My Takeaways from the Writing Conference

It’s already been a week since I attended my first Writers Conference. I’ve been busy correcting my manuscript (more on that shortly), and writing some flash fiction for a contest. But I want to take a few minutes to give you some highlights of my takeaway from the conference. First, it was exciting, disappointing, and fun. Exciting just to be there; disappointing to receive my critiqued manuscript full of red marks; and fun meeting and hearing from other writers.

I attended several workshops, heard from the faculty during two panel discussions, and listened to the main speaker, Torry Martin.

At one workshop led by Larry Leech, I learned about the importance of having an “adorable antagonist.” A villain is needed for conflict but should not be used just as a scapegoat. A villain should be likable in some way and the bigger (s)he is, the greater the victory for the protagonist.

From DiAnn Mills, I heard about creating good dialogue. A writer needs to know what motivates their characters, to understand their top emotions and what type of body language they would use to express themselves. Gestures and body language help to “show and not tell.”

During a panel discussion, the members of the faculty were asked to give and explain some of their pet peeves concerning writing. Among these were: exclamation points, misuse of pronouns, using the passive voice, run-on sentences, indefinite “it” beginning a sentence, and the overuse of being verbs. When I heard this last discussed, it struck home with me, and I had to wonder if my writing was guilty of this. I didn’t have to wonder long. When I received my critique the next day, the use of many “be” verbs was heavily marked.

The main speaker for the conference, Torry Martin, spoke on the importance of networking. He stated that we don’t need to be a “bon vivant” to network. (Always good to learn new words and how to use them). Since most writers (including myself) are introverts, this was good to know!  Torry had a lot of good advice on networking, and if you ever have a chance to hear him, I highly recommend taking the opportunity.  I particularly appreciated his way of looking at networking from a spiritual perspective. He quoted Philippians 2:3 (“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves”) several times during his lecture, stating that all networking by Christians should be done with this verse in mind as we want to do all things under Christ’s leadership.

In all, I enjoyed hearing from different writers and having a chance to mingle for a couple of days. I know I have a great deal of work to do, but I left inspired and encouraged to keep at it.

Any conferences or workshops that you have attended lately? Or plan to in the near future? I hope this has encouraged you to check some out.

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Going to a Writers Conference

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On Friday I will be attending my first writers’ conference–the Christian Writers Conference in Spartanburg, S.C. I’ve been pretty excited for several weeks now, but I can now add: scared, nervous, and a bit intimidated.  My first class will be on “How to Get the Most Out of the Conference.” That was an easy enough choice, but choosing the right class in the different workshops is a little more difficult, though it’s great to have so many interesting ones to choose from.

There are many writers conferences out there, and even though I haven’t yet been to one, I can already recommend that if you’re into writing at all, that you look for one that you can attend. Besides the classes that are available, attending a conference gives you the opportunity to meet other writers and others in the industry. I especially hope to connect with some writers who might live in my area.

Also, for any of you on facebook, I started an author’s page under the name–P.M. Gilmer. I’m posting and sharing news about reading and writing, so if you’re on facebook, check it out and give me a follow. I’ll be sharing some highlights from the conference on there (probably through Twitter) when I can, but I will definitely be sharing more right here when I get back.

How about you? Are you attending any writers’ conferences this year?

Writing Contests: For Better or Worse

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In the past few months, I have entered two different writing contests. Though, of course, I hoped to win (or at least be a finalist), I mostly entered these contests in order to receive feedback from those in the industry (other writers, publishers, editors, etc.) Well, I got my feedback.

I did not win. I did not place. I did not even impress.

When I received my scores, I already knew I was not a finalist, but it was still painful. Looking at the first judge’s scores, I saw 4’s and 5’s and hoped that meant the scores were from “1” to “5”. Since the next judge had some 7’s and 8’s, I knew it must be out of 10.

In both contests, I received comments from three different judges (anonymous so as to protect them from irate and sensitive writers). In both contests, the first judge dislikes my story and has little (if anything) good to say. In the first contest, the second judge was a bit more middle of the road with her/his comments, and the third had at least a few good things to say. In the second contest, both the second and third judges had encouraging things to say, even though they weren’t totally sold. I had to wonder if they were doing a bad judge/good judge routine.

My first thoughts upon reading the comments was to want to throw my beloved “work in progress” into the deepest sea. But, from following a recent online discussion among members of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), I know that receiving such a wide range of comments is not unusual, and that I am not the only one that might feel a bit confused by the seemingly inconsistencies of the judges. (One person said they had received a 67 and a 98 from two different judges in the same contest). None of us enjoy receiving criticism, but it would seem to be more helpful if the comments were more consistent across the board. But, judges are human and they do not all like the same kind of stories.

Takeaway: Though I have struggled at accepting the comments, I have been able to go back through them and find what is helpful and what is just one person’s opinion. After I sent in my last entry, I changed a few things and have a few other areas marked to be either omitted or rewritten. So, if I had been a judge myself, I have to admit, I would have been of the same opinion in several ways. Will I enter more contests? Yes; definitely. Overall, it has been helpful and has made me work harder to perfect my writing before sending it to an agent.

Are you wondering about the shells? All are olive shells found on the same beach (Myrtle Beach, S.C.), but none of them are the same. Basically the same shape, but different colors and sizes. I picked up the shells that attracted me and wanted to keep. So are our stories and those works in progress. Not everyone will be interested enough in what I write to even desire to pick it up. Some may be interested (even when I finally get it right), but maybe not enough to read it through. But, I will work at polishing my stories and finding the readers who will be interested for their enjoyment.

Any writers out there that have been entering contests? Have you found them helpful? Worth the submission fee or not? Not every contest is for every writer, so it’s important to find some that will benefit you and will be worth that entry fee.

 

 

Carolinas WordFest Saturday October 15, 2016

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Interested in reading and writing? Want to learn more about writing? Would you like to meet some local writers? This Saturday in uptown Charlotte will be the Carolinas WordFest. Being a new member of the Charlotte Writers’ Club, I am excited about this event and am looking forward to meeting others in our community who are also interested in writing.

From their flyer: “Writers are a creative lot. We appreciate how reading and creative writing can feed the soul, and about a year ago, we let loose our imaginations. The result: Carolinas WordFest. The festival is a celebration of some of North and South Carolina’s finest writers with free, interactive programming designed for all ages and literary tastes. It is a smorgasbord that invites you to become engaged, sample something new and enjoy something familiar. Come. Be inspired. Have fun!”

This is a free event for all ages. For example, I will be spending time at ImaginOn helping children put their stories down and creating their own books. There will also be musical story telling in the afternoon which kids of all ages should enjoy.  Other events will be held in First Ward Park, Spirit Square Knight Gallery, and in the Main Library. For a list of all events: https://carolinaswordfest.com/about/schedule-of-events/

There will also be a chance to hear and meet different authors from the Carolinas. For a detailed list of the authors: https://carolinaswordfest.com/writers/

What’s an event without food? A few food trucks will also be around, so come on out and have some fun with your local writers!