Posts Tagged ‘pikes peak writers conference’

PPWC Session Wrap-up, Final

Here’s the last PPWC wrap-up post, Squiders, so if you haven’t been digging them, you can rest assured that we will definitely talk about something else next week. Maybe we should a readalong. Haven’t done one of those in a while. I’ll poke around and see what we’ve got. Or we’ll start the next nonfic post series, which will be about finding story ideas.

Anyway! Sunday! Last day, which is always a bit sad. It’s really very nice to spend the weekend surrounded by other writers, especially if you are friends with some of them and you don’t get to see them very often otherwise.

Building a Successful Online Critique Group (panel-Travis Heermann, Megan Rutter, David R. Slayton)

I was hoping to learn about the “building” part, but the panel was more about the “successful” part. They did talk briefly about how to find people to form a group with, the most promising of which seems to be the idea of joining the local big writing group (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) which has a whole section just for forming critique groups. Of course, I’m not sure a critique group is what I’m looking for anyway.

How to Add Suspense to Your Writing (Fleur Bradley)

This was the least successful session I went to the entire weekend. It was very basic in level, focusing mostly on story structure (which, frankly, I have had better sessions/read better books on). There was also some focus on plotting, such as how quickly your main plot needs to show up, but very little on suspense aside from “if you do a good job with your structure it will show up automatically.” Ms. Bradley did say she normally teaches this information over a six week workshop, but it did not work well in this format.

Maximize Your Discoverability on Amazon (Jennie Marts)

Ah, my second and last marketing panel for the weekend. Ms. Marts went over the options offered in Amazon Central as well as in your books themselves in terms of metadata, author’s notes, reviews, etc. I picked up a couple of new things, which is impressive at this point. She also talked some about how many books you need to be selling to be at which ranks, and touched on ways to get more reviews. Pretty useful, all told.

And that’s it for the panels. The conference ends after lunch on Sunday. We did have our final keynote speaker, Donald Maass, who tried to counteract the apparently-common post-conference what-am-I-doing-with-my-life-ness by telling us that as long as we had hope we’d be okay.

WE WILL SEE ABOUT THAT.

Donald Maass was also at the conference when I was last there five years ago. My sister and her friend think it’s funny how he picks up a “harem” that follows him around all weekend.

So, that’s PPWC for 2017. Will I be going back in 2018? Probably not. There are things I like about it, and I did a good job choosing panels that were helpful and at the right level for me for the most part (something I was bad at in 2012), but it’s a lot of money for a lot of sitting around, and I’d rather be out doing most of the time. It’s a lot to take in all at once. And it turns out that I am bad at one of the most useful things about conferences–the in-person pitch.

Still, I had a good time, met some neat people, reconnected with some others, and came out of it with some new things to try. I’ll probably go back some day–maybe in another five years, or maybe as a presenter. >_>

Hope this was useful, Squiders! I’ll see you Tuesday for something completely different.

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PPWC Session Wrap-up, Part 2

I always wonder if you can piecemeal PPWC. There’s always notes about what to do if you’re missing a meal (and if you’re at the conference for the whole weekend, why would you? It’s included in the price and the food is really good) which always makes me think maybe you could just come for, say, Saturday, but I don’t know if that’s an actual thing.

(I believe, if you’ve won the writing contest, you can come for just the banquet Saturday night, but I am also unsure about that.)

(I wonder about these things, but not enough to do any actual research.)

Let’s dive into the sessions from Saturday.

(I got up early and worked out before breakfast/conference, and later walked in on my sister talking to my mom on the phone. She was telling Mom about me working out like it was the strangest thing she’d ever seen.)

Eight Weeks to a Novel (Becky Clark)

Like Friday morning, Saturday morning ended up a bit themed, and in this case it was time/project management. This isn’t really an area where I am deficient, but it is a subject I like to talk about and see how other people do things. In this case, Becky spends a week making a massive outline/synopsis (which she sends out to betas to get feedback on plot and whatnot because it’s that complete) and then spends the next several weeks writing and editing. Some neat organizational ideas which I will probably try out.

