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.

NaNoPlanno: Get Ready for NaNoWriMo … by Chris Mandeville

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month: a frenzy of writing with the goal of producing a 50,000-word novel in the thirty days of November.

NaNoWriMo Logo

NaNo is a fantastic opportunity to push yourself as a writer. It’s all about quantity of words, not quality. It’s vomit writing, spilling your guts, taking an idea and running with it, sans editing, revision, and second-guessing. It goes to the core of the creative process of writing: putting words on the page.

The official NaNoWriMo was created by author Chris Baty in 1999 and is now run by the nonprofit National Novel Writing Month. Hundreds of thousands of writers have participated over the past sixteen years, writing billions of words.

Roughly 14% of those who sign up actually complete NaNo successfully.

That amounts to thousands of writers who wrote novels in just thirty days. So it can be done. But why would you want to?

The NaNo organizers say the aim of NaNoWriMo is to get people to start writing using the deadline as incentive. I say there’s even more to be gained. NaNo forces you to focus, put writing higher on your priority list, and say “no” to distractions – habits you may carry over into life-after-NaNo. It helps you build other good habits, like writing every single day and shutting up the “inner critic” so your story can flow out uncensored and uninhibited. It’s also a great way to try on a new idea without investing months or years to see if it will hold water. Overall it’s a short-term investment with a BIG payoff: one month of crazy-busy writing that results in a 50,000 word novel and the knowledge that you can do it.

I did it! Photo Credit: thephotographymuse via Creative Commons

Of course another reason to do NaNo is that you might be one of the lucky few whose NaNo book gets published. Some of the more recognizable titles to come out of NaNo are Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, both of which spent time on the New York Times bestseller list. This is a rarity, so it shouldn’t be your primary reason for trying NaNo. But heck, if you’re crazy enough to do NaNo, might as well reach for the stars.

The official NaNoWriMo is free! So if you’re inclined to sign up for NaNo’s 17th year or just want more info, visit www.nanowrimo.org.

If you decide to participate in NaNoWriMo 2015, there are things you can—and I argue should—do to prepare. I call this “NaNoPlanno.”

Schedule. Take a critical look at your schedule for November and move or eliminate everything possible. Re-schedule doctor appointments, put off coffee with friends, cancel your weekend ski-getaway. If your day-job allows, take some vacation or personal time, compress your schedule, or reduce your hours. Find writing time wherever you can. Be creative. Can you move your Thanksgiving celebration to December 1st? Or at least move it to your sister-in-law’s house? Can you forgo Black Friday shopping just this once? Can you limit yourself to watching only the last quarter of the football game? Once you’ve eliminated all non-essentials, take that nearly-empty calendar and block out time to write every single day. Only you know how many hours it will take you to write 50,000 words, and your output can vary from day to day. When in doubt, budget for more writing time than you think you’ll need.

To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you must write an average of 1,667 words per day (or about 2,000 words per day if you take one day off each week).

Support. Let the people in your life know about the monumental task you have planned, and enlist their support. There’s a lot of time—and peace of mind—to be gained when your loved ones buy in to your crazy November endeavor. Maybe it’s as simple as them agreeing not to tempt you with fun outings or ask for favors. Or maybe they’ll take on some of your non-writing duties so you have more time to write. Why not trade cooking with your roommate or spouse? They cook in November, and you cook all December. Or December and January. Don’t be above bribery. Offer your kids a big reward in December if they agree not to interrupt your writing time in November. And don’t overlook hiring help—someone else can walk the dogs, do carpool duty, grocery shop, etc. You may think you can do it all yourself, but in my experience, your odds of finishing NaNo are a whole lot better when you have help and support.

Space. Where will you write? If you don’t have a private writing space, now’s the time to get one. It doesn’t have to be big—a friend turned a closet into desk space when she didn’t have any other option. So find, make, or clear out a space. Do it now! Next, create a sign to let others know you’re busy writing. It can be anything from a literal “do not disturb” sign to a hat you wear. Just make sure it’s a clear signal that you’re not to be interrupted unless something is on fire. If you can’t write at home or prefer not to, scout alternate spaces. Libraries and coffee shops are great, but what about house-sitting or using the conference room at your day-job after hours? Figure out your physical writing space now so you don’t spend precious November moments looking for it. Likewise clear up your virtual space: make a plan for turning off your phone and email, and even hiding your Internet browser from yourself during writing time. The official NaNo site has lots of resources to help you, but these, too, can be a hindrance, so use with caution.

