Conference Spotlight: Critique Round Table Sessions

Greeting from Conference HQ!

Thinking about signing up for a critique round table at conference? Act now, because registration is required and these sessions are filling up! NOTE: Registration for these sessions closes July 15.

The critique round table sessions are among the most popular offerings at RMFW Colorado Gold. Three and a half hours in length, the round tables offer you a chance to receive detailed critique on ten pages of your work and allow you the time to give feedback on the work of the other members in your group. The round tables are a unique opportunity to experience specific critique with other writers as well as an agent or editor. This year, we have 14 sessions to choose from, monitored by an attending agent or editor. Attendees may sign up for one or two round tables. Sessions are offered Friday morning at 8:00 AM and Friday afternoon at 1:00 PM. The tables are open to 8 critique participants and 2 auditors.

Critique Participants: You will submit the first ten pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page synopsis of your story, to be critiqued by the agent/editor of your choice as well as by the other participants at your table.

Critique Auditors: You will only observe; you will neither submit pages nor offer critiques to participants. This is a great way to see how critique works and be a fly on the wall. Hear other authors' feedback on the submitted work and listen as the attending agent or editor shares their insights.

Once registration closes, participants will receive further instructions from RMFW volunteer, Scott Brendel, who manages all the things with Round Table Critiques. He will provide details on everything, including where and how to submit your pages, which will be due August 9.

These sessions are a $40 add-on for participants, $15 for auditors. Deadline to register is July 15. Pages are Due Aug 9.

Conference Bookstore & Friday Author Signing Event

The Colorado Gold Conference Book Sale is a great way to promote yourself as an author and sell copies of your books. Not only are there over 400 attendees, the public is also invited to attend the Friday night book signing. Please spread the word to your friends and fans.

Sign up begins June 1st at 10:00 AM

Eligibility

There are two book sale opportunities at Colorado Gold:

1. The Conference Bookstore (Fri 1pm - Sun 2pm)
2. The Friday Author Signing Event (Fri 8-10pm)

Lots of people ask if they are eligible for the bookstore and signing on Friday. Here is a breakdown of who is eligible for both of these things:

Eligible for Bookstore:

  • Keynotes, Mentors, Special Guests, Presenters, and Panelists.
  • All RMFW Members, even if you're unable to attend the conference.

Eligible for Friday Night Author Signing:

  • Keynotes, Mentors, Special Guests, Presenters, and Panelists.
  • RMFW PAL members (Traditionally Published Author League)
  • RMFW IPAL members (Independently Published Author League)

For information on how to become a member of RMFW PAL or RMFW IPAL, click the links or locate the information under the menu above: About > Published Authors > IPAL or PAL Membership.

Ways to Participate in Friday Night Author Signing and/or Bookstore

  1. CONSIGNMENT (Bring your own books): 
    • New for 2017: If you choose to consign your books, this will be handled through RMFW. RMFW will pay you 85% of the selling price of your books sold. You will be responsible for bringing your own books and checking them in at the bookstore on Friday. If you are coming in from out of state and consigning, we have arranged for you to be able to ship your books to us ahead of time. Be sure to contact us to arrange this.
  2. ORDERED through WHO ELSE! BOOKS:
    • If you choose to have your books ordered and brought to conference by Who Else! Books, Nina and Ron Else are happy to order your books for the conference bookstore.

How Are Authors Chosen for the Friday Author Signing Event?

VIPs, Mentors and Special Guests, our Honored Guiding Member, and WOTY and IWOTY nominees are guaranteed a table at the Friday night book signing. We are currently working on the floorplan for the Friday night event. At the time of this writing, it appears we will have a total of 54 spaces for authors. Because space is limited, we are implementing a first-come, first-served sign-up for all other authors. There will be a proportionate amount of space allocated for IPAL and PAL members, based on their membership.

After the sign-up process, we will contact you personally to confirm the information you submitted about your books. We will also post the authors on the website in case emails don’t reach recipients. Also note that if there are any cancellations by those authors who were assigned a table, the next name on the waitlist will be chosen as a replacement.

When and How to Sign Up

Sign up begins June 1st at 10:00 AM and runs through July 15th at 11:59 PM (or until we are at capacity). You’ll fill out a form on the rmfw.org website, accessible from a link on the home page and conference page. The form will ask for the same information as in previous years. Make sure you complete the entire form.

