I want to tell you more about the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference I just attended in Westminster, Colorado, September 11-13, but I’m having trouble deciding where to start. So before I begin….
Please stop by on Thursday and meet my guest blogger, Jason P. Henry. Jason is the conference director for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference which will be held in beautiful Colorado Springs, April 15-17 (with a prequel on the 14th), 2016. I haven’t attended PPWC yet because it’s down there on the other side of Denver from where I live (and I’m not a fan of driving on I-25), but I’ve heard such wonderful things about this organization and the conference that I’m seriously thinking about 2016.
I know, I might be turning into a conference junkie, but I figure it’s one more way I can learn more stuff, meet more authors, and
buy more books add more books to my To Be Read List.
Okay, back to our original discussion–my experience at the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference. Today I’ll just hit the workshop highlights.
The high point of the Friday afternoon activities was a two-hour workshop called The Joys, Pitfalls, and Techniques of Revision presented by award-winning fantasy author Carol Berg. I’ve been stuck with a couple of first-draft manuscripts for ages, paralyzed, unsure how to even get going when I seem to have so many interruptions and disruptions. One of the things I’ve tried to do is print out 30-50 pages at a time and focus on that small chunk. Then I would get distracted again and by the time I was ready for the next chunk, I’d lost the flow of the story. Continually starting over wasn’t working.
The most important piece of information I took away from Carol’s workshop was the better how-to plan.
(1) Print out the whole first draft. Place it on your worktable with a supply of legal pads (or a notebook or blank paper), pens, Post-It notes, colored highlighters, and anything else you need to record the information and ideas you’re going to discover as you do the next step.
(2) Read the manuscript carefully from beginning to end, taking notes and jotting down ideas as you go. Record page numbers on the notes so you’ll be able to find the spot needing work when you’re ready for the next step. Add Post-It notes and tabs when helpful. Use the highlighters to color-code the problems you find (overused words, telling instead of showing, stilted dialogue, etc.) Do not stop to make revisions at this time.
(3) Then finally do the revisions and rewrites. Although some writers might do all the work chapter by chapter, I think I will approach it task by task. Adding or rewriting scenes first, then fixing dialogue or fleshing out descriptions, and finally attending to the details of word choice, overused words or phrases, etc.
This was a day of attending panels. The one called Failure and Self-Doubt: The Silent Battle drew a large audience. It appears we writers are an insecure bunch, and the horror stories about publishers, dropped authors, and years of rejection are familiar to many. But when a panel of authors talks about overcoming these disasters and renewing their careers, everyone is lifted and encouraged.
The other panels I attended were those with agents and editors talking about their work and answering audience questions. These are always very informative, sometimes discouraging, but even more often, an inspiration. We had a great lineup of editors and agents at the conference this year, including two editors from Five Star. That publisher’s Frontier Fiction line has expanded to include mystery, history, romance and more and covers the period up to about 1920. I’ve been reading some of these novels (such as Michael Zimmer’s award-winning The Poacher’s Daughter) and look forward to reading more.
Chris Goff, author of the newly released thriller Dark Waters and a whole series of birdwatcher cozies, did a workshop on the Elements of the Modern Crime Novel. Chris packed a lot of information into that hour, but it was almost an unrelated piece of information that stayed with me. In a brief mention of the bestselling novel Gone Girl, Chris mentioned that the thing that bothered her most about that successful book, loved by some and hated by others, is that the cop was cheated out of solving the crime.
That was like a light bulb going on for me, especially because I was about to cheat my own cop out of solving the mystery in my work in process. It’s true. We don’t want some kind of accidental, unrelated incident to take out the villain or let him escape. We want our cops to win. Gotta go in and mark that passage with a yellow highlighter and rewrite!!
Those were just the workshop favorites for each day. I’m going to talk about the keynote speakers in a separate post, especially the uplifting story from our Writer of the Year, Susan Spann. Stay tuned.