When your writing space is littered with opportunities to “connect,” you can lose a lot of productive writing time to interruptions, distractions, and temptations.

Story. The official NaNoWriMo rules say that you can’t “count” any writing you do prior to November 1. But prep is okay. So prep away! Create characters with vast backstory, clear goals, and driving motivation. Plan out a difficult journey for your protagonist, complete with insurmountable obstacles, impossible conflicts, and terror-inducing villains. Build your world, do research, think about theme and character arc and all that good stuff. There’s no limit to what you can plan during this time, so take advantage of it. Even if you don’t normally “plot out” your story, spend time daydreaming about your characters. If nothing else, give your story a destination: where is it going? If you don’t know the end yet, that’s okay. Simply pick a spot between here and there. A midpoint, a hurdle, a victory. This will give you something to write toward. Once you reach that destination, chances are you’ll know where to head next.

NaNo Planning Photo Credit: Life in the minds of children by Mehdinom via Wikimedia Commons

As for me, I’m already NaNoPlanning for another November as a “NaNo Pirate:” writing like mad but not exactly following the official NaNo rules. In the past I’ve used November—with all the great support and benefits that the official program provides—to revise a novel. This year I’ll be attempting to add 50,000 words to my work-in-progress. I’m such a rule breaker.

Whether you join the official NaNoWriMo or engage in NaNo piracy, I encourage you to take November to push yourself as a writer. Do your own NaNo, whatever that may be. There’s a lot to be gained for a small investment of your time.

If you’ve tried NaNo, please share what you’ve gained in the comments. If you’re considering doing NaNo for the first time, post your questions and concerns so NaNo veterans can guide and support you. Then get to NaNoPlanning! November is coming up fast.

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Photo Credit: Jared Hagan

Mandeville_SeedsMandeville_52waysChris Mandeville writes science fiction and fantasy, as well as nonfiction for writers. Her books include Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure and 52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block.

Learn more about Chris and her work at her website. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Cause for Whine or Food for Thought? … by Chris Mandeville

Chris MandevilleI’ve been perfecting my recipe for Coq au Vin for years. I use the happiest, most humanely raised poultry, a decent French Burgundy, organic farm-fresh veggies, and my own secret blend of herbs. The other night I prepared this special dish for my critique group—we always eat dinner before discussing our writing—and because my critique partner Aaron is a vegan, I also prepared an eggplant Wellington just for him.

As I proudly placed the food on the table, alongside a nice Cabernet, I asked the group, “So, what do you think?”

The guests tasted and slurped and savored and pondered, then they let me know what they thought of the dishes I’d worked so hard on.

Wine, not whine.

Photo “Wine” by Evan Wood, courtesy of Creative Commons.

“It’s pretty good, but I think there’s a little too much salt,” Morgen commented.

“Yeah,” Todd said. “Too much salt, not enough garlic. And the carrots are too crunchy.”

“I don’t love the wine in the dish,” Giles said. “It doesn’t seem to go with the wine we’re drinking. I would have made a different choice on one or the other.”

“I like the wine,” Aaron said. “But my vegan Wellington doesn’t relate at all to the Coq au Vin. It would have been nicer if there were at least some parallel to the dish the rest of you are eating. Besides, I personally don’t enjoy eggplant.”

“Of all the nerve!” you may be thinking. “These guests are so rude. Chris’ feelings must be hurt after putting so much time, effort and love into creating that meal. And that Aaron—what an ingrate! He shouldn’t complain, especially after she went to all the trouble to make a vegan dish just for him.”

Hold your horses and your happy chickens.

This is a happy chicken. He has not been turned into dinner because the prior story was all made up.

Photo “Don’t be a chicken” by Helgi Halldorsson/Freddi courtesy of Creative Commons.

This is just an imaginary dinner party, so don’t be too hard on my friends. The real Aaron would never say those things about a real meal I cooked for him, but he might say something like that about a story I ask him to critique. I can almost hear him:

“I like the voice [wine]. But the subplot [vegan Wellington] doesn’t relate thematically to the main plot [Coq au Vin], and I personally don’t like ‘fish out of water’ stories [eggplant].”

“Ah,” you may be saying. “I see the parallel now.”

Yes, this dinner party conversation is an analogy for CRITIQUE.

