw in the story that I couldn’t get my hands around. The story was sick and needed help. So, I took my baby to a professional.

Let me back up for a second, the story I’m talking about is my trunk novel. I’ve been picking at it for far too long. The first draft was well over 300,000 words. I know. I know. So, I broke it into three books. The problem was that the first book’s story arc was high on the Character quotient of Orson Scott Card’s MICE scale. For those who don’t know, I’m going to vastly oversimplify this. Card broke stories down to four archetypes – Milieu (setting), Issue, Character, and Event. A character story is mostly concerned with the character’s internal journey. So, the book ended when my main character transitioned from spoiled, self-centered twit to taking responsibility for the greater community, and before the promisDavid Farlanded big battle. A lot of the comments I received was that “nothing happened” in the story. So, books one and two became book 1. But I still had what I called a “pacing” problem. I didn’t know how to fix it. Hence, the trip to the book doctor.

The book doctor of choice and the stated course of therapy? David Farland’s Novel Rewriting Seminar. Dave is a New York Times Bestselling writer who has been translated into many languages and trained a number of #1 New York Times bestsellers, like Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, and Stephenie Meyer. His latest novel, NIGHTINGALE, has won eight awards. So, the ability to hear him speak, much less take a class from him, is an amazing opportunity.

This seminar focuses on editing. In order to attend, you have to submit a sample to Dave and be accepted. You’re committing to a lot of homework, both before and during the workshop. We had a reading list which ensured all participants were starting with the same base knowledge.

All participants send in the first 100 pages and a synopsis of their stories. Part of the pre-seminar homework is to read the first 20 pages and synopsis of the other workshop stories. Getting to read and critique other stories, when you do so honestly, is a learning experience. What do I mean by “critiquing honestly”? I mean not cutting down a story just to cut it down. Your plan should always be to help the writer improve the story. realizing that your comments are just your opinion and you’re not any smarter or better than any other writer. Use critiquing as a way to help someone, but also as a means of seeing what you are doing that might be hurting your own writing.

The work doesn’t end when you get to the workshop. This isn’t a seminar where you can sit back and zone out. Each day, we went over two or more of the workshop stories, discussed story structure and elements, and were given homework that applied the topics discussed. We each left with 10 other perspectives on our story. Another fabulous excercise we did was disecting the story-telling elements in The Hunger Games movie. Many of the workshop participants would go out to lunch or dinner together. We built a community there.

Each participant meets with Dave to go over his comments on the first 100 pages of your novel. I have to say the time spent with Dave was worth far more than the price of admission. Not only is he a genuinely wonderful person, but he has so much insight and experience over the entire entertainment industry. I could have spent hours talking to him about everything from game design to movie making to publishing, and barely dipped my toes in the well of information and experience that he has. Dave pointed out some of the things I knew needed work – my descriptions of places and people were thin. But he also articulated the bigger problem I was having, and a way to address it.

What was the best thing about the workshop? That’s a hard question. The people I met there are wonderful. The knowledge I gained was invaluable. But, I have to say the best thing about the workshop was leaving knowing what I had to do, and that I could accomplish it.

Dave has a workshop for whereever you are in your writing career. He has a host of new writing classes scheduled for 2013 available at workshops. These range from his new Short Fiction Master’s Class, to his Million-Dollar Outlines, Novel Revision class, and Fiction Mastery Class. While there is some overlap between the seminars, each focuses on a different aspect of the craft of writing. I can’t wait to attend some of the other ones.

As if the workshops weren’t cool enough, if you go to to any of his workshops and mention that “I heard about it through the Fictorians,” Dave will buy you a free dinner with him (if time allows), or he’ll give you $20.

If you have the choice between dinner with Dave or $20, take the dinner. Every time.

So please check out his workshops here.

After the Con

There are a lot of reasons to go to a convention, as our posts this month have demonstrated pretty clearly. That said, most of those reasons fall into the broad category of furthering your writing career. Yes, you might go to San Diego Comic-Con to catch a glimpse of your favorite celebrity, but the various professional cons we’ve showcased are typically for people who are trying to make inroads, either with publishers and editors or with potential fanbases. In short, it’s all about meeting people and forging relationships that will help take your career from Point A to Point B.

But relationships don’t just happen; they have to be cultivated. You don’t just meet someone at the bar one night and then…

Okay, maybe that’s a bad example.

