Sunday, May 20, 2007

First Chapters at Conferences

I am about to fly off in a few days to a writers' conference in Tucson, AZ, where as well as speaking and running a writing workshop, I'll be having one-to-one sessions with a number of writers about their manuscripts. So I have spent the past three days reading, commenting and writing a report for each person (15 minutes talk time passes too quickly).
I know now why agents and editors hate it when people send in odd chapters of their novels, e.g. Chapter 1, then Chapter 5 and Chapter 23. I imagine writers think, 'These are the best chapters' or 'These chapters best convey what the novel is about'.
Well no, I can attest now that they don't. They create a lot of confusion and wrong assumptions. Especially when you send Chapter 1 and Chapter 4, and 4 seems to come right after 1, so what on earth could be in 2 and 3? (The assumption is - nothing worth reading that will add to the action.) And if the writing is good, which in the manuscripts I had was often the case, then reading bits instead of a decent slab is very frustrating. We all want to know what happens next - not ten chapters later. The story never gets a chance to work up a decent head of steam.
So here I am to tell you - send Chapters 1, 2 and 3. Please.
The great thing about this conference (Pima Writers' Workshop at Pima College) is that its focus is on writing. Yes, there is stuff on agents and publishing, but many of the sessions focus either on talking about craft or on actual writing. My workshop will be on Character and Voice in Children's and YA Fiction, and I have some good exercises lined up. I'm also hoping to attend some of the other sessions, such as the one on Deeper Imagery in Poetry.
What I'm really looking forward to, though, is the chance to spend four whole days talking to writers about writing and books, sharing ideas and experiences, and learning from others. That's what I love about writing - there is always something new to learn, and always I find new ideas bursting out of my brain as I spark off other writers' workshops, comments and suggestions.
So shortly this blog will go 'global' again. And I'll be in sunny Arizona, with my swimsuit instead of my warm coat.

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