Now that you know that, let’s go back to the dinner party and change things up a little. Rather than simply asking “What do you think?” when I put the food on the table, let’s say instead I explained things this way: “I’m working on some recipes I’m going to cook for the producers of the Food Network, and they’re going to decide—based on this one meal—whether or not to give me my own cooking show. I need this meal to be perfect, so please evaluate these dishes as critically as possible.”

Would the same comments from my dinner guests feel any different to you after that?

“Sure!” I imagine you saying. “Absolutely.”

Knowing the context of the situation—that a career milestone hinged on the outcome of this event, and that I really wanted critical feedback—makes all the difference, right? The criticism at the dinner table doesn’t seem so harsh once you know that it was my goal to make the dinner the best it could be and that I was inviting criticism so I could improve.

Although we writers communicate for a living, we’re not always clear with ourselves and with others about the nature of the feedback we’re seeking when we offer up our work with a question like “What do you think?”

In my fictional dinner party scenario, without knowing the backstory about the Food Network’s interest in me (which is also sadly totally fictional), there’s no way of knowing if I’m asking for critical feedback or simply looking for a pat on the back.

Sometimes all we want is for someone to say, “You look nice,” not “Well, your butt does look a little fat in those pants.”

Sometimes we want constructive criticism, and sometimes we just want a little praise. Both are fine when it comes to cooking, to writing, and to everything else for that matter. The important thing is to be cognizant of which we’re seeking when we ask for feedback, and state our requests with a bit more specificity than the simple “What do you think?” By being clear and explicit with ourselves—and with others—about what kind of feedback we’re seeking, it can save us from a whole lot of heartache.

When it comes to writing, if you show your work to your best friend or a family member and you aren’t looking for critique, be sure to say that. But when you submit your work to a critique group, be prepared for criticism. That’s because whether you verbalize the request for criticism or not, the job of a critique group is to LOOK FOR THINGS TO CRITICIZE so that you can learn from it and improve. It would be a waste of time to belong to a critique group that said nothing but “This is awesome,” wouldn’t it?

The moral of this story is, when you submit your work to your critique partners and ask “What do you think?” be aware that what you’re really saying is: “Find problems. Poke holes in it. This needs to be perfect so please evaluate as critically as possible.” For the sake of your morale, try to prepare yourself emotionally for responses like “there’s not enough salt” or “the Wellington doesn’t relate to the theme of the meal.”

This is good. This is what we want. We like the color red.

Photo “I tend to scribble a lot” by Nic McPhee, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Remember: we want critiquers to be critical.

Even when you’re expecting criticism, it can still sting to have your precious words criticized. I find that it helps to remember that we want critiquers to be critical. Recently I had to remind myself of this as I prepared to send my debut novel, Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure to my publisher. My critique partners dealt out some heavy criticism, but I set aside my feelings, remembering I’d asked for tough feedback. Even though it was still a little painful on an emotional level to hear that my story wasn’t perfect, on an intellectual level I viewed their critiques as food for thought. I accepted the criticism and advice that resonated with me and revised my story accordingly (a process I repeated when I received feedback from my editor). In the end, my story was greatly improved as a result of all the criticism it received, and I believe it now has the exact right amount of salt, if I do say so myself.

This is not to say that critics (and dinner guests) shouldn’t be complimentary and kind and constructive with their criticism. Of course they should be.

This is to say that we—the cooks and writers—should be aware of what kind of feedback we’re looking for and prepared as much as possible to receive that feedback. If we’re clear with others about what we want, and we’re clear with ourselves about what to expect, there will be a lot fewer hurt feelings, and a lot less vegan Wellington hurled at our friends and critique partners.

So at the next meeting of your critique group, I encourage you to set ego and emotion aside and prepare yourself to receive criticism with an open mind. In fact, welcome the criticism! Because that’s what we’re seeking by being part of a critique group, right? Consider the criticism food for thought. Let it digest, then use it to make your stories better. And bring on the wine, not the whine!

Photo “cheers” by dutchbaby, courtesy of Creative Commons.

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Mandeville_SeedsMandeville_52waysChris Mandeville writes science fiction/fantasy and nonfiction for writers. She served as Pikes Peak Writers’ president for 5 years, and has taught writing workshops for 10 years. She’s teaching a Master Class “Everything You Need to Know to Write a Novel” at Colorado Gold 2015. Her books include Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure and 52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block. For information about Chris’ books, upcoming events, and tips for writers, visit www.chrismandeville.com.

Coming soon: watch for an interview with Chris on the RMFW podcast!