Everyone who wants to be in the bookstore and signing must complete the form. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • How you plan to participate: bookstore, Friday author signing, or both
  • Author information including your name, pen name, and email address
  • PAL/IPAL membership status and additional information about your eligibility
  • Information about each of your books for ordering and payment purposes
  • Whether you’re bringing books on consignment or prefer to have your books ordered
  • Any additional special instructions

Now mark your calendar! Return here to the RMFW website on June 1st and reserve your spot in the bookstore Friday author signing event. Because space is limited, we are implementing a first-come, first-served sign-up for all other authors. There will be a proportionate amount of space allocated for IPAL and PAL members, based on their membership.

Note to Presenters: If you plan to recommend any books on writing craft during your sessions, we appreciate your sending the titles to Nina of Who Else! Books at who_else@att.net. She will do her best to include your recommendations in the conference bookstore. And don’t forget to mention during your workshop that the bookstore has your suggestions in stock.

Correction: 5/8/17 - This blog was originally posted with language that stated books ordered through Who Else! Books would pay a percentage back to the authors. This was incorrect. Only consigned books will result in payments back to the authors. 

 

Master Classes and Special NLA Story Clinic at Colorado Gold

Greetings from Conference HQ!

We're putting the final polish on the brochure and at-a-glance (AAG) schedule and will have that online very soon. But until then, feast your eyes on the Friday Master Class offerings we have for you this year!

In addition to our fabulous master classes, we are very excited to offer a special Master Class Intensive on Saturday:

The Nelson Literary Agency Story Clinic.

Looking to dig deep and expand your learning at conference? We've worked to put together classes that cover a range of topics taught by excellent instructors with the aim to have something for everyone. Each class is four hours in length and provides more specialized instruction on writing, story development, and the business of being an author. This year’s classes are scheduled for Friday morning and, based on attendee feedback surveys, we've added a Saturday session to the schedule as well.

The fee to attend a master class is $60. Space is limited!

Check out this year's lineup:

MFA in Half a Day: Your Guide to Artful Prose | Angie Hodapp
Writers tend to think that artful prose belongs solely to the realm of literary fiction—that writers of genre fiction need only concern themselves with matters of story craft: plot, structure, character arc, pacing, and so on. Not true! For agents, a great disappointment is a manuscript that scores high on all the elements of story craft but falls flat in narrative style. This master class is all about what genre writers can learn from their literary cousins. Come prepared to write! Learn various poetic and literary devices and practice applying them to your prose, from simple sentences to complex scenes. How can description be used to make meaning? How can voice be used to support theme? And, most importantly, how can you develop a personal writing style that leaves a lasting impression on your reader?

Self-Publish Like a Pro | David Gaughran
Out of the three main tasks an author has – writing, publishing, and marketing – publishing is the most straight-forward, and this masterclass will prove that. It will cover the current state of the industry, delve into the incredible new opportunities that exist for writers today, and also teach you how to self-publish like a pro. You will learn: *How to find an editor, cover designer, and formatter, and how to put the package together professionally. *Pitfalls you must avoid as a writer in the digital age, and how to spot scammers. *Building a readership: Facebook, blogging and Twitter don’t really sell books. We’ll cover what does. The class will also cover common myths, piracy, and the biggest mistakes self-publishers make (and how to avoid them). We'll finish by looking at the marketing strategies of successful self-publishers, and how they have taken over a third of the US e-book market.

Deep Character Building: Analyze, Traumatize, Accessorize & Eulogize Your Character | Chris Mandeville
Your characters are the heart of your story. If you want them to capture the hearts of readers, you need to know them deeply and personally, and be able to convey their richness on the page. This hands-on, writing-intensive master class enables you to dive deep into the history and personality of one character. It can be a protagonist, antagonist, mentor, love interest--any character you want to explore and expand. You'll do four exercises: analyzing, traumatizing, accessorizing, and eulogizing this character. Then we'll explore how to use this information in your story to allow readers to know and understand your character. We'll also look at how you can use what you've learned to build a strong arc for this character. You'll leave the class with exercises and techniques you can use to enrich and enhance any character.

