One comes away from a writers’ conference brimming with all sorts of new-found knowledge, a big to do list, a whole new set of friends and lots of inspiration.
I went to some interesting workshops:
Pitch Practice – a panel of four agents and editors gave us tips for a good pitch We listened to people pitch their books and find out the panels reactions. Most notable comments:
- Don’t rehearse your pitch.
- In sixty seconds tell the crux of the story, the genre, word count and title.
- Don’t give a plot synopsis
- Do say if you’ve been published or won awards.
- Keep it simple and don’t be nervous.
Robert Dugoni’s Creating Plots for Page Turners
- Does the beginning add value to the rest of the book?
- Something interesting must happen right away.
- Let the characters entertain, not the author. In other words, don’t do these: narrative opinion, biography, info dump (too much setting), flashbacks.
- Flashbacks are okay but only if they clarify something happening now. A good flashback goes back to a real-time present scene and must be necessary for the main story.
- Anything that can be presumed can be cut.
- There is action in dialogue, dialogue is action – it keeps the story moving.
- The end does not have to be happy, but it must be satisfying.
- Create empathy for your protagonist
SiWC Idol – first pages are submitted anonymously and read out loud to a panel of agents. They tell us when they would stop reading the submission and give their reasons:
- No character development.
- Too much scene setting.
- Uses clichés.
- Too much back-story.
- The agent from the USA stopped numerous ones because they were too regional – mentioned the small Canadian town/province too often.
- Started with someone waking up from unconsciousness.
Just as important for me were the Blue Pencil’s where you can sign up for a fifteen minute chat with an author and have them look at three pages of your work. I got my money’s worth and did four. I think each time I was able to more clearly describe my book and ask more pointed questions. I got positive feedback on my writing and good tips on how to construct a novel. That’s sort of my main problem – where to begin and how to go back and forth in time – the order of the scenes and the dreaded back-story. So I’m doing a little research, reading other books in my genre and deconstructing them chapter by chapter.
Most important are the people who I met. Writers, all of them. Even if they also think of themselves as bankers and personal trainers and teachers and engineers. Whether they write full-time or part-time, they are all writers. Building confidence, helping others. Learning, connecting, writing. That’s The Surrey International Writers’ Conference in a nutshell.