Conference Prep


I’m planning to go to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference again this year, so my mind is full of all the things I want to get done between now and then.

We’ll have a CSFF Blog Tour the week of the conference, so that will occupy time that I normally have to prep. But what exactly does “prep” involve?

For one, I’ll need more business cards. I print my own with my Mac on these cool linen cards that don’t have perforated edges. But I’ll need to have a friend take a more recent picture (I’m of the mind set that cards and profile pictures should actually LOOK like the person).

Then there are manuscripts to prepare. Mount Hermon gives those of us attending, the opportunity to get either a critique or an editorial review as part of the price of the conference. But we have to mail these advance manuscripts in ahead of time. The one I had hoped to send is far from ready …

There are around-the-house things to do, too. Cleaning (why is it I’m more concerned to clean before I leave than when I am here! 🙄 ), arranging for the mail and newspaper to be held, paying bills (since the conference is at the end of the month), getting someone to cover my church library duty the Sunday I’ll be gone, a little shopping—just stuff, but it clutters up my brain and I can’t seem to “get creative.”

The tasks I want to do are the ones that don’t take much thought, at least not the right-brain kind. I’d rather read what others are saying in the blogsphere, check out agents I may want to query some day, work on a new project that has nothing whatsoever to do with what I want to show anyone at Mount Hermon.

I recognize these symptoms as things I do when I’m scared. I’m a classic procrastinator when I don’t think I can pull something off. If I fritter away my time, I know I will eventually not be able to do all the things on my list, giving me an excuse for why I did a less-than-best job.

So now that I know what it is I’m actually doing (blogging as therapy—who knew? 😉 ), I need to exercise that power of prayer I talked about a couple days ago and cast myself on God’s mercy so that I can start tackling some of the prep jobs.

And if any of you are inclined to pray for me these next couple weeks, I would be ever so glad!

Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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Writers Getting Together


I have to admit, I hear a number of writers heading off to Denver for the annual American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (ACFW), and I wish I were going too.

Nothing better than a group of writers and other professionals getting together and learning, laughing, celebrating, encouraging, talking shop.

My conference of choice is the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in Northern California (isn’t that our 51 state? 😆 ), but I have ties in Colorado and would love to have gone to ACFW for that reason alone.

Get this, though. My friend Sally Apokedak will be attending one of the Highlights Foundation (of Highlights for Children fame) Founders Workshops. This is actually a practicum for 6 participants, led by an editor. In Chautauqua, New York. On the west shore of Chautauqua Lake.

And then there is the upcoming Fall Festival of Authors here in Southern California, with, among others, Athol Dickson.

Honestly, I’m feeling a little starved because it’s been over a year now that I’ve been to any kind of conference.

I realize I interact with writers regularly via email and through social networking, but it isn’t the same. People in other professions have face-to-face encouragement regularly. I know from my teaching days, the interaction with colleagues spurred me on and gave me ideas and helped me find solutions to problems.

Writers need this too. But since I’m not able to go to ACFW in Denver, I’ll be eagerly watching the blogs to get a second hand look at that conference. The Inkwell looks especially promising.

Meanwhile, I’m on to work as usual, but I’m starting to save pennies in hopes of making the 2010 Mount Hermon Conference. 😉

Listening to My Inner Editor


I’ve read over and over that writers are to turn off their inner editor. That advice comes from seasoned authors, novices, and instruction books. And I think it’s wrong.

Not entirely, mind you, but I think it’s a great advantage to develop an ear for what works, and I don’t think a writer does that by ignoring the nagging voice that says, This part isn’t right.

I’ll add another caveat: I don’t think an author should listen to any editor or critic when working on the rough draft of a story. An author must accept that a rough draft will be … rough. Plot points may not quite fit. Characters won’t always be adequately motivated, and their personalities probably need to be fleshed out more completely. Setting may need to be envisioned afresh.

And language! Repetition will need to be annihilated. Wordiness, cut. Weak verbs will need to be replaced, and so on.

But those are all things to do in the rewrite, not in the first draft.

When rewrite time comes, however, I think it’s important for an author to reach a point where he trusts his inner editor.

I remember when I first went to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in Northern California and met some of the writers I’d first encountered on blogs and online writing communities. I remember asking one—Brandilyn Collins, I think, who co-taught the fiction track that year with Randy Ingermanson—if she was in a critique group.

No, she said. And I thought, How in the world does she do it? I had just found an online group that was changing my writing. I was learning so much and growing as a writer.

But the interesting thing I discovered later on is this: When I suspected something in my manuscript wasn’t quite right, those in my crit group who gave me feedback almost always overwhelmingly pointed out those spots as needing work.

In the end, I realized that when I thought something wasn’t right, it probably wasn’t right.

Perhaps that editing skill is something I acquired over years of grading papers. I know it developed exponentially as I critiqued others in my group and even more when I began editing professionally.

But in the back of my head I keep thinking, Writers are smart people, plus they are readers. They know what they like in the books they pick up, so why can’t we apply the same sense to our own work?

Usually, I think the answer is, we’re too close to it. We were visualizing a scene, hearing dialogue in our head, and we think what we wrote is what we were seeing, hearing. But if we set the work aside for a time, then come back to it, we have a much better idea if the words on the page conjure up those same images, that same dialogue, as we first imagined.

Critique groups are great. First readers are great. Editors are great. But I’m beginning to think we authors, who ought to have the most invested in our work, should own a lot more of the rewriting and revising.

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