Agile Project Management for Writers (David R. Slayton)

Ironically, the example he used was also an eight-week novel, which I found hilarious but probably no one else did, because normal people probably didn’t go to two time/project management sessions in a row. This method made my engineering side very happy, but from a basic standpoint was also very similar to other writing management processes I’ve seen before. I enjoyed it. I do need to get in touch with the presenter and ask some questions (mostly about throwaway things on the slides which caught my interest, or something he said, and not about the actual subject matter of the presentation).

Constructing the Great Action Scene (M.H. Boroson)

M.H. Boroson wrote the bestselling historical fantasy novel The Girl with Ghost Eyes, which I have not had the opportunity to read but understand is awesome. This panel was also pretty awesome. We talked about the basics of action scenes (which are not just fights), broke them down into their components, and went through examples so we could see the basics put together. My other favorite panel aside from Stant’s on Friday.

And then we had lunch, which was a massive roast beef sandwich. With a pickle. Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid series) was the keynote speaker.

Query 1-on-1

Sometime between the last time I went to PPWC (2012) and now, they’ve switched from your straight pitch session (where you would memorize a verbal pitch and get to pitch an agent/editor) to the query 1-on-1 format. You bring your query letter, agent/editor reads it and gives you feedback, and may ask for more materials if they’re interested. I met with Mike Braff, who is an acquisitions editor at Del Rey (at the very odd time of 2:24 PM). He asked some questions about the main character and said I should focus more on her character arc and the twist of the story in the query. He also said it wasn’t really his thing, alas, though I kind of suspected that there wouldn’t be enough explosions based on some of his recently edited books (The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown, Sleeping Giants by Slyvain Neuvel) and my sister went to an editor panel earlier and later told me he’s pretty much only looking at scifi right now. So, in retrospect, I probably should have signed up for someone else.

Serious about Series (Kevin Hearne, Gregg Taylor, Carol Berg, Tess Gerritsen, Jennie Marts)

I’ve found that the panel sessions can sometimes be less helpful than the one or two presenter ones, and I think it’s because they’re not really planned out in advance. I mean, I assume, but I don’t know, but from what I understand the moderator has normally come up with questions in advance and then the panel answers them. I mostly learned about various authors’ planning processes, which is interesting, but not necessarily helpful.

Building Better Beginnings (Todd Fahnestock/Chris Mandeville)

This was a good panel! Chris and Todd focused a little bit on what your story needs at the beginning and how long you have to hook a reader/agent/editor, but we spent most of the time going over the beginnings of published books and looking at what worked and what didn’t, and also did an example where we took a bad beginning and made it better.

Dinner Saturday night is the awards banquet, which is supposed to be dressy but I had a wardrobe malfunction (speaking of which, has anyone had a piece of clothing that started smelling after you washed it for the first time?) and so was under-dressed. Tess Gerritsen was the keynote speaker (and I learned that Rizzoli and Iles is a book series, woo) and shared rather a lot of disturbing things, which is why, I guess, that I don’t write thrillers. I mean, she was awesome, but D:

Dessert was not as good as Friday night, alas.

My sister and I hit BarCon now that we’d done our Read & Critiques and Query 1-on-1s and no longer had anything to stress out about, but it turns out that we are actually terrible at networking aside from people we already know. And then I had a crisis of purpose (which, from talking to people since PPWC ended, seems to be common at writers’ conferences) and had to go to bed.

Sunday sometime next week! Also, I will have a guest post for you, probably on Tuesday. It is about ten degrees warmer than it is supposed to be, Squiders, and I think I shall go take a walk.

PPWC Session Wrap-up, Part 1

Good morning, Squiders. I’m back from PPWC, and now that I’ve gotten some sleep, I am vaguely functional again.

