Writer's Digest Features...Us

As most of you know, DFW Writers’ Workshop has been trucking along since 1977.  Since then, our membership has steadily increased, along with our list of traditionally published authors.  Our conference has become a stalwart, sought-after cog in the Texas literary scene, and our outreach now includes a teen workshop and a commitment to provide annual literary-esque donations (both material and service) to those in need.

We’ve been busy, both growing and writing.

So, what’s our future look like?  Bright.  Very bright.  Don’t stare directly at it.  But, you can safely check us out in a recent Writer’s Digest’s feature.  Consider it a solar filter or a pinhole projector.  It’s a peek at what makes DFWWW so amazing.   And if you haven’t got the time to read the whole article, passing by any mirror will also do the trick.

Without further ado, here is - THE - DFW Writers’ Workshop feature in Writer’s Digest: What Makes Writing Groups Work.

A huge thanks to all of our extraordinary members, past and present, for making us a thing.

Medicine for a Post-Conference Hangover

It’s conference season, the time of year writers force themselves out of their hidey-holes to network, attend classes on the craft and business of writing, and to pitch their brilliant Great American Novel to eager agents. At these conferences you are surrounded by People Who Get It. By people who don’t think it’s weird to spend hours talking about the difference between New Adult and Young Adult, ponder the strange phenomena of the counter-correlation between editorial oversight and author success, and debate what exactly is the perfect query letter.

I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a writing conference attendee who hasn’t recaptured the motivation and inspiration that made him or her turn on the computer and type the first sentence of a story. But, how do you channel the avalanche of information you’ve received? How in the world do you choose what to do first? Should you do it all? Do you spiral into self-doubt and second-guesses?

Oh my God. My manuscript stinks. I should probably just chuck it all and start over.

Hold on there. Take a deep breath and keep reading.

Make a copy of your WIP

You want to make changes, lots of changes! Maybe you should, maybe you shouldn’t. But, the very first thing you should do is make a duplicate copy of your manuscript as the pre-conference version. Why? I know you learned so much your manuscript will be loads better if you put every single suggestion you learned into action. Right now! But, there’s the chance, probably very slim, that you will start this rewrite and suddenly realize this new version isn’t working, that what you had before wasn’t so bad, that you’ve made too many changes and have lost the thread of your original story. Then where are you? Fifty thousand words into an ill-conceived rewrite without the original version to go back to. Trust me when I say, this is not a place you want to be.

Not all good advice is the right advice.

Every week at workshop, I receive critiques on my work. The majority of the critiques are good, but that doesn’t mean they are right for the story, the genre or my writing style. I process the critiques, evaluate them, then choose what I will use. The same considered approach should be used for conference advice. I know you want to put what you learned to practice, yesterday. Resist the temptation. Take a few days to let what you’ve learned sink in. Type, or retype, your notes. Highlight the “lightbulb moments,” those comments the presenters made that sparked an idea, or illuminated a weakness in your writing you want to address. Your MS, and the weakness in your writing, isn’t going anywhere. You have plenty of time to address the problems in your MS.

Finish what you started. Then polish it. Then start something else.

If you are 80,000 words into a planned 90,000 word MS, resist the urge to chunk it all and start over (but if you do, make a separate copy!). You are already 80,000 words into a crappy first draft. Why in the world would you chunk it to start a second crappy first draft? Finish the MS how you started and implement the suggestions you learned in the rewrite. You will probably find what you wrote after the conference needs less reworking than what came before. But, at least you aren’t starting from zero. Once you’ve rewritten and polished the MS, send it to the agent who was so excited for your pitch, or start querying the agents and editors whom you met. But, most importantly, start working on something new. Put the polished MS in a drawer and forget about it. True growth as a writer doesn’t come from rewriting the same MS over and over. It comes from creating, editing, and polishing; creating, editing, and polishing. Over and over and over and over…

“What’s going to get you to your publication goal? Getting done sooner or getting done better?” Donald Maass, DFW Writers' Conference, May 2014

A very hard lesson I’ve learned in the past year is the publishing industry is slow. Ridiculously, laughably slow. As much as you want to think the agent you pitched to is eagerly waiting for your MS, the reality is she is swamped with queries and reading queries isn’t even the biggest part of her job. Respect the agent enough to send the very best version of your MS. It’s better to send a polished MS to an agent in August, than one riddled with errors in June. The former will get you an agent, the latter will make you an expert on query letters.

Though if you play your cards right, you can teach a class on query letters next year.

-- Melissa Lenhardt, DFWWW member since 2012

photo credit: Unhindered by Talent 

So You're Making a Talk

Your book is finally in print. The next step: your platform. Social media, blogs, book signings, public talks.

Whoa. Public talks? Stand up before a crowd and speak? No way.

MicrophoneOK. Take a deep breath. You wrote the book, sweated over every page. No, over every word. And it came together. Seeing that cover art for the first time, you breathed that deep sigh of relief. That smug sigh of self-satisfaction. If you can put down coherent thoughts on paper, you can make a talk. But first, do your homework.

Know your crowd. Seniors, teens, school kids, professionals. Each will have different interests, different ideas on how a speaker should dress or talk. But here’s the good news: if they’re not interested in your book’s genre, they probably won’t come to hear you speak. So come up with something to say that reflects what you’ve written and they’ll love it.

Write down an outline. Have a catchy beginning, just like your book. You need a middle and an end, too. Keep them wanting more.

Talk about yourself, but don’t overdo it. How you started writing, what qualifies you to write your book, especially if it’s nonfiction. Oh, you write about zombies and haven’t offed any lately? Maybe why zombies interest you and why the reader should care, too. Also, it’s not a good idea to read directly from the book. Paraphrase and speak from the heart.

