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James Scott Bell is my hero. An electrifying speaker. I picked up his book at the Writer’s Digest Conference a few months ago. He takes a page-turning, straight-forward approach to revision and self-editing in his book, Revision & Self-Editing.
You forget you’re reading a book because you’d swear he was right there breaking everything down for you. His conversational tone totally won me over.
An accomplished writer, he’s living the dream. In this book, he shares his knowledge on revision. He’s not kidding about providing techniques that transform your first draft into a finished novel.
After each chapter, I felt my brain smoothing out with new insight. By the time I finished his book, I understood what was wrong with my first manuscript.
I applied what I learned to the book I have slaved over for 2 years. A book I knew was complete. A book I’d queried and gotten full requests on.
In four days, I cut 6,000 words.
Mr. Bell gave me the tools I needed to see what wasn’t working in my manuscript. I’m eternally grateful to him.
This is a reference tool that is chock full of useful techniques, concepts, and real life examples to guide me throughout my writing career.
One of my favorites?
The Neil Simon note saying, I can fix it. Which reminds me ANYTHING CAN BE FIXED.
Isn’t that a phenomenal concept? All the bad parts of my novel can be worked out. Once I know they aren’t working. How empowering.
Revision & Self-Editing are tackled separately. The Self-Editing subsections covers such major points in the novel as: Character, POV, Plot & Conflict, Scenes, Dialogue, Show vs. Tell, Setting and Description. The Revision section covers similar points and provides a Revision Checklist.
This book is a must buy for first time and accomplished authors.
If you are going to pick up one book on revision and self editing. THIS IS THE BOOK.
This week I finished proofreading all my Margie Lawson workshop revisions to my manuscript. It’s a lean 82K.
I’ve been working on my pitch for the upcoming Writer’s Digest Conference January 21-23. Pitch Slam is a two-hour pitching free-for-all, where you are in a room with 50+ agents for 2 hours.
You get in each agent’s line and wait to make your 90 second pitch. They then have 90 seconds to ask questions and hopefully request the partial or the full.
At Killer Nashville, I did the 10-minute pitch. At Crimebake, the five-minute pitch. But this is a bit of a challenge. Because each word has to matter. There’s no room for error.
Yup, that’s me putting pressure on myself.
But it’s still a week away. I already spent a week honing the pitch. Trying it out on friends, family, and some trusted writing buddies.
And it’s getting there. The thing is, I want it finalized by Sunday so I have a week to practice it before I am in front of the agents.
Thank goodness that new smart phone has a timer function. At least I know I’m at 80 seconds. That leaves me time for a cough, a nervous throat clearing, or maybe a miniscule loss of my train of thought.
Have you had to pitch to agents? How do you prepare? Any advice on the short and attention-grabbing 90-second pitch?
This week, my six-week online Essentials of Mystery Writing class came to an end. I really enjoyed it. I think I learned a lot as well. The readings, class assignments, and online interaction took up roughly 3 hours a week. It was a Writer’s Digest course and I highly recommend it.
Here are some of the pros of taking an online course:
- feedback from other writers
- feedback from your teacher, who is usually a published writer
- a better understanding of the requirements of genre fiction
- time to develop all the moving parts in your story: characters, plot, setting
- deadlines to keep you motivated on your work
- assigned readings that teach you about your craft
- focuses you on the key elements of your story
- learning how to craft a synopsis
- practice accepting constructive criticism from your peers as well as your teacher who has industry experience
- flexibility in when you do your work
Here are the cons of taking an online course:
- you do have actual deadlines
- you have to fix stuff in your story
- you only get as much out of it as you put into it
I’m thinking about taking another online course for romance writing because my newest novel is a romance, but I’m still drafting that one. Hopefully, I’ll have that done by the fall. Then I’ll look into taking a course either from Writers Digest or Gotham Writers’ Workshop.
Have any of you taken online courses? Are there any you would recommend for romance writing?
I’m starting my third week in Essentials to Mystery Writing (Writer’s Digest University class) and am enjoying it immensely. Normally, I can read a book or a manual and learn how to do things, but with writing, the feedback is really a key component.
Plus, you immediately apply what you learned in your readings when you do your homework assignment. More to the point, the structure of the course gives useful feedback from the teacher and your classmates. The best use of a couple hundred dollars in a long time.
The pace is just right for me. I have from Wed-Sunday to get my homework done and handed in and then from Sunday-Tuesday I can participate in critique sessions with my classmates. The readings are usually 20-30 pages at most (from the textbook) and a few pages on online lecture notes to read. Very manageable with a full-time day job and a couple of novels being worked on.
My classmates are from all over the U.S. too so it’s cool to meet people from different places and connect online.
All in all a great use of my time and money.
Last Thursday, I participated in the Writer’s Digest Webinar–Critique Series: Novel Queries & Pitches with Chuck Sambuchino.
It was absolutely worth it. Chuck is a great speaker giving you helpful tips and a good overview and then delving right into the critiques. We went through 21 pitches in the 1.5 hours webinar. He packed a lot into that time.
He gave a great overview of the three main parts of a query: Intro, Pitch, and Bio and what each paragraph needs to do, keeping in mind the purpose of the query letter is to get the agent to request more. The Intro should include: word count, title, genre, and why you picked this agent. The Pitch should include: what makes this story unique (focusing on the hook and the conflict) WITHOUT giving the ending away. The Bio: any previous publications, platform and a thank you for considering you work.
With the critiques, it was super helpful to have someone walk through the issues in each critique and hear what each of us was doing right and wrong.
Some of the running issues across queries were:
- Speaking in generalities and themes instead of showing what made your story unique
- Not focusing on the protagonist and making her unique
- Not explaining what the problem/conflict is
- Not having voice
- Flat undefined characters
- Too many names in the query; simple is better
I came away with new insight into my query and I’m revising it again before the Backspace conference at the end of May.
The cool thing about the webinar is that all presentation materials will be accessible online for a full year. So if you missed something you get to go over it again. Takes the pressure off about getting everything on the first go through. Plus you can ask questions throughout, which gives you the interactiveness that no book/website has.
Chuck’s recommended reading for query writing included:
- A bookazine available on Writer’s Digest website called Get an Agent
- Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript
- The Successful Queries section of his blog, Guide to Literary Agents
I have Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript and I found it very useful in terms of what agents and editors expect to see. I’m ordering the bookazine.