I’ve gone to PPWC before, and I’ve done conference write-ups after the fact for all of them, so I thought I’d do something different than just retread the same ground again and talk specifically about the sessions I attended throughout the weekend so those of you who haven’t been to a writers’ conference before can get an idea about the sort of things offered.

The sessions offered this year seemed to be mostly craft or marketing. There were less genre-specific sessions than I’ve seen in the past.

(Disclaimer: What’s offered will vary conference by conference, year by year, presenter by presenter. So you may find that your local conference works slightly differently.)

PPWC has 15 sessions over three days (6 on Friday, 6 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday), plus an optional add-on Thursday session that involves more in-depth workshops (I never get to go to Thursday because alas, responsibilities. Also it is an extra $90). There are also occasionally some extra add-ons within in the conference itself, such as this year’s Write Drunk, Edit Sober program.

So, let’s dive into Friday, shall we?

Unforgettable Characters (Carol Berg)

Friday morning, for some reason, I picked all character craft sessions. Carol Berg is a bestselling fantasy author, and this panel was well-presented and did an excellent job of breaking down what different level of characters need to do and what you, as an author, need to know about said characters. She also tied characterization into plot and talked some about how to actually introduce and use characters from a technical standpoint.

Using Setting to Reveal Character (Laura DiSilverio)

I also considered going to a panel called Finding Your Inner Extrovert about learning to communicate face to face about your book but my sister convinced me this one would be more beneficial. I’m not sure that’s true. Laura DiSilverio is a mystery writer whom I’ve taken mystery-specific classes with at previous PPWCs. Laura broke down the topic into two different subtopics–using setting to reveal things about characters based on their choices for their own environment and to reveal things about characters based on what they notice in an environment. Good information, little bogged down in audience participation (since some people didn’t seem to be following the topic so well).

Bringing Characters to Life on the Page (Stant Litore)

I know Stant from MileHiCon, so, hey, it was nice to see a familiar face. This session was excellent. Stant used a series of exercises to help explain how to add emotion into your story without being obvious about it and did a fantastic job of tying emotion to characterization. He had a lot of examples to show how this works. I was so impressed I went and bought his book, Write Characters. This was probably my favorite session of the whole conference.

And then we had lunch! I don’t remember what it was. Oh, salad.

Read and Critique with Carol Berg

So, after lunch, I had my first two pages read and critique, which they had in a room on the second floor. That was a bit harrowing because the elevators were slow and there were a lot of people going places at any point in time, and I hadn’t found the secret staircase yet. My sister and I were up til 2:30 the night before working on our first two pages (I cut out almost 1000 words from the very beginning of chapter one). So there were eight of us, Carol, and the moderator (who was timing how long each person had). In turn, everyone read their two pages out loud while Carol took notes, and then Carol would give us her feedback. She was very good about it–always started with what was good about the sample before going into the issues. (She told me later that the R&Cs make her nervous before it’s hard to think that fast.) I’m not sure, in the end, that it was that useful unless, of course, you’re on your final, polished pages and want to make sure they’re hook-y enough. The guy next to me had an awesome opening that I totally dug, though (and I told him so later, but that’s another time), and Carol was very nice.

(Oh, and she was actually very complimentary about my pages, and complimented my description, which if you guys have been around here for awhile, you know is a weak point of mine, so woot.)

Seducing the Reader: 4 Essential Elements of an Opening (Darynda Jones)

Darynda Jones was one of the keynote speakers, and she actually has 5 essential elements but never got around to changing the title of the class. Also, my Friday panels are very telling about what I’m feeling weak in craftwise lately. Darynda laid out the elements in a way that made sense, and she also provided examples, which I am always for. (I’m a kinetic learner.) She also recommended some writing books, most of which I have heard of before (and one of which I’ve read and own, but it’s probably been a decade since I read it, so maybe I should do so again).

