Now that I'm settled back into my routine at home, I'd like to share more details about the retreat.
Each workshop focused on things like setting, character, plot, and voice. Throughout the presentations and writing exercises, I had quite a few a-ha moments. I'm certain even more will surface as I work on my WIP and process what I've learned.
I was super impressed with the quality (not to mention the quantity) of information each editor gave us. For example, when Cheryl Klein spoke about voice, she managed to make something that can seem abstract feel solid and tangible. We also learned strategies to strengthen our plots and add depth to our characters. Ruta Rimas spoke about character and setting, and she led writing exercises that enhanced her talks. I think I'll be able to analyze book openings with a sharper eye now that I've heard her discuss what makes books great. Together they were a fabulous combination. (Note: Cheryl Klein has a blog, Brooklyn Arden, that's linked to her name. Click here to find out about a book based on her talks.)
The First Pages Intensives were...intense, in a great way. Each editor looked at our openings and gave their first impressions. The feedback was so helpful. As you know, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and identifying both allows us to figure out what we need to work on most.
INTERMISSION: if you are an agent or an editor reading this, I have no weaknesses as a writer. Uh-huh, really. Thank you for stopping by. The rest of this post will not interest you, but I'm psyched you came to look at my blog. If you're a writer, hang on...
Okay, so back to the strengths and weaknesses. Tee-hee! One of my weaknesses is not adding enough physical description, especially during the first pass. I get so excited writing action and I looove writing dialogue, but I often have to go back for a second (and sometimes third) pass to fill in needed description.
While the editors had positive things to say, both snagged on a paragraph of description on my second page. YIKES! Ironically, I'd added the description even though I'd worried it slowed the pace since my character is running to help someone on page two. Why had I added it? To help the reader visualize the setting. But I shouldn't have.
I can move the description to a later chapter when the pace is slower than it is in the opening or I can weave the details into the action, the way one of the editors pointed out. It's an easy fix. They had a couple other minor catches that will help make my pages shine at query time.
Left: Here are Liz Mills, Margaret Nevinski, and Brenda Olson at Saturday's Kidlit Drink Night.
Below: Lindy Thompson on the dock at the resort.
I enjoyed meeting lots of new friends from both sides of the country and getting to know many of the people from my SCBWI chapter. Something I got a huge kick out of was seeing a writer from D.C. whom I'd met in New York three years ago! We even remembered each other! I'm hoping to meet her at another event in the future.
Here's one last photo.
This is a small stream right at the Alderbrook Resort. They may not be visible in the picture, but we could see salmon throwing themselves up the stream to spawn. Isn't that cool?
It was a great and educational weekend, and I was so fortunate to get to go.