The first day of the conference started out with a wonderful breakfast buffet. We all ate and sat around shooting the bull. I think Janet_Reid captured Kari Lynn Dell first rattle out of the box. She was also seen in the company of a prospective client who had written a fabulous novel she was very excited about. (Don’t all writers wish they had agents clamoring for their manuscripts like that?)
Here was the schedule.
I attended the Agent Panel as I always want to know what agents are thinking. I, like most writers, think the more we know about agents and publishing, the better our chances of survival.
The biggest thing I learned was each agent is different and yet the same. There are some common sense rules each agent expects and I won’t go into them here, because I trust you already know not to send out the same query to 100 agents in the cc, and you should not address it “to whom it may concern,” or submit gothic erotica to that Christian agent who only reps inspirational material.
The number one rule still stands; write well. Good writing rises to the top and snags the agents immediately.
Strong query letters. Yes, they are a must. If you can spend the time to write the next best seller, you can take out time to write a winning query letter. It deserves more than ten minutes.
Read the submission guidelines for each agency and send them what they ask for.
Study the agents on your list and follow them on Twitter, Myspace, blogs, Facebook or other social outlets. Remember, aside from their professional blogs, the other spaces are social. Don’t pitch them or bug them about publishing. If they want to talk about it, they will open up and invite questions. From the blogs especially, you might learn one agent wants a synopsis with everything from beginning to end, while another doesn’t want to know how it ends. They want to be surprised. If you’re going to go agent hunting, you have to know them.
You’ve spent one, two or ten years writing your masterpiece, take a while to understand who is a good fit for you.
The next class I went to was the Agent Editor Critique Workshop. This one is going to get special attention because it was both the best thing, and the most bizarre thing, I have attended. Beth Shope and I attended the workshop with Del Rey editor Kaitlin Heller.
Ms. Heller’s comments were spot on and made me go back and do some in depth rewriting…again. She also told me later to listen to the advice Beth had. No surprise there. Beth has a very good eye.
I also wound up with a pitch appointment with Ms. Heller. Thankfully, she had already seen the first pages because if it had been a cold pitch she probably would have twitched and hit the secret eject button.
It was bad.
Writing Characters that Live, Deep Editing and The Same but Different were also on my wish list, but as with all conferences, you have to prioritize.
My last class of the day was Kristin Nelson’s Say Goodbye to the Slush Pile. That was a two-part class. The first part was to basically write a jacket blurb and determine what your turning point is. Unfortunately, some other things were going on and I didn’t make it to the class the next morning. Suffice to say, my query letter needs work.
Kristin picked out a sampling from the class to read their blurbs aloud. Then we studied some examples of published books and learned how to spot the hook. She kept going back to the writers after they had time to rewrite them and see how they had progressed. Some did very well and others seemed to miss the concept.
One was a melodramatic, woe-is-me memoir. I can’t imagine it selling, but I read very few memoirs, and the ones I read have to be spellbinding. He caught me later, and read it to me in the hall. He asked me if I would read the book if I saw it on the shelf. I told him the query was much improved, but I wouldn’t read it because I don’t care for that kind of book. Trying to be kind while being honest is the pits. It was one of those stories I think many people need to write to get it out of their systems and then bury it and their past in a trunk and move on.
I had my query letter and I wish I had just taken it to the second half of the workshop, excusing myself for being late and at least received some feedback on it. Live and learn. Now, I still have the query letter monster to conquer.
The Mexican buffet left a lot to be desired. I was mostly impressed with the food at the hotel, but they should leave Mexican to Pancho’s. The kick off speakers were good and I enjoyed them.
I’ll try to find notes others made on classes even though it seems life hit everyone square between the eyes and no one has posted the detailed notes we usually wind up with.
Carol Berg is always a good bet at a conference, but I missed her Writing Characters that live.
Throw ‘em to the Wolves was another class I really wanted to take, but missed. Conflict is king in fiction and for most of us, it’s a struggle to get enough and the right kinds in our story.
Deep Editing Power with Margie Lawson. If you can ever take a class from her, I highly recommend it. Everyone who took the class loved it. I won one of her courses and Lisa showed me how to use it at the retreat. It’s a fascinating concept and one that gives you a visual of the shape of your chapter. You realize what piques the reader’s attention as well as what slows down action and where you have too much of one thing or another. It also teaches you to look for successful patterns in your own writing.
I can’t say enough good things about Margie.
We all convened in the lobby/bar for a second night of cupcake bash and drinking. Lest you think we were all just drinking and eating, let me assure you, lots of work was going on. The ones who attended the critique workshops, brought their pages down and we went through them so see what we agreed with and what seemed off the wall.