Today’s Marketing for Yesterday’s Author (KL Cooper)

Marketing! I figured I should probably go to some marketing panels, but I think I only hit two all weekend. Ah, well, priorities and whatnot. I think my sister hit more and she doesn’t even have any books out, har har. I probably should have gone to the Putting Clever Twists on Common Tropes panel. A lot of basic marketing info, most of which I already knew, though she did offer specific services to use for some things, so that’s helpful, and she did mention a few things that I’d not heard before and will need to look into.

Friday night was dinner (excellent chicken for me, and chocolate pie for dessert) as well as the costumes, which we wore to dinner and then had a contest for afterwards. My Rainbow Brite costume was well received, though apparently people who were fans of Rainbow Brite still didn’t recognize my sister as the evil princess (her costume was really awesome in the end). Alas. We sat with Carol Berg, who, as I mentioned above, is a lovely person and I like her quite a bit. My table tried to nominate me for the contest but I threw one of my sister’s friends, dressed as Anne of Green Gables, under the bus instead and successfully lured most of the table with me. Oh, and the key note speaker for the meal (we’ll have one for every subsequent meal) was Darynda Jones.

After dinner, which went quite late–9:30 or something?–we went and worked on finalizing our query letters and then ran out to FedEx to print them around 10:30. PPWC has BarCon, which is essentially where everyone hangs out in the bar after dinner on Friday and Saturday nights and “networks,” but we were so tired by the time we got back to the hotel that we just hung out in our room and then crashed.

So, that’s Friday. I hope it’s of interest to you guys! Let me know what you think.

Off We Go

AH.

Hey! At least I’m further along than my sister, because I have a finished costume and a maybe decent query letter?

(She’s texting me pics because she’s working on her costume right now.)

(And it’s maybe decent because I had five people look at it and two said it was really good, two said it was good, and one said it was terrible. Which pretty much sums up my frustration with query letters in general.)

I’m meeting with a developmental editor once we get down to the conference hotel this evening, which should be interesting, but is also somewhat terrifying. Developmental editing is not one of the services I offer, because I don’t feel comfortable working directly with the core of people’s stories, but I’m hoping it will be helpful in terms of some of the issues I’ve been having with the current draft of Book One.

Anyway, said developmental editor has a copy of the infamous chapter one and we will be going over it, and then, depending on the amount of work needed and whether or not it’s doable, I may spend tonight/early tomorrow editing before my Read and Critique session tomorrow afternoon (Carol Berg! Ah!). If it’s a big job, though, I think I’ll just use the R&C as an opportunity to garner more knowledgeable feedback and then fix it next week sometime.

So I kind of feel like that madness is more or less out of my hands for now.

I may poke at the query and see if I can add in a little more detail without being too wordy (another thing I hate about queries), but I’m taking 3.5/5 as pretty decent no matter what. I researched the editor I’m meeting with yesterday so I could add in some personalization and he seems like a cool guy, lots of things in common, and he was the editor for Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy which I’ve talked about here previously and enjoyed. So I’m feeling okay query-wise. We’ll see how that goes. That happens at some time on Saturday, but apparently I don’t get to know when until I get my info packet tomorrow morning.

So, basically, here’s the plan:

  • Poke query but don’t worry if it’s not working
  • Finish packing (remember things like notebooks, schedule, business cards)
  • Print out copy of chapter one for editing purposes
  • Print out query copies
  • Dinner
  • Drive down
  • Developmental editor

And then it’s on to the madness of the weekend. I’ll see you guys on Tuesday to let you know how it went. If anyone’s going to PPWC, keep an eye out for me! I’ll be the tall blonde (and I will have tree pants on Saturday. Just FYI).

Conference Going for the Woefully Unprepared

We’re T-minus 2 days (and some change) until PPWC and I am not ready. It is unlikely I will ever be ready. Especially because I have reached that stage where I know I will never be ready and instead of, you know, working to be as ready as possible even if it’s not the ideal situation, I have spiraled down into a mess of unproductivity.

