Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Putting the WORK in Working Writer's Retreat

re·treat (noun) \ri-ˈtrēt\: a (1) : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.

The above definition of retreat is not what you are going to get if you attend the SCBWI Encino Working Writer's Retreat (WWR). As you will encounter what is difficult, dangerous, and disagreeable, but that isn't that the same thing we want for our  protagonist? A weekend at the WWR will make you feel the exact opposite of how Merriam-Webster defines retreat. Difficult in that presenting your work to peers and professionals is no easy task. It may even make you feel like losing your lunch. Dangerous because there is the chance that the field is too saturated and your current W.I.P. may have to be shelved. Disagreeable because you can be 100% guaranteed that everyone is not going to agree with you.

My bed: I did move the laptop to sleep.
This WWR is all about pushing yourself, and your writing, to the next level. This may be called a retreat, but only in the context that I retreated to my room to revise, revise, revise. Though exhausting, by the end of the weekend, those revisions paid off with glowing reviews of my work.  However, I'm sure you are not here to read all about the work I put into revising, you want to know what the professionals said. 

The WWR hosted two agents: Jill Corcoran and Abigail Samoun, one editor: Heather Alexander, and the amazing writing duo of Judy Ross Enderle and Stephanie Jacob Gordon with a guest appearance from Jen Rofe on Sunday morning. The professionals listened to forty writers read their first five pages to them. The writers were given an hour between sessions to revise, the agents/editors were not. I can only imagine how tiring this event was for them. In between sessions, we revised, ate, and held Q&A sessions. Below are some of their thoughts on writing:

  • Introducing the reader (to your work) is a dangerous act. They (the reader) must feel they can trust you. Don't let them down. 
  • Always show as much of the character in the beginning as you can. 
  • Keep the scene active. Get to the point of where your story is going, then continue to write that way. 
  • Don't hold back, make yourself vulnerable 
  • Don't rush the work.   
  • No info-dump. Keep the reader in the scene. 
  • No prologue, let the reader figure it out on their own.
  • Drop us (the reader) into the middle of a scene, but let us know where we are.
  • Make us like characters we are not supposed to like. 
  • Keep good pacing and timing. 
  • Be your hero's worst enemy. Throw more bad things at them. Keep amping up the trouble.  
  • Read your story out loud; especially picture books.
  • Send your work when it’s 100%. We want great, not  good.
Words of Inspiration: 
  • Read, read, read. First for fun, second craft.
  • Test your concept before you write. (You can find a list of places to look here).
  • Learn to love the revision process. 
  • Have fun, play, and experiment with your story.
  • Read everything in the bookstore, not the library, that's what is getting published.
Now, my challenge is to make the rest of the W.I.P. as tight as the first five pages I revised this weekend. Let me see, if it took me three days to fix those five pages, about 1300 words, and my MS has about 50,000 words; if I work everyday, without any interruptions, I should be done in 120 days (sigh). I don't even want to figure out how long it will take me in the real world. But, hey, who writes in the real world?


Cynthia said...

Thanks for sharing your notes. I agree it's important not to rush the work, and to send out only the best of what we have. Someday, I hope I can learn to love the revision process. Right now, I only tolerate it. =)

Julie DeGuia said...

Glad to hear you had good reviews! And all these tips are great - good reminders!

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Hahahaha! I feel the same way about the revision process.

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Thank you Julie. Most agents/editors say similar things, but you are right, we need to be reminded.

L.G. Keltner said...

These notes are great! Thanks for sharing them.

I have a little something for you on my blog.

Rita said...

Thanks for these great tidbits! I'm sure you knocked 'em dead last weekend. You always do.

Magical Mystical MiMi said...

So helpful Jenn. Thank you so much for sharing!

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Glad I could help :D

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Thanks Rita *blushing*

Elise Fallson said...

I was glad to read the bit about no prologues. I got rid of mine a few months ago because I didn't find in necessary. All the information in the prologue comes out later in the story. Thanks for sharing, it sounds like you had a great trip!

Stacey said...

I think sometimes we need a challenge to really get on with things. And it must have paid off - well done on the glowing reviews!

Thanks for sharing the tips too. I don't think we can ever get too much good advice :-)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Love your laptop in bed! I had to take mine to the main bldg to get my head in work mode. Lee Wind was amazing the way he helped everyone use the printers. In fact, the organizers blew me away with how smoothly everything ran. The weekend was more than I hoped it would be. So worthwhile.
So glad to have connected with you at the schmooze, too. :)
By the way, do you tweet? @triciajobrien

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Good for you Elise, you are already thinking like an agent/editor.

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Thank you. I agree, more advice, leads to less mistakes, and less rejections... I hope.

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Lee was (is) amazing! Of my four times, this weekend was by far the best!

Sherry Ellis said...

Sounds like it was a good retreat. Thanks for sharing all of that good advice!

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