B.A.M!: Crafting Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction with the Book Architecture Method | Stuart Horwitz
It’s the age-old battle between the outliners and the pantsers – those who meticulously script every writing session, and those who pilot solely by feel. Finding your unique approach requires a method rather than a formula. The Book Architecture Method has helped bestselling writers transform their messy manuscripts into polished books. Accomplished and aspiring writers alike will learn the secrets of how to painlessly create a complex narrative such as: • what “plotting” actually means, and why there isn’t one narrative arc but several • how to make sure your book has one “theme” – and one theme only • how to separate your work into scenes and use this disassembly to diagnose what’s going wrong with your manuscript • the secret to why some narratives feel like they are all coming together at an emotional pay-off while others do not. This workshop will introduce writers to a process for organization and revision that includes in-depth exercises. This workshop assumes nothing of a writer’s previous knowledge of technique, nor how much of their manuscript is complete.

Deep Revisions: Making the Good Even Better | Heather Webb
It’s easy to get tangled in our stories while editing. Often we lose hours, months, even years, never knowing if we’re truly finished. In this session, learn how to navigate the three major components to effective editing: the emotional, the organizational, and the mechanical (craft). Attendees will discover when to battle on or to call in help—or when to move on. They will also walk away with concrete tips of how to streamline their process, use betas to the best advantage, and fine-tune specific aspects of their craft. The class is a hands-on approach through exercises as well as examining samples from expert writers. Attendees should bring two copies of the same five-page sample from their manuscript as well.

How to Write a Series that Sells | Susan Spann
Whether you want to write a series or already have one under way, come learn to write--and improve--your series world with multi-published mystery author Susan Spann. Topics include creating a realistic 'series world;' believable protagonists, foils, and villains; plotting the 'series arc' and more! This class examines the series as a whole. Hour 1: establishing a 'series world' and building it effectively. Hour 2: creating protagonists, believable foils, and other supporting characters. Hour 3: 'plotting the larger series through' -Including both overarching series arcs and the arcs for each individual novel. Hour 4: continuity, keeping the details straight, how to weave secondary characters through various novels within the series without creating gaps.

Special Master Class Intensive:
The Nelson Literary Agency Story Clinic | Kristin Nelson, Danielle Burby, Angie Hodapp, James Persichetti
Limit: 12, Register by July 15
Join Nelson Literary Agency for this intensive story clinic designed to help you step back from your prose and turn your premise into a solid plot: Do you have a clear “what-if” premise and story question? Is your novel structured so that it makes promises in the first half that you deliver on in the second? Is character conflict driving your plot, and in the right direction? Do story events progress logically, plausibly, and with clear motivation? Can you identify your major turning points? Is your story idea unique enough to stand out in the marketplace while still delivering on tropes readers of your genre expect? In preparation for this session, each attendee will submit a 750-1,000-word synopsis for a story idea—one you're working on, stuck on, or unsure how to develop. Include specific questions or frustrations you have about your story idea. Manuscripts do not need to be complete. You’ll read and critique each attendee's synopsis ahead of time—not on its merits as a piece of writing, but on the story idea it presents—and be prepared to discuss with the NLA team what works, what doesn’t, and what it will take for each author to take their stories to the next level.

Speaking of Podcasts…

Mark Stevens, RMFW's podcast guru, published a post yesterday that mentioned his broken podcast microphone, and that reminded me we haven't mentioned those podcasts here on the blog for quite a while.

You do listen to the podcasts, right?

I mean, you are aware that RMFW has a series of excellent podcasts for your education and amusement, right? Seventy-eight of them so far!

Ahem!

Number #78 is a must-listen for any member who wants to submit to the new short story anthology:  Angie Hodapp & Warren Hammond - New RMFW Anthology False Faces

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is getting ready to publish a new short story anthology in 2018: False Faces: Tales of Fakes, Frauds, and Facades.

This time on the podcast co-editors Angie Hodapp and Warren Hammond walk us through the process they have developed for selecting and editing stories between now and the anticipated publication in September of 2018.

Angie Hodapp holds a BA in English and secondary education and an MA in English and communication development, and she is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute at the University of Denver. She has worked in publishing and professional writing and editing, in one form or another, for sixteen years. She currently works at Nelson Literary Agency as the Director of Literary Development.