Practice your speech ahead of time. Do it in front of a mirror, or even better, a friend or family member who’ll give honest feedback. If all you hear are good comments, find someone else. This is not unlike a writing critique group.

Dress appropriately. Sure, everyone at the local library may show up wearing jeans and tees, but business casual is never too dressy when addressing a crowd. Speaking before business leaders? Coat and tie for men or appropriate business attire for women. Not sure? Always dress better than your expected audience rather than more casually.

And now, the day has arrived, the speech is at hand. Those butterflies are fluttering, your heart is pounding. The emcee announces your name and you head for the podium. When you get there, stop.

Arrange your notes, take a deep breath, and make eye contact with the audience. Now smile, because they’ll hear it in your voice. Only then do you speak, and when you do, talk to the people in the back row. If they can hear, so can everyone else.

Make a mistake? No prob. Laugh at yourself. Public speaking is an acquired skill and everyone in the audience knows it. They’ll understand.

Bring some books. It’s a great place to sell them.

And here’s the most important thing: have fun and make it show. Everyone else will, too.

-- George Goldthwaite, DFWWW Member since 2009, The Voice of the DFWCon Gong Show since 2011

photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc

Glove Up for WRiTE CLUB

WRiTE CLUB is back with a vengeance, and it’s not too late to fight.

WRiTE CLUB Logo2As some of you may remember, last year one of our very own was crowned.  Now, DFWWW member Tex Thompson swings onto the other side of the ropes to judge, along with a distinguished panel that includes: Jonathan Maberry, Katie Grimm Margaret Bail, Sarah Negovetich, Brittany Booker, Candace Havens, Lydia Kang, and Tiana Smith.  (For those who just can't be bothered to click on the links, that's a list of some industry elite.  Agents, authors, editors, and the like.  Fancy stuff.)

Wondering about the rules of WRiTE CLUB?

  1. You MUST talk about WRiTE CLUB – Spread the word

  2. You DON’T talk about WRiTE CLUB – Once the bell sounds for round one, keep it quiet.

  3. If someone taps out, WRiTING is over.

  4. Only two people to a WRiTE.

  5. Two WRiTE’s per week.

  6. No shirts, no shoes…well, actually, your WRiTE attire is up to you.

  7. WRiTES will go on until Aug 18th.

  8. Anyone can WRiTE, but you have to have your submission in by May 31st.

With guidelines like these, how can one resist? To get the finer details, visit DL Hammon's site.

We can’t wait to see you in the ring!

The Con in Review

This past weekend, I attended my second DFW Writers' Conference.  It was better than the last one.  Or maybe I was better.  I think with a big event like this, you need one run for practice before you get the hang of it.

Here are some things I learned:

Donald Maass (a) is a colossal nerd, and (b) has a name that ends in "SS" not just "S" as I keep wanting to type it.

He's the best kind of colossal nerd - a fantasy fan and gamer who loves that stuff and wants to share his love with other people.  He's also an incredibly nice guy who will go out of his way to make you feel welcome and valued in any conversation.  And he has a wicked-sharp sense of humor.

Jonathan Maberry (a) is a really awesome guy, and (b) has only one "Y" in his name despite my urge to type in another every damn time I write it.  (No H, either.)

He is also a colossal nerd, both in nerdiness and size.  Seriously.  Jon Maberry will mess you up.  He's huge.  In a fight of Jon Maberry and a full-grown Kodiak bear... I'd bet on the bear unless the spread was really crazy.  But I'd check the odds, just in case.  And he's also warm and friendly and loves to share geeky stuff.

Literary Agents are really nice people.

This year, I volunteered to wrangle an agent (i.e. act as a guide, gofer, and chauffeur).  I'd imagined the job would be kind of difficult, but that it would be worth it for the networking opportunities.

Instead, it was one of the easiest things I've ever done, and more than worth it for the networking opportunities.  Margaret Bail, of the Inklings Literary Agency, is incredibly friendly and easygoing.  She was great to work with, and about as low-maintenance as I could have imagined.  And she wants to see my book when it's finished, which is awesome.

What I got for my (minuscule) trouble was the chance to hang out with other agents at dinners and lunches, where I learned a lot about the publishing business and made connections.

So if you're with the DFW Writer's Workshop and you're attending next year's Conference, be first in line to offer to wrangle an agent.  It's the opposite of traumatic, and it's a great opportunity.

Keep track of your schedule.

Again, this is kind of obvious in retrospect.  I did a great job keeping Margaret's schedule straight.  I plugged all her events into my Google calendar, which fed me alerts all day.  But I forgot to put my OWN events in the calendar, so I missed my Saturday critique session.  Oops.

Don't be shy.  Les Edgerton says so.

And really, don't be.  Talk to people.  Almost all writers are wallflowers who are each secretly hoping someone else will initiate conversation, and the agents ACTUALLY CAME TO THE CONFERENCE to talk to you.  They did it on their own time, too.  They are here for the express purpose of listening to you talk about your book so they can decide if they'd like you to submit it.

So anyway,

Thanks to Kirk von der Heydt and the rest of the Conference Committee for a great conference.  Thanks to all the agents, editors, and speakers.  Without you, the conference would be a hollow shell of itself.  Thanks to everyone who made it a fun, educational weekend full of opportunities.  And good luck to everybody.  I hope this conference results in some book deals.

I look forward to seeing you all next year.  And if you could each bring roughly .3 friends, that'd probably be good.

Well, don't literally bring a fractional person.  1 in 3 of you bring one friend.  Or something like that.

-- David Goodner, DFWWW Member since 2012  *(This essay originally appeared in slightly longer form on The Astounding Mr. Goodner's Amazing Electric Widgets blog.  Check it out, because it's good fun!)

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