Except that it’s not-at least, not in the context of a professional con. We’re not talking one-night stands here. Whether it’s Worldcon or WFC, a chance encounter with an editor or agent at the bar, in the elevator, or in the booth next to you at dinner has the potential to make a big difference in your career. Exchanging pleasantries is only the first step. A compelling elevator pitch only gets your foot in the door. A business card, no matter how well designed it may be, won’t secure you a publishing contract. And yet, this is probably all you have time for while you’re at the con, because time is a commodity, and over the course of a single weekend it’s very limited. Come Monday morning, it’s wheels up and everyone goes their separate ways.

Going to the con, it turns out, was the easy part. Getting up the courage to approach that award-winning author was nothing but preamble. You made your first impression, and hopefully it was a good one. Now it’s time for something infinitely more difficult-staying in contact with the people you met.

Bear in mind that you’re not going to forge a fruitful relationship with everyone you exchanged a business card with, but some of those connections will pay big dividends. Maybe you’ll stay in touch with a group of fellow writers, forming a critique group. That happened to me. Maybe you’ll get the opportunity to send your completed novel to a purchasing editor from a major publishing house. That happened to me, too. The key is to strike while the iron’s hot-an irritating cliché, perhaps, but an instructive one. It’s okay to take a day or two to cool off, but within the week be sure to follow up with the people you met. After those initial few weeks, you may find that the opportunity has passed you by.

My main piece of advice is that you should be careful not to be an irritant. Editors, agents, and other professionals are busy people and may not respond to you the same day. In the same way that you hopefully didn’t present yourself as a desperate, needy person at the con, be professional and patient in your dealings with people afterward. Make sure that they remember you for the right reasons.

And of course there’s one other big thing that usually happens after the con: increased fervor and productivity. Take full advantage of the momentum boost and cruise through your current work in progress. There’s nothing like a weekend of schmoozing with professionals to inspire you to greatness!

Sail To Success – a unique Writing Workshop

Any of you trying to decide whether to take that cruise to the Bahamas or attend a writing workshop? Well, now you can do both! The Sail to Success writing workshop combines the awesome vacation experience of a Bahamas cruise with a professional level writing workshop.

I attended this year’s first-ever workshop, and it was well worth the cost, which was higher than some other venues, given that we combined a vacation with a small group workshop with top talent.

When I heard about the Sail to Success writing workshop, I had to go. Not only was the venue uniquely enticing (I’d never cruised before), but the line-up of faculty presenting to the small group was outstanding. Presenters included:

Wow. And the reality lived up to the expectation.

The workshop proved extremely productive, although being on a cruise ship proved to be a challenge as well as a great benefit. It was a little difficult to focus on class time while the ship was docked in Freeport or Nassau.

The class schedule was intensive: from 8 AM to noon, and from 6 PM to midnight most nights. We managed to slip ashore in the afternoons, but lacked the time for extensive excursions like scuba diving (we had to return to the ship by 4:30). Luckily, my wife came along since the purchase included cruise for two, and she vacationed for both of us while I sat in class.

I didn’t mind. The classes were excellent. Not only did we receive excellent instruction on craft from Nancy Kress, but we learned from these long-time, successful professionals about the nuts and bolts of the publishing business.

The highlights of the class were the critique sessions from Nancy Kress and Toni Weiskopf. Nancy reviewed samples of our writing from an editor’s perspective, and provided wonderful feedback. Toni reviewed other samples from her perspective as a purchasing editor. What a rare opportunity to sit with a publisher and see exactly how they look at your work. It proved enlightening, and a little scary.

Toni receives over a thousand manuscript submissions per month. When she considers those submissions, she’s not looking for reasons to like a manuscript. She’s looking for any excuse to stop reading, and to give that submission the dreaded “red mark of doom’. It might come in the first paragraph if she sees it’s not the type of story they’re looking for, or it might come on page two when she finds herself confused, or sees too many grammatical mistakes. If she can’t find a reason to throw the manuscript away quickly, then it just might be a work she’d consider reading further. Of the fifteen students in the class, only three of us earned that distinction, which was a rare moment of validation.

The only complaint about those critique sessions was the lack of time. Given the time constraints, feedback was limited to 7-10 minutes per manuscript. It just wasn’t enough time. However, in 2013 the program will be structured slightly different. Each student will select if they want a critique from Nancy or from Toni, not both, although all students will get to sit in on both critique sessions and hear the reviews of all of the submitted works. That should allow for more time per submitted work.

So overall, this workshop proved well worth the investment in time and money, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who’s a serious aspiring writer.