Warren Hammond is known for his gritty, futuristic KOP series. The third book in the series, KOP Killer, won the Colorado Book Award. Warren's latest novel, Tides of Maritinia, is a spy novel set in a science-fictional world.

First up on this episode is another episode of Writer’s Rehab from Natasha Watts. Natasha goes after what she calls an issue of attitude. If your writing role model is Harper Lee or if you are treating your first novel like a passion project, these few minutes of commentary are for you.

Head on over to the podcast page to scroll through the whole list and read the descriptions.

What “Starts with Action” Really Means

Writers are often advised to start their stories in medias res, or in the middle of action. This is pretty good advice—if you know what it means and how to make it work in your story!

First, though, let’s look at what it doesn’t mean. Some writers hear this advice and take action to mean an action scene. They might start chapter one with something like this:

Bullets zinged through the air. Bob dove behind a rusty old car parked outside the bank and jammed a new clip into his 9mm. “Run!” he yelled at Sam. “I’ll cover you!”

The problem with starting your story in the middle of an action scene is that you risk disorienting your reader—and readers, generally speaking, don’t like to be disoriented. Right off the bat, this opening introduces a lot of questions. Who’s shooting at Bob and why? How many shooters are there? A bank is mentioned, so is this shootout related to a robbery? And if so, are Bob and Sam the robbers or are they the cops? Who am I supposed to care about in this scene and why?

Other writers discard this advice altogether because their stories aren’t action stories—no shootouts, no high-speed car chases, no sprinting heroes, standoffs, shiny guns, or ticking bombs. They can’t possibly be expected to start with action if they’re not telling an action story, right?

The truth is, starting with action is something every writer can do, no matter what kind of story they’re writing. The trick is to understand that “start with action” really means “start in scene.”

Starting in scene means that from the very first word of your manuscript, you’re introducing us to a character in a setting and something is happening that hints at tension or conflict. Think of your novel as a play. When the curtain goes up, what do you want your reader see? A setting. A character or two. Movement of some kind that signals that something is happening.

When I’m reading sample pages, I often come across first lines that hold zero-tension and that project nothing but flickering white light on my mental movie screen. The author has not started in scene. Instead, they’ve started with narrative, exposition, or backstory:

When I was a child…

It all started when…

It is often said that…

Long before my troubles began…

My grandmother once told me…

If only I knew then what I know now…

Summertime always made Jane sad…

Some of these narrative intros go on for a few sentences before the author actually gets to his or her opening scene. Others go on for a few paragraphs or even pages. Still others become those dreaded prologues that many agents and editors—and readers!—simply skip because they want the curtain to go up. They want the story to start!

Look at your first line. Do you open in scene, with someone somewhere doing something? Or do you open with narrative, and then transition into scene later? If you opened with narrative, why? How long does it go on, and how does it serve your story or improve a reader’s experience of it? Put your finger on the line of text where your first scene actually starts. Can you chop everything that comes before that? If not, can you weave it in later, after you’ve established your opening scene?

Starting with action means that your opening scene should be external, something visible to your readers. To that end, remember that doing something does not mean your character is sitting alone and thinking. No cheating! If you’re opening with a character’s internalizations (thoughts, memories, ruminations), you’re really opening with disguised exposition or backstory.

Evaluate your opening scene and remember: A strong opening, written in scene, is one of the best ways to keep an agent turning the pages of your manuscript.

*Originally published in Nelson Literary Agency’s monthly newsletter

THE CURSE OF THE WANDERING PROTAGONIST

Originally published in Nelson Literary Agency’s monthly newsletter

Here are three examples of a formula I’ve seen many times in our query inbox. See if you can figure out why the formula doesn’t work…and why we’re probably going to pass on reading the sample pages:

Example #1: Middle Grade

“Protagonist and his friends go on many exciting adventures. Along the way, they encounter a band of pirates, a herd of mystical unicorns, a swarm of angry fairies, and one club-swinging giant who just wants to find his way back to his home in the Mountains of Malfesioria.”

Example #2: Coming of Age

“It’s the last summer before college, and in the wake of his father’s death, Protagonist needs to figure out who he really is. He takes off on a cross-country road trip in Dad’s old Jeep. Along the way, he meets a wise homeless man who teaches him about gratitude, a scrappy orphan who teaches him about forgiveness, and a blonde cocktail waitress who teaches him about love.”