What, doesn’t everyone do that?

I did finish my costume today, which looks like I wanted it to look, so success! Except, of course, that one should argue that the costume that one will wear for a single evening is less important than, say, the query letter one needs to be pitching on Saturday, and one should probably be writing said query letter instead of sewing velcro onto a belt.

(Although, I can supervise the small, mobile ones and sew at the same time, whereas I cannot think and supervise at the same time, so it’s not like that time would have been useful no matter what. This morning, however, when I played Gardenscapes instead of working on said query letter…)

Anyway, here is this list of things that still need to be done (or at least worked on) by Thursday evening:

  • Query letter. This involves writing said query letter (which I am, in theory, going to do after I finish this post), getting feedback on said query, and editing it.
  • First chapter. I talked a few posts back about the first chapter thing and whether I was unsure I should edit it before the conference, or if it was a good opportunity to get feedback from someone who knows what they’re doing. I’m still unsure, but I do have people looking at it at the moment (the opportunity fell into my lap and I know a good thing when I see it) so if I get feedback in a timely manner AND it’s feedback I can easily incorporate, I will edit this monstrosity before the con. Have not decided if I will edit otherwise. With the way things are going, probably not. I’d like to, but I also need to go to the counter store.
  • New draft. I am currently sitting around 45K (out of an estimated 100K) and I am not getting anywhere fast. If I were on track, I’d roll into the con with 55K, which is still not a full draft, but is at least half of one?
  • General conference stuff. This is stuff like pick what to wear, pack my stuff, don’t forget business cards, etc. This is easy stuff. So of course I’m almost done because it helps me not do the things that really matter. Also in this category is picking panels to go to at the conference, and I have selected two for almost every time slot because I’m hoping my sister will go to one or the other, which is probably wishful thinking, but hey! Sometimes it works out. She will probably not go to the marketing panels for me, alas.

Now that the costume is done, I only have one non-conference related project to finish up (and am only waiting on the final go ahead), so I really have no excuse not to do the more important stuff. But will I? Hopefully.

If you didn’t vote in the nonfiction poll, I think wordpress probably closed it, but feel free to let me know your preferences in the comments. We’ll jump back into that once I’m done freaking out about the conference (which might be next week, but there might be residual freaking, so it may be the week after that).

A Poll, a Conference, and an Update

Can you believe it’s April, squiders? And, yes, I realize that we are halfway through April, which almost makes it worse.

At the end of April, I am going to be attending Pike’s Peak Writers Conference (henceforth PPWC). This is my third time going, but it’s been five years since I last went. (My mother and sister went last year, and when they renewed for this year, they bought me a registration too. Really hard to say no to a free conference.) I probably talked about it here on the blog back in the day.

(I checked. I did.)

Part of me is really excited. I stopped going partially because it is expensive (almost $400 for the conference alone) and because I’ve spent the last several years working on indie projects (such as Shards, which came out in 2013, and City of Hope and Ruin, which came out last May, as well as ton of really fun anthologies). I am trying a few projects traditionally again this year, so the timing works out.

I’ve even secured choice assignments–an acquisitions editor at Del Rey for my pitch assignment, and Carol Berg (!!!) for my read and critique.

But I’m also not in a great place confidence-wise at the moment. While I am finally getting somewhere on my rewrite (approximately 35K in at the moment) it’s quite obvious to me that this isn’t the final draft. I’m still worried about pacing in the first part (now that I’m past the inciting incident, it seems to be fine) and the first chapter is just a mess all around.

And I feel like I’m being overly critical of my basic sentence structure, which makes flow hard, and what if there’s not enough description still, and…

Oy. You get the point.

