So, as Kati mentioned in her last post, we recently attended our first ever writing conference, and it was a blast! She summed it up pretty well, almost as well as I would have… ; ) What I want to add, though, is what happens after the conference.
Going into it, we had no idea what to expect. We knew we needed a finished manuscript, which we had (two finished manuscripts, in fact, if you count Kati’s “Tricky Business” as well as our “Mystic Cooking“), and we needed a query letter and the opening two pages for the workshops. Check and check.
After the conference, though, I realized we didn’t really have a “final” draft. Okay, so I already knew that, but I had new editing focus, especially after listening to David L. Robbins give a very thought-provoking three-hour workshop on the craft of narrative. Things to get rid of? Dialogue tags, places where a character is separated from his/her body (i.e. she felt her hands shake), telling the reader what emotion the character is feeling, any backstory that the character wouldn’t immediately be thinking at that time…the list goes on and on.
Hard on the heels of David L. Robbins’ talk came Donald Maass‘ workshop, where he discussed adding microtension everywhere. “Does your story need more tension? Yes. Remember, I read all your manuscripts.” Good to think about.
One of the consequences of writing about a chef is that I’m now constantly thinking of bad cooking puns and images, so I started thinking about editing the same way. For the first round we used a butter knife, kind of scratching at the surface but not really doing much more. Then we realized we needed much more work, and really got in deep with a good, sharp butcher’s knife. Whole chunks were moved and/or rewritten. Then we went back in with a serrated steak knife and sliced a bit there, cut a little here, and viola! We thought we were done. Heh heh…
Thanks to all the great feedback, advice, and just plain knowledge at the conference, I feel like we were both given a good, sharp paring knife so we can go back in and carefully slice away the excess words, one at a time. And our book will be much better because of that.