The beginning has to go. I need to drop a character, add a plot line, give more significance to a subplot, enrich connections between characters, and make sure I infuse tension on every single page. All of this work begins on a draft of a manuscript that has been revised based on critique groups, online and physical classes, and suggestions of trusted early readers six times.
And I’m thrilled.
Several weeks ago, I attended the Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop, led by literary agent, Donald Maass. I learned about the conference on Writer Unboxed, and was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to attend. I quickly learned that, scholarship or not, the BONI workshop was the single, most beneficial craft workshop I’ve ever experienced.
If you’ve read Writing the Breakout Novel or Fire in Fiction, you understand that Donald Maass has a very specific philosophy for improving fiction. At the workshop, he elaborated on the principles expressed in his books, and assigned focused rewrites and scene reconstruction. Not only did Maass himself provide feedback on my first fifty pages, but so did editors and idea gurus Lorin Oberweger, Jason Sitzes, and Roman White.
Other activities included brainstorming and peer critique group sessions. I met with a group of historical fiction writers, and we established such a bond that we decided to continue our critique group online. Some of the writers are alumni of other BONI workshops, and many intend on returning in the future.
Be warned, however, the workshop was not easy. It was mentally and, at times, emotionally exhausting. Arriving with a novel that I believed was ninety percent complete and ready to query, and finding out that it was truly about thirty percent ready, was not easy to accept. It took until halfway through the workshop to clearly see the changes I’d need to employ, and then another two days to fully embrace them. It was a bit like muddling through the stages of grief, but emerging on the summit of acceptance made the climb worthwhile.
It is so important for unpublished (and even published) writers to study craft with industry professionals. If you are unpublished and/or unagented, NOW is the time to build your writing tool box, gather ideas, and make personal connections. You won’t have the time once your publisher wants a book each year.
If you’re looking for a workshop, I strongly recommend you add the Breakout Novel Intensive to your calendar.
Have you been to the workshop? How was your experience? Are there any other writing workshops, conferences, or retreats you’d recommend?
*photo credit: Summit by Dugwin @ Deviantart.com