A Writing Conference Saturday

writer's digestI spent last Saturday at the Colorado Writer’s Workshop. They are offered frequently in cities across the U.S. It’s always a treat to disappear for a writer’s conference, even for just a day.  Although my level of knowledge about writing and publishing has skyrocketed the past 6 years, there’s always something new to share.

Brian Klems, online editor for Writer’s Digest, led each section of the day for approximately 100 writers from teens to those close to 80. Here are a small percentage of answers to the questions covered…

How do you write like a pro?

Avoid prologues. Open with conflict. Create flawed characters. Pick up the pace of your novel. Tighten each sentence. Leave each chapter with a hook.

Do I need an agent?

No – but 95% of the time it’s in your best interest.

How many agents should I query before giving up?

Twenty more than whatever your gut says.

Can I get published without a platform (i.e., the places where you can be found on the Internet)?

Yes. but it’s getting more difficult.

How do I know if my manuscript is ready to pitch to agents or self-publish?

When it has strong characters, good plot points, is clear of typos and written well.

Is there something unique I can do to promote a book that won’t be out for months or a year?

Write side stories about secondary characters in your novel. Posting those will let readers see another side to your writing and insights into your new book.

When should I start writing my next book?

Immediately after finishing your current book. Also have multiple book ideas at all times.

How often should I promote myself on social media?

Constantly, it’s part of the job.

What can I do to have a long, successful writing career?

Continue to write, read, and build your platform.

The most helpful session was one called “Writers’ Got Talent”. Eight literary agents critiqued first pages in a most brutal way. Submitted first pages from the audience were read (I submitted a first page, but it wasn’t one of the ones randomly chosen). The reading stopped once three hands came up from the panel. Not one first page made it to the end. It vividly demonstrated how quickly agents reject submissions. Ouch.

Here are just a sampling of the rejection reasons I jotted down:

  • Starting a story with your MC waking up.
  • Telling your readers what they will get out of your story.
  • Too much description.
  • The MC was never introduced. Preferably do that in the first paragraph.
  • Too much remembering and reminiscing and recalling.
  • Telling a character what they already know. This is called the “As you know, Bob” opening.
  • All action and no emotion. Make us care.

Well, time to go back and recheck those manuscripts. Moving forward is what determined writer’s do.cropped-thumbsup.jpg

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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8 Responses to A Writing Conference Saturday

  1. Thanks for sharing all this good info, Greg. Sounds like a good day for you.

  2. Sounds like you enjoyed the conference. It’s always to keep up with the latest information and sample different POVs. Glad you had a great time!

  3. brianklems says:

    Hi Greg,
    Thanks for the kind words about my instructing, but I need a few corrections made (This wasn’t a WD event). Will you please contact me ASAP at brian dot klems at fwcommunity dot com.
    Thanks,
    Brian Klems

  4. cleemckenzie says:

    Obviously a great conference for you. I liked everything except the bit about prologues. I happen to love them, especially in a series when they catch me up or fill in gaps because I didn’t read the previous book.

    • The agents did say prologues rarely work but you can still use them if you know how. They gave two examples: Use them if the opening is out of time sequence or if it will reveal something essential to the main plot.

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