The Writer's Watchword: Patience

Shortly after graduating from Goucher College’s MFA program in 2010, I was contacted by an agent interested in reading my thesis. This filled me with equal amounts of panic and joy, as I still didn’t feel like a real writer. A few months later he wrote that he loved my voice, but felt that I needed to take the story in a different direction—something that was less about me and more about the people I met. (Yes, this stung. Imagine if you will, dear writers of fiction, what it would be like to hear “we want you to change the main character” and the MC is you!) The insecure part of me wanted to do whatever it took to gain his approval and representation, but the realist in me said “no.”
I am not a journalist. I am a personal storyteller. It’s what I do and I knew in my heart that if I wrote his version, I would fail. I thanked him for the time he’d already invested and told him that I wasn’t the right kind of writer to deliver a journalistic exploration of death. He appreciated my honesty.
Fast forward three years. I turned my thesis into a memoir, Death Becomes Us, and entered it into the Mayborn’s writing competition. Not that I expected it, but I figured if I didn’t win first place with publication from UNT, my plan was to self publish.
On award’s night, it was announced that I’d won second place. When I returned to my table, David Patterson of Foundry Media asked if I would send him my proposal. The following Monday, I did. Thursday, I received a wonderfully flattering email from David that I now have taped to my desk. He got it/me. He understood what I was trying to do and, by golly, he liked it! I felt like Bridget Jones when Mark Darcy says, “I like you just the way you are.”
Isn’t that what we all want both personally and professionally?
So what’s the moral of this story? First, be true to yourself. Realize what your strengths are as a writer and let your anxiety-filled freak flag fly. (Okay, that’s just me.)
Second is patience. Yes, yes, I know. We all want things to happen as quickly as a Twitter post, but sometimes it’s better if we wait and work on our craft.
That’s the third lesson. Even with the proper MFA document in my hand, I probably learned more in my weekly critiques at the DFW Writers’ Workshop. I remember one session quite vividly as it changed my manuscript for the better. A. Lee Martinez said, “You need to decide who this story is about because it’s not working as it is.” Yep, it stung. But he was right. 
So, has my world changed now that I have an agent? No, not really. I still can’t eat crayons and write rainbows, but now my morning writing sessions are a little sweeter. When I’m feeling stuck, I look at that email and think, someone got me.
And I have to admit, that’s a pretty cool feeling.


--Pam Skjolsvik, DFWWW Members since 2010

photo credit: WasabiDoobie via photopin cc

Gut it Like a Fish

So, I just ripped the guts out of my first fifty pages. It needed to be done. I'd written them over two years ago and they were nowhere close to the lean, mean, fighting machine they should be.  They didn’t really represent what I now have to offer as a writer.

Did it hurt? Sort of. I wasn't as attached to some of it as I once was since I'd put distance and time between the story and me. Honestly, a lot of what I removed was just, "Look, I don't know how to start this, so here is everything you will ever need to know about the main character and six other people whom you will have a whole book to get to know."

And to think, I queried those pages for months before I came to the realization at the DFW Writers' Conference that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by sending out the weakest part of my book.

So I did something that I had never considered before: I redrafted. Blank page, baby. My first fifty pages became twenty-seven. I got the same stuff done, but way less boring.

I'm not a plotter, I'm a pantser. I only knew the end of my novel once I finished it, and that allowed me to ‘fix’ the beginning. I figured out what I needed and what I didn't. (Oh hey, a three paragraph tangent about a college the reader will never see? Yoink!)

I certainly don't think everyone should pick at, revise, and prod their manuscripts over and over again. No, no. Onward and upward. Working on another book and taking the lessons from the previous one is what enabled me to 'fix' my last one.

Sure, I still have to get it to my beta readers.   There is also the not-so-small matter of then sending it out to the nice agents who asked for it at the conference. But in the mean time, I'll keep writing my new novel. And then one after that. Who knows? In two years I may look back on my super tight first fifty pages and say, "Eh…it's not that great."

But that's the thing about writing, it evolves with the writer.

--Sally Hamilton, DFWWW member since 2009

The Science of Book Trailers

We’ve sniffed out another free education opportunity, this time presented by Scriptscene RWA.

Instructor Sheila Clover English--the woman who coined the word “book trailer”--will discuss their merit on a marketing level.  She’ll also talk about making your own book trailer, and once you have one, how to wield its power.  And she would know, because she’s been responsible for producing over 1000 of them for the likes of Random House and similar.

The course takes place on September 17 at 6:00 p.m. via a LIVE 60-minute Blog Radio Talk session.  This means in addition to being free, you can attend class in your pajamas.

For more information and registration, click here:

They've Gone to WorldCon

Gabe_the_Orc_on_his_throne (2) 

A horde of DFWWW science fiction and fantasy authors attended the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) held in San Antonio from Thursday, August 29, through Monday, September 2.

Just a few of the exciting happenings:

Member Gabe Guerrero debuted his orc cosplay character, Tarbuz, which was the hit of the con. His picture may appear in Locus Magazine, the leading trade publication for SF&F. He was also photographed by local television stations, and won a Hall Costume award.

During the Hugo's, the biggest SF&F award, member Alley Hauldren sat in the press section representing her many blogs and other endeavors.

And that's not all.  Member Tex Thompson shined as a panelist as she rubbed elbows with her editor and fellow writers from Solaris.

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Many of the top tier SF&F publishers were present, as well as several major editors, literary agents, and best-selling authors. There were participants from around the world (Japan, Finland, and United Kingdom seemed to be the most numerous). The variety of panels and topics were infinitesimal. The parties went until the wee hours of the morning (the candy and snacks at the Japanese party were life altering).

Needless to say, a good time was had by all.

A Conference by Any Other Name...

thumb_AllKitesCan't wait for DFWCon?  How's about another one in the meantime?

SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) is hosting its regional conference here in the Dallas Metroplex.  If you write YA, middle grade, or children’s books, look no further than Arlington (first they get the Cowboys stadium, now this…) to get some top tier education.

What:  SCBWI North Texas 2013 Regional Conference

When:  September 21, 2013

Cost: Early Registration (by Aug.  24) $165 for nonmembers

The day is full of breakout sessions and great classes.  There’s even a cocktail reception in the evening which will allow you to rub shoulders with YA author Jill Alexander, Delacort Press executive editor Krista Marion, children’s book author Lin Oliver, and a Nancy Gallt Literary Agent, Marietta Zacker.  Enjoy.

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