Example #3: Crime Fiction

“In her quest to capture a serial killer, Detective Protagonist must interview one quirky character after another: a past-her-prime exotic dancer who bakes the world’s best chocolate-chip cookies, a grouchy old chess champion with an eidetic memory, and a cynical comedian whose dark sense of humor has managed to offend nearly everyone in Setting City.”

Each of these story-summaries is based on the same formula—a formula I call “The Wandering Protagonist.”

Keep in mind that there’s nothing inherently wrong with a novel in which the main character goes on a journey. And, of course, anyone on a journey is bound to meet interesting folks (human or otherwise) along the way. However, journeys and interesting side characters are neither story nor plot. As such, these three summaries have all missed some very crucial marks. What they’re missing, in the immortal words of Debra Dixon, are Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. I’d also add stakes. (Donald Maass puts his lesson on stakes at the very beginning of his book The Breakout Novelist.)

Let’s look at each example a little more closely.

In Example #1, our middle-grade protagonist has no goal—at least not one that’s mentioned in the query letter. (Hint: The protagonist’s goal should be present in the query letter!) What does he want? What is he looking for? Why? (That’s motivation.) What happens if he finds it, or doesn’t? (That’s stakes.) How can you (the author) make me (the reader) care about Protagonist’s impending success or failure? While this example does hint at conflict (pirates, angry fairies, a club-swinging giant), none of that conflict is directly hooked into the protagonist’s goal. Do the angry fairies want the same thing Protagonist wants, and will they do anything to prevent him from getting it first? Are the pirates the swashbuckling sort, or are they another antagonistic force standing in Protagonist’s way? Do our heroes end up helping the giant get back home? While the author might answer all that in the manuscript itself, this summary, unfortunately, is too vague and does little to pique my interest.

In Example #2, we have a goal, but it’s not a very strong one: Protagonist wants to find out who he really is. We’re missing motivation: Why does he need to find out who he really is (whatever that means), and what happens if he fails (stakes)? We are given hints of conflict: He’s mourning the death of his father, and apparently he needs to learn about gratitude, forgiveness, and love. But in this example both goal and conflict are internal to the protagonist. Remember that there are two kinds of dramatic conflict—internal and external—and that a good story develops both. Give this protagonist an external goal (to visit his grandmother in Sedona, or to scatter is father’s ashes at Niagara Falls, or to return something his father stole to its rightful owner) and some external conflict (the Jeep keeps breaking down, or the scrappy orphan steals his wallet, or his sister is chasing him across the country to stop him from, say, returning the object their father stole, etc.).

In Example #3, we have a goal that’s both clear and genre appropriate: To capture a serial killer. The motivation is implied: To stop the killer from killing again. The stakes are also implied: If Detective Protagonist fails, someone else will die. (Hint: For higher, better stakes, make the killer’s next target someone close to Detective Protagonist. Make the stakes personal.) So far so good. However, the author then wanders off into Wandering Protagonist territory, and there’s zero conflict in the rest of the summary. Perhaps this author, like the author of example #1, hopes to hook agents with his cast of quirky characters. But any author who thinks his secondary characters are more interesting than his plot probably needs to take a long, hard look at his manuscript!

To see if your query letter’s pitch paragraph is solid, print it out and grab a highlighter. Highlight your protagonist’s goal, motivationstakes, and conflict. If they’re all present and accounted for, you’re on the right track!

 

AngieHodappAngie Hodapp has worked in language-arts education, publishing, professional writing, and editing for the better part of the last two decades. After completing her master’s thesis, a work of creative nonfiction, and leaving academia, she gave herself permission to write what she really wanted to write: speculative fiction and romance. Angie is currently the contracts and royalties manager at Nelson Literary Agency in Denver. She and her husband live in a renovated 1930s carriage house near the heart of the city and love collecting stamps in their passports.

Pitch Like a BOSS by Angie Hodapp

Originally published in Nelson Literary Agency’s monthly newsletter

Pitching your book to an agent or editor is daunting. How are you supposed to cram the essence of your entire novel into a pithy couple of sentences? (Hint: You’re not.) Here’s a formula for a concise pitch that will set you on the right track. Ladies and Gentlemen, James Scott Bell‘s “three-sentence pitch”:

First Sentence: Your lead character’s name, vocation, and initial situation. Will Connelly is an associate at a prestigious San Francisco law firm, handling high-level merger negotiations between computer companies.

