This past weekend was the 28th Annual SDSU Writers’ Conference. I was on faculty and did Advance Reading Appointments and Consultation Appointments. This is the second year I attended, and as expected, I had a fantastic time. It was exhausting, but getting to meet and reconnect with fellow agents, editors, and other pub professionals, and chat up talented authors, made it SO worth it.
In the middle of consultations I was able to squeeze in one breakout session. I went to Angela Hunt’s “Practical Pointers to Sharpen Up Your Manuscript”. Here’s a few highlights from her talk:
- Take what your character is thinking and feeling and filter everything through that POV. *(In revision notes, I’m ALWAYS asking authors to do more of this—if you think you are, you can probably do even more. This is how you flesh out your characters so they don’t feel flat and I don’t say “I’m just not connecting with the character…”.)
- The more POV characters you have the less readers will connect with them. As a general rule, have as few as possible.
Write in scenes:
- You always need a conflict. A scene that’s all introspection is boring.
- Milk your disaster moment. The easiest way to do this…just don’t use a period; keep the sentence going.
- Backstory belongs in back, not in front. Avoid the “2nd chapter backstory dump”, this puts a halt to the action. Rather, use it much later and make it a scene—make it count for something.
Angela was very knowledgeable and so sweet (she even hosted “Night Owl On-the-Spot Critiques” after dinner when most of us when straight to our comfy beds after a long day!).
I was so impressed with many of my critique and consultation appointments, there are a few manuscripts that I’m really excited to see! Note to authors: Don’t feel rushed to send me requested materials, I’m not expecting them right away! (It worries me when someone sends a full or partial submission a day or two after a conference—you didn’t learn any tips to improve your manuscript?!?)
My main piece of advice for effective consultations: Don’t spend the whole allotted time giving me your pitch. It’s very possible that the type of project you’re pitching just isn’t something I’m interested in (purely subjectively). Rather, use this time to ask questions, let me critique your concept or areas of concern with the plot, characters. Keep your pitch brief and I’ll ask questions if I need to know more. I want to make sure you take something away from our appointment—which is difficult if you’re the one doing all the talking. Plus, myself and most agents accept unsolicited submissions, so you really don’t need to be so focused on “selling” me. If all you’re going to do is pitch me, save the consultation fee and just send me a query…right?
Overall, it was a fantastic event! I found some promising new authors and got to spend time with a terrific group of editors, authors, and fellow agents. I can’t wait till next year!