I just returned from the 2013 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. (Here’s a question for trivia lovers: Why is the name is spelled Pikes Peak? Shouldn’t it be Pike’s?) Great place to go for a writer in almost any stage of his/her career. For the first time at any writers conference I’ve been to in quite some time I got to meet agents and editors and hear them talk about the craft of writing. Granted, I’ve read magazines and books and websites and blogs about writing and publishing, but in none of those venues can a person ask questions of the author (except perhaps in a blog where occasionally an expert will answer a question). Getting feedback directly from someone is much better, like being in class at school. Talking directly to someone allows you to hear the nuances and shadows within the answer, not always apparent in a written response. I strongly recommend a writers conference to anyone who is serious about his/her writing. Especially if that person has never been to one.
I can’t give a complete overview here, there certainly isn’t time or room. The conference was divided into seven concurrent sessions on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday so I couldn’t begin to attend every session. I picked only those that seemed to offer something that might help solve my particular writing problems. I learned how to hone your voice, which is your signature way of telling a story; I heard how to talk about your book, how to pitch it, how to write a log line (a short 1 to 2 sentence summary of a book); I heard how to build a world for fantasy and science fiction stories; and I heard one author talk about how to write a protagonist that is really a bad person at heart even though he’s the “hero” of the story. All that was on Friday.
Saturday was my day to pitch my novel to an agent. Unfortunately, that didn’t go as well as I’d planned (but then, when does it?). The agent wasn’t too excited about the story line and had some criticisms of it, but she did ask me to send her a synopsis and the first chapter. I did that as soon as I got home. (I’ve heard rumors, not only at this meeting but at others, that many people who are asked to send something to an agent, don’t. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.) Later Saturday, I attended sessions on detailed point of view and how to stick to it; on short story structure; and on the various genres and how they are divided into larger categories.
Sunday I heard about character building; about plot structure and characters; and about pacing. The information and ideas came at me so fast and thick I’m not sure I caught everything that was thrown my way. I took notes as fast and furiously as I could, and I learned a lot. Now, however, is the time to try to put some of those ideas into practice. That will be (if you’ll pardon the last in a series of clichés) easier said than done.
When it all comes down to improving my writing, the meeting was certainly worth it and I have no regrets on spending the money. As to whether I’ll return next year, that will depend largely on how things turn out over the rest of this year. If I can con an agent into taking me on, perhaps I’ll skip. But who knows, the muse is fickle and time is running out. Time to get back to work.