Second Sentence: “When” + the main plot problem. When Will celebrates a recent merger by picking up a Russian woman at a club, he finds himself at the mercy of a ring of small-time Russian mobsters with designs on the top-secret NSA computer chip Will’s client is developing.

Third Sentence: “Now” + the stakes. Now, with the Russian mob, the SEC, and the Department of Justice all after him, Will has to find a way to save his professional life and his own skin before the wrong people get the technology that can be used for mass destruction.

Boom. Three sentences. The first introduces the protagonist in his ordinary world. The second presents the inciting incident. The third is what your character stands to lose if the antagonistic forces prevail. Here’s another example:

Dorothy Gale is a farm girl who dreams of getting out of Kansas to a land far, far away, where she and her dog will be safe from the likes of town busybody Miss Gulch. When a twister hits the farm, Dorothy is transported to a land of strange creatures and at least one wicked witch who wants to kill her. Now, with the help of three unlikely friends, Dorothy must find a way to destroy the wicked witch so the great wizard will send her back home.

Give it a try, but keep each sentence brief. Having taught this formula at pitch workshops, I know how tempted writers are to pack those three sentences full of backstory, secondary characters, and world-building. Resist that urge!

Now, can you boil your three-sentence pitch down further to create an even more concise pitch? Conversely, can you expand it to craft an evocative query letter? Whichever way you go, start here: with three sentences.

#

Above, we looked at a quick three-sentence formula that will help you start to craft your pitch. Did you try it? Yes? Awesome!

Did you thwart the temptation to squeeze in a bunch of backstory, secondary characters, and world-building? No? Alas. Go back to those three sentences and whittle, hone, refine, and polish. Until you do, your pitch probably isn’t ready.

Go ahead. Do it now. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Excellent. Then let’s get you ready for your pitch appointment:

Ditch the idea that your pitch is supposed to be a complete summary of your novel. It’s not. Your pitch is a conversation starter. Pitch appointments at writing conferences tend to run about ten minutes. Deliver your pitch, then let the agent you’re pitching to ask you questions about your novel. About you. About your writing in general. Relax and have a chat.

Focus on character and plot. Ten-minute pitch appointments fly by, and many are wasted by the author who spends…way…too…much…time…explaining (1) his protagonist’s backstory, (2) his world-building elements, or (3) all the cool historical facts he discovered when researching his novel. Seriously. I once listened to a pitch during which the author never actually told me a single thing about her plot. Even when I asked questions about the story itself, her replies remained focused on backstory and setting. The agent wants to know if the story you put down between page 1 and page 350 is something they can sell. That’s what’s on the table, so focus on that.

Be prepared to respond to feedback and questions. Things I’ve said (gently, I hope!) to writers during pitch appointments include: (1) You’re pitching this as YA, but it’s coming across as a middle grade. What makes it YA? (2) How will your novel stand out among current bestsellers in your genre, or how will it appeal to readers of those bestsellers? (3) What are the last three books you’ve read in your genre? (4) What is your novel’s inciting incident, and how far into the manuscript does it occur? (5) In the story you just described, it concerns me that your protagonist isn’t actually the one who solves the plot problem. (6) The conflict you describe is very internal to your character. What is the story’s external conflict, and how does it get resolved and/or relate to the internal conflict? (7) Has your manuscript been critiqued by a critique group or beta readers?

Bring a copy of your query letter. If the agent stops you in the first minute of your pitch appointment with something like “I don’t represent that genre” (or anything else that feels like a shutdown/letdown), then politely ask if she wouldn’t mind giving you her quick impression of your query letter. After all, it’s your ten minutes. You paid for the appointment. And her input on your query letter just might help you land a different agent—one that’s right for you, your genre, and your project.

Understand that a disappointing pitch has zero bearing on your future as a writer. There will be other conferences, other pitch appointments, other opportunities. Keep pitching. Keep sending out query letters. The more doors you knock on, the more likely one (or more) will open.

And above all, keep writing.

