A Weekend Amongst the Writers

I spent last weekend at the Cascade Writers Workshop, a small three-day workshop full of panels, round-robin critiques, and the opportunity to meet and listen to fellow writers, agents, publishers, and editors. There were about 60 attendees, so it was small, and easy to meet and talk to not just other attendees, but speakers and group leaders as well.

The biggest part of the weekend was the small-group critique sessions. We were divided ahead of time into small groups of three to six people, each one led by a pro author, agent, or editor. We circulated manuscripts a month or so in advance and read them ahead of time, then met several times over the course of the weekend to go over everyone’s feedback, one story at a time. My critique leader was Lisa Rodgers, an agent with Jabberwocky Literary.

I submitted Chapter 1 of my novel-in-progress Noah’s Dragon, and got some great feedback from Lisa and the other group members. I was pleased to note that the part of the manuscript I was most worried about turned out to be one of people’s favorite parts– although, of course, there were other issues with the manuscript that I hadn’t anticipated. (Which is why we do these things!)

I enjoyed critiquing other folks’ work, too, and being able to probe in-depth into different people’s writing styles and see how they compare and contrast with my own. I’ve been doing critiques as part of a local writing group for some time, but this was a different group of people, and being able to see some different perspectives and writing styles from what I’m used to was a good experience.

I also got to pitch Noah’s Dragon to Lisa and another agent who attended, Bree Ogden of D4EO. It was my first experience doing a formal pitch of a novel, and I’m pretty pleased with how it went. Both responded positively, and gave me some good feedback, and I also learned a few things about how to construct a pitch, thanks to the pre-pitch practice session held the previous evening by Spencer Ellsworth.

But the best part was meeting new folks, making new friends (and getting to hang out with old friends!), and in general spending a few days among some fantastic, creatively-driven people. Whenever I go to a workshop like this, it reminds me that the field of fiction writing– while a very, very hard to make anything approaching a living– is full of awesome, friendly, hard-working, weird and imaginative people, and my desire to be a writer is at least partly driven by my desire to have such amazing folks as friends and colleagues. So to my critique group– David, Casey, Lisa, Haley, and Craig– and everyone else I met, thanks for an awesome weekend!

On an unrelated note, if you’re intrigued by the concept of a fireman who’s really a were-polar bear, in an erotic romance novel called Too Hot to Bear, you should totally click this link. Don’t mention my name if┬ásomeone asks where you heard about it. I know nothing.

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Write-a-Thon Midpoint Progress Report

As part of the Clarion West Write-a-thon, I’ve been writing the second draft of my current work-in-progress novel, tentatively titled Noah’s Dragon. You can track my chapter-by-chapter progress in the Write-a-thon tab. Overall, I’m pretty happy with where I am– I’ve managed to stay on track with my goal of editing five chapters a week.

It hasn’t been perfectly smooth sailing, though. Some chapters are very easy to edit, while others require more work than writing them in the first place. So as I’ve worked, I’ve made a list of “Third Draft Changes”– things which I don’t have time to do now, but that I want to work on in the third draft. These may be scenes that need to be add, or overall things (like foreshadowing and explaining the magic system) that I’m working on now, but may need to be improved with an overall look in the third draft.

However, I’ve decided that this week I’m going to pause and essentially “backfill” by taking care of some of the items on that list now. I want to shore up what I’ve got of the second draft so I can finish strongly– I suspect the second half is probably going to require more work than the first half.

This is a shortened week, anyway. Starting on Thursday, and continuing through Sunday, I’ll be at the Cascade Writers Workshop, so my usual writing time this week is cut in half– which makes it a good time to pause in my chapter-by-chapter progress and shore up what I have, rather than rush through another five chapters this week.

There are 23 chapters total, so at five chapters per week in a six week write-a-thon, I had an extra week and a half in there anyway. Using this week to shore things up means I’m still on track to finish all 23 chapters by the end of the write-a-thon, and it’ll hopefully be a stronger effort for taking this extra time.

Meanwhile, at the Cascade Writers Workshop, I’ll be workshopping Chapter 1 of the novel, so I’ll hopefully walk away from this weekend with some more ideas of where to go as I finish up the second draft and for when I start the third. And of course, it’ll be a fun four days of hanging out with writers and hopefully recharging my creative batteries a bit. I’ll also have the chance to practice my book pitch in front of an agent, which is something I haven’t done before. I’m looking forward to it!