The fun thing about setting up a cupcake area is all kinds of people stop by to see what’s going on. Even people who aren’t part of the conference. We were all genuinely happy to visit with everyone. Many of the authors and presenters turned into repeat visitors, which was enormously gratifying. No, we weren’t star chasing or stalking agents and publishers, but most of them are genuinely interesting people and we loved just visiting with them.
Julie B made little rhinestone embellished sharks for some of us and for Janet Reid. Janet’s had vicious teeth drawn in. It tickled me when I went to the pitch session later to see the little shark on top of Janet’’ papers in the registration room.
Rhondalynn made a nifty Gnome Writers Circle design and Julie B made them into buttons.
I guess my biggest regret about Denver was I was a bit nauseated all the time I was there. Some said it was the altitude. I limited myself to one or two beers at night because I didn’t think nursing a hangover in a class would be a good thing.
I noticed one agent made a remark about the altitude the night’s previous drinking was kicking her ass, so she asked people to be gentle with her.
11:00 – 4:00pm Registration Hotel Lobby
12:00 pm Agent Panel — Guest Agents (all levels) Ballroom A
Agents introduce their agencies, describe their acquisition process and answer common questions. (one hour)
Pitch Magic — Peggy Waide (all levels, special interest) Ballroom B
Make the most of your pitch appointment with a few simple tips and techniques. (one hour)
Orientation Session (special interest) Big Thompson
Get acquainted with the Colorado Gold Conference. Learn how to make the best of your time and to read the schedule. (one hour)
A Booming Generation of Readers — E. Cameron Stacey (special interest) Platte
Learn what the minor differences are between conventional and erotic romance and why a slew of young professionals are buying it. (one hour)
Die Laughing — Mario Acevedo, Warren Hammond, and Jeanne Stein
(all levels, special interest) Aspen
How to use humor to keep the reader turning pages even as the bodies are dropping. (one hour)
The Same…but Different — Eldon Thompson (special interest, in-depth) Ballroom A
Yes, you need a fantastic world for your fantasy novel, but you also need a society where people can relate to each other… and the reader. Come learn a few tips for developing a fictional world that will seem both fresh and familiar. (two hours)
Writing Characters that Live — Carol Berg (all levels, in-depth) Ballroom B
Learn techniques for inventing a person, ways to get into your characters’ heads and give them inner lives that motivate their actions. (three hours)
What’s the Big Idea — Jax Daniels (beginning craft) Big Thompson
They ask where ideas come from. Here’s the answer. (one hour)
Cold Critique — Charlotte Cook (advanced) Platte
Read your first pages before an editor and find out what might invite an offer or stop your submission dead. Reading opportunities will be limited. (two hours)
Editor/Agent Critique Workshops (all levels) 3rd Floor
Pre-registered participants receive feedback from editors, agents, and other attendees on their first ten manuscript pages. (three hours)
Throw ‘Em to the Wolves:
The Basics of Conflict — Tracy Garrett (beginning craft) Big Thompson
Conflict draws your readers into the world you create. Using current examples and writing exercises, participants explore conflict’s role in making your story better. (one hour)
Deep Editing Power:
Creating Page Turners — Margie Lawson (advanced, in-depth) Ballroom A
Learn Deep Editing techniques including the EDITS System, a psychologically based system developed to help readers analyze scenes. Learn strengths of scene components, which patterns invite skimming, which pick up pace, and how to stream emotion leading to turning points. (two hours)
Don’t Just Sit There — Barbara Graham (beginning craft) Big Thompson
Do your characters spend too much time thinking and talking? Let a former dance teacher/choreographer help you put movement into your work. (one hour)
Begin with a Bang — Susan Mackay Smith (beginning craft, in-depth) Platte
An in-depth examination of the essential opening pages: what’s required and how to be sure you include the elements necessary to keep readers reading. (two hours)
Realism and What Drives Readers Crazy — James 0. Born (special interest) Ballroom B
Using his background in law enforcement, James 0. Born covers the simple details on procedure, firearms and simple fallacies that led to his career advising writers and TV shows about what is realistic in action stories.
Say Goodby to the Slush Pile: Writing the Perfect Query Letter Pitch for Your Novel, Part 1 —
Kristin Nelson and Emmanuelle Alspaugh (advanced, special interest, in-depth) Big Thompson
How does a writer boil 300-plus pages down to one pithy pitch paragraph? Part 1 of this workshop will teach writers how to nail the pitch for their query letters. Attendees will then be given overnight to redraft their pitches and query letters and then be able to test them out in part II. (90 min)
Say “Yellow” to Your Plot — Janet Lane (beginning craft) Aspen
Yellow pate plotting – let your fingers do the walking! (one hour)
5:30 Cash Bar
6:00 pm Mexican Buffet
Kickoff Speaker Eldon Thompson & Writer of the Year Mario Acevedo
7:30 pm Book Sale, Novel Idea Follies, and Critique Group Information Tables