May 11, 2011

Writers Bootcamp: Drop and Gimme Fifteen!

For me and hundreds of others, Storymakers Writing Conference began Thursday afternoon at Bootcamp. This is an optional session for those of us who wanted feedback on a current work-in-progress from a small group of peers. I could have signed up for a Romance table, but instead I decided I needed feedback on my new endeavor, YA. So, I shared a table with five other YA writers, and our table's Bootcamp instructor, Lu Ann Staheli.
Lu Ann is an author, educator, editor, and writing coach. She rocks.

L-R Rachel, M___, Jane, Lu Ann, Me, Leah (who is in my writing group in Cody), and Joy. I can't remember M___'s name as it was unique and she didn't write it on her critique paper, but she is a lovely woman.
Lu Ann really kept us on our toes, as we had six authors to go through in six hours, including a break. It worked like this: Each of us brought six copies of fifteen pages of our ms. Since there were 7 of us, we had to share at times. The author read their pages aloud all the way through while the rest of us made notes on our own copies with red pens. Then Lu Ann led us through her critique of the pages for that author, and we all followed up with anything Lu Ann hadn't already covered. Efficient, yes?

Our table had a wide range of sub-genres, everything from YA romance to post-apocalyptic to urban contemporary. Mine is a fantasy. It was fun to hear all the different voices and ideas.

My feedback was very encouraging:

I needed to make my first scene it's own chapter, and clarify the age of my main characters. There were some awkward descriptions and points that could be shown, not told. I use the word small too much. I also had a 7-line run-on sentence! That's not small. Lu Ann was starring her favorite parts, but stopped because she said it would be full of stars (yay!). She also gave me the names of two authors to read, and told me I should find out who their publisher and agent is, so that was AWESOME.

All in all, it was very intense, focused, and encouraging. Everyone was helpful, courteous, and honest with one another. I didn't feel like anyone was holding back, and I felt I could be honest and not resented for the feedback I was giving.

As I drove home with my writing group after the whole conference, we spent most of the 8-hour drive in our own version of Bootcamp, running through our plot-lines and character bios (without any copy--it was all crammed in the trunk of my Subaru) in turn, and brainstorming like crazy. It was so great, and all of us discovered some awesome solutions, twists, and conflict.

For me, Bootcamp was definitely worth the extra fee and nerves. After we got going, the nerves turned to excitement. I have already begun applying what I learned to my ms, and it's the better for it. As I've said before, getting unbiased feedback is necessary if you want to improve your story, and improve as a writer.

Thank you, Storymakers!

How was your Bootcamp experience? Would you do it again?


Kimberly said...

I'm so bummed that my flight was cancelled and I missed bootcamp! I had LuAnn for my bootcamp instructor last year and she is made of awesome!

Now when do I get to read this book?!

Don said...

I love Boot Camp!

I got some really, really good feedback that will help my characters make a difficult transition without being flaky losers.

I overused "ache" and "pain" so I need to look for some synonyms.

Dang, Kym. That cancelled flight really messed up your day. I hope things go better next year!

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

I absolutely LOVED my group. Elana led ours and I was amazed at how much she picked up in so quickly. We each read 5 pages at a time. That way no one got left at the end with no time. I heard that happened to some tables.

Anyway, Elana rocked. I want her to be my neighbor! LOL She was way fun along with everyone else at our table.

Glad you had a great time. So did I. Can't wait until next year.

Michelle Teacress said...

I've only done a bootcamp type workshop once, and it was the best experience - though hard.

Angie said...

I think I would pay the entire conference fee just to attend Boot Camp. It was great. I was really impressed with the quality of writing at my table. I'm glad it was a good experience for you too!

Chris Phillips said...

Sounds awesome. I'm getting a crit this weekend at a local scbwi conference. I'm pretty jazzed.

Rebecca said...

I've never been to bootcamp, but it sounds awesome!

Maggie said...

Every time I check out your blog, I think of Cody. So, I was super excited when I saw Carla in your pictures. She was in my ward growing up! I don't know if she remembers me, but ask her if she remembers Sari Shepard (that's my mom).
It looks like Storymakers was a blast. I really hope I get to go next time around.

Stephanie Black said...

Boot camp is awesome. I've been there twice as an instructor and it's great--everyone is so helpful and encouraging and open to feedback. It's amazing how fast the time goes!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

You were supposed to be in my romance group and we missed you! But, of course, I loved the ladies I had. It was my first time as an instructor and it definitely one of the highlights of conference for me. :)

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