 

AngieHodappAngie Hodapp has worked in language-arts education, publishing, professional writing, and editing for the better part of the last two decades. After completing her master’s thesis, a work of creative nonfiction, and leaving academia, she gave herself permission to write what she really wanted to write: speculative fiction and romance. Angie is currently the contracts and royalties manager at Nelson Literary Agency in Denver. She and her husband live in a renovated 1930s carriage house near the heart of the city and love collecting stamps in their passports.

Master Classes at 2016 Colorado Gold

RMFWConference_Chalkboard_MasterClassesLooking to dig deep and expand your learning at conference? Master Classes are back this year and we've added new times for more offerings!

These classes are four hours in length and provide more specialized instruction on writing and the business of being an author. This year’s classes are scheduled for Friday morning and, based on attendee feedback surveys, we've added a new Saturday morning and afternoon class as well.

The fee to attend a master class is $60. Space is limited.

Check out this year's lineup:

Friday Morning Master Classes

Avoid Real Life Drama: Nuts and Bolts of Contracts and Tax Law | by Lisa Adams
When you enter the digital or print marketplace, it helps to understand both the contract and tax aspects of your publishing adventure beforehand. This is true regardless of whether you are an indie author or traditionally-published. Knowledge is power and a wonderful drama avoidance tool.

Emotion in Fiction: Making Characters Real, Making Readers Feel | by Angie Hodapp
Memorable stories are rooted in emotion. Come learn how to make the three actors of emotion in fiction-writer, character, reader-connect on the page. Then learn dozens of ways you can use character, story, and prose to elicit emotion in readers-and make your stories unforgettable!

Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: The Secrets of Book Architecture| by Stuart Horwitz
Have you ever asked yourself while writing: How many drafts is this going to take? It doesn’t seem like such a question would have an answer but Stuart Horwitz proposes it does–and that the answer is three, provided you approach each draft in the right spirit, and know what action steps to take between drafts. This presentation will discuss the best outlook and direction for each of the three drafts so that you can increase your efficiency, satisfaction, and engagement with both your writing process and your final product.

Nailing an Agent-Grabbing Opening | by Heather Webb (Submit pages by August 1)
Learn what makes an opening grabby-or trite-and how to win the agent's eye for which you're vying. The class will be divided into instruction and workshop time. Attendees are invited to submit up to five (5) pages ahead of time for feedback from the instructor, as well as during class from peer groups.

Writing a Killer Mystery | by Susan Spann
Plotting the perfect crime requires more than merely killing off imaginary friends. You need a sterling sleuth, well-crafted clues, a cast of (un)usual suspects, and a killer eye for details. Come learn the inside tricks of writing standalone and series mysteries, with useful techniques for both plotters and pantsers. Whether you’re a veteran mystery writer or plotting your very first (fictional) murder, this master’s class will give you the practical tools to write complex and compelling crime fiction.

New! Saturday AM and PM Master Classes

Vocal Training for Writers: An Introvert’s Guide to Developing a Fabulous Book Tour Persona | by J. Dylan Yates
55% of people fear public speaking more than death. Why? Lack of training! Writers can overcome public speaking fears using writing skills. This workshop helps align your storytelling talents with your vocal presentations. Get prepared to deliver your biggest promotional asset-your own voice! This fun, engaging workshop utilizes relaxation exercises, professional acting techniques and 1-on-1 coaching. You’ll be given the tools to create a polished, professional speaking presentation. Traditional public speaking principles will be used to develop individual promotional plans. We’ll use vocal and physical relaxation exercises, beginning acting techniques, individual vocal production feedback using personal writing pieces chosen by the attendees. Each attendee will receive a handbook for future reference. BRING: yoga mat or towel, a personal writing piece for reading, a sense of fun, humor, and wear comfy clothing.

Tell and Sell Your Story Smarter | by Betsy Dornbusch
Queries and Synopses are required sales tools for any writer who wants to be-and stay-professionally published. Besides being necessary to sell on spec, they can become valuable tools not just for selling, but for writing. A big secret for success is to write them from the very start, before you get much past the idea stage, and let them evolve with your book. They can validate your idea and give you a process to balance market vs. craft. But even if your book is finished, you can figure out how to write selling copy for your story. In this workshop we'll learn how to write queries and synopses to use not only as sales tools but as novel-crafting aids. There will be plenty of writing time and work-shopping opportunities so participants can walk out of the class with a solid query and synopsis. BRING: Laptop and/or pen and paper.