At the end of March/April I considered switching projects before PPWC. My options were:

  1. Pitch my YA paranormal that I’m finalizing submission stuff for. The novel is polished, the stuff is mostly ready, I could in theory start querying agents any day now. But I would have had to switch my requests for agents, etc., and that late in the game I was not likely to end up with anyone who was the right genre.
  2. Switch to my space dinosaur space adventure story. It’s at about 54K, the draft thus far is very clean, and the approximately 30K left is easy to get done in a month. Plus, no switching on agents, etc. But I would have lost several days to project switching, and there were no guarantees that I wouldn’t have run into issues with the last part of the draft and still would have ended up at PPWC with an unusable manuscript.
  3. Stay with the rewrite.

Which is what I did, because basically I’m not going to be ready no matter what. And here we go, come hell or high water.

I have been thrown into a bit of a panic re: Carol Berg. My first thought was “Oh God that is a lot more major of an author than I expected to be participating in this” and my second was “Oh God my first chapter should be burnt in a fire.” Having thought about it rationally-ish for a few days now, this could be a really good opportunity to get some help on something that has been giving me a lot of trouble. But it could also be an opportunity for me to make a giant fool of myself. Time will tell, I suppose!

Anyway. I’m going to keep the rest of the consistency topics for the book, so it’s time to figure out what we should move onto there.

As such, here is our favorite poll, yet again:

The weather’s been lovely here lately, squiders. I hope you have good plans for the weekend and that things are going well for you.

PPWC and Genre Panels

I seem to be having a bit of an issue getting back into the swing of things post-conference. Brain overload, perhaps? Anyway, my apologies for this entry being so late. Hopefully everything returns to normal tomorrow.

PPWC was a good time again. Learned a lot. As always, a lot of the things are things I already know, subconsciously, but it’s nice to have them pointed out on a level where I can realize what exactly I’m doing and why. And, of course, it’s always nice to spend time talking to everyone.

I will almost always choose to go to a craft workshop over a genre one, but I did manage three genre panels this weekend: a fantasy/paranormal one, a mystery one, and a science fiction one. Part of it is because I like to think I’m fairly well-versed in my genres of choice (see last year’s Subgenre Study series), and part of it is because a lot of the craft panels are applicable to a wider variety of stories. Adding conflict or emotion is just as important in a thriller as a romance as a fantasy.

I hate to say it, but I found the fantasy/paranormal one to be mostly useless. Part of the issue of being on top of things, I guess. But I did learn two things: 1) It is hard to sell a YA paranormal (or dystopia) currently, and 2) Epic/High fantasy is on the way back up. I followed up on the YA paranormal note with an agent later in the day, and she said that the issue is that publishers snatched a whole bunch up all at once and just don’t have any room in their lists for the genre for a few years. On the other hand, let me tell you how excited I am about epic fantasy making a come back. I’m sure we can thank George RR Martin for that fact, but GLEE.

The mystery one was lovely. I do not write mysteries (well, except that one time. We don’t talk about that time.) but I love reading them, especially cozies. (A cozy is where the “detective” is an other-wise normal person who, for whatever reason, finds themselves in the strange position of solving a crime.) But they were lovely, and the notes they gave about red herrings and misdirection will be useful for any genre, as long as you want a little bit of confusion. (And, you know, maybe I’ll give it another go sometime.)

The science fiction one was good, as well. Not just because the panelists got into a fight over the political structure of the Federation (“It’s a communist meritocracy!”), though I admit that sweetened the deal. It was nice and intimate, since 95% of the people at the conference were at Donald Maass’s world-building workshop. And I am not as up on science fiction as I am fantasy. It confirmed some things that I had suspected – such as the near impossibility of selling space-based science fiction (especially space opera) at the moment. The current scifi climate is focused on environmental thrillers and dystopias. Also, a publisher on the panel noted that it was a hard sell for any adult science fiction at the moment; almost everything coming out is YA or children’s.

So I guess I should hold off on that science fiction series I’ve been planning for a while longer.

Last year I came out of PPWC feeling energized and motivated – this year I feel mostly tired and a little discouraged. Not really sure why.