Going to a Conference!

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New York City Skyline Wallpapers

I am going to the Writers Digest Conference in New York City this weekend, and I am very excited about it. This is one of the largest writers’ conferences in North America, and it will be the second time I have attended.

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When I went last year, I had no real idea of what to expect. Of course, I had done research, but a writers’ conference, especially one this large, is significantly different from academic conferences I had attended.

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This year I will be there with my pitch for my horror novel Evil Lives After prepared, and with specific expectations of what I will try to gain and learn. One specific quality of this event that I realized last year is that every session is valuable. I intend to gather as much information as possible about writing and publishing as I can.

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Home

The main focus for me, as I am sure it will be with many other writers, is the agent pitch slam, a kind of speed dating or elevator pitch session with agents, in which each writer has a 3 minute time span to greet the agent, pitch the novel, and answer questions. I have done my research and planning and know which agents I will try to pitch first. I will let you know how that turns out.

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I have to mention that I am staying with my wonderful and gracious in-laws, whom I love as my own parents. A big thank you to them!  They have a house on Staten Island, and I will make the commute on the ferry—and I love riding the ferry!—and then take the subway to Grand Central Terminal, which is only a couple of blocks from my destination.

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An Epiphany!

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Solutions to problems that I have been considering sometimes come to me at the oddest of moments. I have found answers to questions about writing or teaching while in the shower, in the bathroom, or just after waking up. I am sure this experience is not unique to me, and I suspect the subconscious mind working on a difficulty and then presenting the answer when it is ready might be the explanation for this phenomenon. What would Dr. Freud have to say about this?

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Recently while on a gallivant with my wife, a drive we take for relaxation with no particular place in mind and hoping to find back roads we haven’t yet explored, a solution to my second novel burst into my consciousness.

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I had written two previous drafts of this book, a Young Adult speculative novel, set extremely far in the future, but I felt unsatisfied with its structure. I have had several people read it and make extremely useful comments on the book. One asked me if there would be a sequel, and I realized that I was thinking in those terms. But I was still not certain about this one. What was it? A single novel? Two books?

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The answer came to me as we were cresting a hill in the beautiful back area of northeastern Pennsylvania. I said to my wife that I needed to tell her this solution so I didn’t lose it. This was one of the few times I went out without pad and pen, something I almost always have with me. She graciously listened, and I explained what burst into my mind.

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I now know the structure: it is a trilogy, and I know where the divisions are for each book. I now understand the arc of the entire trilogy, as well as the narrative arc of each text. I also know the antagonists of each piece as well as the overarching antagonist of the trilogy. As I talked it out, the answers solidified in my mind.

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So I am now working on the draft of the first book of the trilogy. I hope to have this done by the end of May or early June. We will see.

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A Revision Dilemma

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As I work on my third draft of my second novel, a young adult future speculative book, I have realized that I have an interesting problem from the very beginning of the book. I had spent a fair amount of time drafting and editing the prologue to the novel, and I was reasonably certain that it was pretty good. Certainly, it was not perfect, but still it was in a workable state.

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After an initial read by a few people, I had two completely different responses to the beginning. One person loved the opening and said it would pull a reader into the world of the book; one said that, while it was well-written, it did not seem to lead directly into the plot of the novel.

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I tell my students in my various First Year Writing courses when two peer evaluators suggest that a problem exists in a particular part of their papers, even if then offering disparate solutions, that they should consider very carefully a problem, in that section, does exist. They should consider the various suggestions, but always remembering they are the authors of their own writing, make a decision on revision themselves. No matter what anyone suggests, the author must always retain the final say in the writing. BUT all authors should consider suggestions from all readers they respect.

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I decided that the best way to approach this problem was to write another prologue, one that led directly to the main character and to the plot.

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After I complete that revision, I will read and have the book read with both prologues, one after the other and see which should stay. I think I know which will be better, but for now, I have to wait and see.

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The Importance of Revision in Writing

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“Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.”

(Ernest Hemingway, “The Art of Fiction,” The Paris Review Interview, 1956) 1

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The act of revision is an absolutely necessary part of writing, no matter what kind. Essays, stories, novels, books all require that the author not be satisfied with initial drafts. “Re-vision” means to re-see, or to look at the work from another perspective. This idea is something I try to teach my students in College First Year Writing classes, and it is crucial that I apply the ideas myself to my own work.

When I look back over my writing of the last few years, I can see that I employ this practice. I wrote at five-seven drafts of the chapters of my dissertation for my Ph.D. in English, and I continue to revise with the novels I am currently writing. I wrote 13 drafts of my horror novel Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1; I did six drafts of my second novel, a young adult speculative work.  The second book in my supernatural series is almost ready to be released at 6 drafts–Gallow Hill: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 2. I have learned to be more focused in my revisions, so I have been able to cut down the numbers a bit.

Of course, the writer can revise in several ways. Do we do a complete rewriting of the draft trying to deal with everything, or do we focus on a particular aspect of the novel, for example structure or characterization? I do not pretend to know what each writer should do. I suspect that it varies according to project and writer.

What I am certain of is that we must continue to work on the writing, trying to see it in new ways and looking for various problems to fix.

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The most important point is for writers to keep writing and revising!

1. From http://grammar.about.com/od/advicefromthepros/a/rewritequotes.htm 3/28/2015.

Evil Lives After—Submitted to Publisher!

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I have returned from a productive visit to the local post office.

I sent my manuscript to a publisher the old-fashioned way this afternoon, in a mailing envelope, complete with cover letter and self-addressed, stamped envelope. There are still some publishers that accept non-solicited manuscripts from writers without agents, and that describes my writing situation!

It is exciting to send it into the hands of an editor. I have put it through 7 drafts, so it is time for more feedback, and perhaps—acceptance. But that is now out of my hands. It is time to breathe deeply and to continue with the other writing projects.

Tomorrow I will continue with working on the 3rd draft of my second novel and composing the 1st draft of my third novel.

For now though, I have submitted Evil Lives After, a supernatural thriller, to a publisher!

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