Query Letter Basics – Western Slope Recap by Samantha Ross

Query letters are a one page- yes, that is right, one page business letter that you are sending off to an editor, agent or publisher. It’s you and your story packaged up in one page, sent off to that coveted publisher, editor, or agent of your choice.

This is a brief overview of Angies Hodapp’ s presentation that she gave in July at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Western Slope event. The presentation that Angie gave is a shortened version of the class she teaches on this subject.

A query letter consists of:

- A personal greeting - one or two sentences

- The project summary - again short, one or two sentences

- Story synopsis - a few paragraphs that sums up all of the story

- Your biographical information

All on one page.

The first step is to finish your book, short story, poem, what ever it is. Make sure it is complete, critiqued, edited, and polished. If all of that is not done yet, you are not ready to send out a query letter. Just because your friends and family love it, does not mean it is polished. Several of them need to belong to a writers group, or are in the writing business. If not, find people who are. Get it reviewed before you say you are done.

Second step is research. Make sure you are sending the query to the right place. This is where research comes in. A common mistake is to send your query to everyone. Huge waste of time for you, looking up everyone and typing in all those addresses. And a waste of effort for the incorrect person who has to read it, and delete it. Make sure you are in the correct market. If the agent/editor/publisher only accepts memoirs of rodeo clowns, don’t send in your science fiction futuristic utopian poem to this person.

Third, and this one is important - follow the rules. Meaning the submission guidelines, those rules the publisher/agent/editor has set out there for you. These rules are online, and in books such as the yearly Writers Market. In the rules are great pieces of useful information such as genre(s)they accept, length of story, who to mail it to, how to mail it, what to mail, what happens after you send it, and many other things. Don’t deviate from the rules. That makes you a deviant, and no one wants to play with you.

Be professional.

Pitfalls to avoid:

  • Claiming you met the person, when you never have
  • “Dear Sir or Madam.” Find out who you are querying and make you sure spell the name correctly
  • Don’t do a page count, do a word count
  • Flattery of the person you are querying
  • Self depreciation
  • How hard you worked at this/how long it took you

Take a class on writing query letters if you have never written one before, or you feel overwhelmed, confused, or clueless.

Don’t forget the person on the other end of the query letter wants to hire you.

Editors/agents/publishers want to find you, and they want you to succeed. When you succeed, they do also. It’s a win-win situation.

“There is no such no thing as a perfect book, and no such thing as a perfect query letter.” Angie reminds us.

Finish it, follow the rules, be professional. Send it off.

 

Samantha Ross pictureSamantha Ross is a ghostwriter, freelance writer and editor. She lives on the Western Slope in Montrose, Colorado. For years she taught adults, organized lesson plans, developed curriculum, and encouraged everyone to be a success. One day she stumbled into her high school librarian who pointed her toward the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Now Samantha’s days are spent writing fiction and non fiction that covers a wide range of topics. If she’s not standing in front of her desk working, she’s spending time with her family and friends.

The Free July Program is on the Western Slope

Western Slope Free Program - No RSVP

Two workshops, two presenters, one morning.
Join us!

Saturday, July 11th, 9:15 AM to 12:00 PM
Grand Junction Business Incubator Center
2591 Legacy Way, Grand Junction, CO

BAD MOON RISING: SET THE TONE THROUGH MOOD AND ATMOSPHERE
~with Warren Hammond

Your character needs a voice, and so does your setting. Whether it's dark-and-stormy or bright-and-sunny, it's time to bring your setting to life just like your characters. Learn to take your writing to a new level by infusing your story with mood, tone and atmosphere.

QUERY LETTERS 101
~with Angie Hodapp

A query letter is a one-page pitch letter—an absolute necessity for novelists seeking agents. Writers dread writing them, agencies receive hundreds each week, and most of them elicit no more than a form rejection letter. However, there are many things writers can do to avoid that fate. Angie Hodapp of Nelson Literary Agency will walk you through writing a standout query while avoiding common pitfalls. Learn the anatomy of a query letter, including what it should (and shouldn’t) say about both you and your completed manuscript, and practice writing synopsis paragraphs that are clear, concise, and compelling. Get tons of tips and tools that will maximize your chances of landing a publishing contract.