Tag: Willamette Writer’s Conference

This Writer’s Second Conference

I attended my second in-person writer’s conference August 7th and 8th. It was at the same location as the first conference. You can read about my first experience by clicking here.

For some reason, I wasn’t nervous about attending this year. In fact, I gave only a small amount of effort to preparing the pitch for the two meetings I scheduled with an editor and an agent.

Part of this could have been because I had company the week before the conference. Or it may have been the fact that I thought I would have to be attending all alone.

As it turns out, another writer from my local writing group was going all three days. She offered me a ride on the days I attended. (If you read this, thank you, Linda!)

It was wonderful getting to know her better, listening to her pitch and having someone to eat lunch with on Friday. The fact that I didn’t have to drive? Extra bonus.

Friday

I loved the keynote speaker at the opening session. It was William Kenower, and he made me laugh so hard I forgot to be nervous.

I barely got a taste of the 9AM session since my first pitch was at 9:40 a.m. What I did learn is that agents respect writers who attend conferences. Whew! It isn’t the Big Bad Wolf I’ll be facing in a few minutes *wipes brow*

I met with an editor from a small press that was established in 2012. She ADORES dragon stories and has been searching for one starring REAL dragons since she began working with this house.

That means she liked my pitch and asked me to send her pages. And a synopsis *gags*

I used the extra time between my pitch and the next class to get a critique on my manuscript. They have authors who run a “Manuscript ER” servce for free – first come, first served.

“What do you want me to critique?” I wanted to know whether my beginning would hook that dragon-loving editor who requested twenty pages.

“I’m hooked.” And she offered sugestions about the two places where she had to re-read because what WASN’T on the page confused her. Easily done.

Yes, I was probably glowing for the rest of the morning. So who cared that the next session wasn’t compelling? Not me?

After lunch, it was back to the workshops. In this case, a delightful workshop presented by fantasy author Karen Azinger. She has an epic fantasy series out and idolizes Brandon Sanderson as much as I do. I immediately searched for her books on Amazon (and was disappointed not to find them at the conference’s bookstore).

The workshop was all about world-building. She gave me tons to think about to sprinkle the “flavor” of government and culture into my novel. I loved her energy and passion. Maybe I will grow up to be her one day.

The final thing in the afternoon was an opportunity to plot out our novel using the system of a children’s author. I love my Scrivener, so I didn’t really get much new information from this session.

Saturday

The two best things about this day:

  • Another yes from an agent at my 9:20 pitch meeting
  • Listening to bestselling authors who live in Oregon answer MY questions during lunch

I was disappointed to leave the Larry Brooks Storyfix session early for my pitch, but he gave us a link to the power point slides. I’m hoping to get the checklist for revision from that (at some point after I get the queries out).

The revision workshop at the end of the day was helpful, but there was too much for the presenter to cover in 90 minutes. I got a few good ideas about fleshing out my setting, though. It was fun to interact with the other writers in the room and hear a published author talk about her revision process.

Afterward

This post is making its way up on my blog quite late for a Monday showing. I would apologize, but I’ve been busy reading through my manuscript – sanding away the rough edges.

I sent the query letter and the first thirty pages off this afternoon to the agent I met with on Saturday. I hope she gets hooked like the woman who gave me a read in the “Manuscript ER” room at the conference.

Of course, she can’t respond too soon, because I still haven’t finished combing through the OTHER 300 pages of the manuscript. It needs primping and perfecting, I assure you.

Also, I’ve been reading Linda’s first fifty pages. I want to give her feedback she can use to beautify her manuscript before she sends it off to the three agents who gave her the nod at the conference.

If you’re trying to get a traditional publishing contract, attend a writer’s conference. Cough up the extra cash and pitch some agents who represent your genre.

Have you attended a writer’s conference? Pitched to agents or editors in person?

Newbie Author Seeks Publishing Contract

In the world of authorial experience, I’m still a newbie. One published short story, an independently published novella and a contract for another short story: those are my publishing credits.

As for writing, though, I’ve had a long and arduous journey. And I’ve written close to a half-million words since doing this “writing thing” full-time. Some people say once I’ve written a million words, I’ll finally be through my apprenticeship.

Hopefully, I’ll have a few readers who love me by then, too.

I spent my first year polishing and perfecting the first novel in a young adult fantasy series. I wrote the entire trilogy at the suggestion of a writing teacher I regard highly. It helped to disgorge the full story.

DOW CoverIf you’ve written one novel, you know the exhilaration (or maybe utter exhaustion) of typing the final sentence. Since I started writing full-time in July of 2013, I’ve written four 70,000+ word novels (all young adult fantasies) and a 40,000-word historical fiction novella. Every time I finished the first draft, I wanted to sing and dance (and take a LONG nap).

My first novel made the rounds:

  • It attended a first ten pages workshop. The beginning got rewritten.
  • It went to another class about hooking a reader. Another new beginning.
  • The first twenty pages and a synopsis were submitted for critique by a published author of the fantasy genre. More work was needed.
  • After pitching the idea at a writer’s conference, I sent the first fifty pages to an agent.

Even before I heard back from her (“The story has potential but isn’t right for her needs”), I knew the story needed a complete overhaul. Why? I had been learning about structure, conflict, and character motivation.

The first novel was a novelty, but it wasn’t marketable. It needed to be rewritten.

doomsday1Meanwhile, I had birthed a new, exciting idea. There were dragons and volcanoes and a snarky teenage girl. Who could ask for more? So I wrote that novel.

The first third of this novel found its way to a professional editor for a developmental edit. Guess what I found out? The story was strong. The characters? Not so much.

I’m climbing the learning curve, but it’s a steep one. Writing a novel is no easy task. It’s complex. A brain surgeon probably needs fewer hours to learn how to remove a tumor than an author needs to perfect a novel-length story.

That novel is still in the process of being revised. My beta readers enjoyed it, but they found flaws. Namely: everything happens too easily. That’s right. I like these characters and I want something to go smoothly in their otherwise crappy lives. But smooth sailing doesn’t make a good story.

“We learn the world is at stake too early in the story.” When a volcano erupts in glorious splendor in the first scene and the seer envisions a dragon in the second scene, things are moving along. But not doomsday in the fourth chapter. Even if it’s in the title of the book.

And the characters don’t grow much. What? They save the world but seem unchanged? More. Development. Needed.

So, that’s what I’m working on this summer. The Willamette Writer’s Conference nears, and I’ll be pitching this new project to an agent and an editor.

Have I moved from the apprentice stage of writing? Will this novel be deemed “saleable”?

I hope so. But, if it gets rejected, I’ll send it to another group of critiquers, get more feedback, make more changes, and NEVER SURRENDER.