Saturday, November 13, 2010

Backspace Day Two

After the relief of the workshops on the first day and the amazing information from the panel discussions, I was excited about the second day.  My same group of writers was staying together for day two with different agents, and we had made some good tentative connections.

I found one of the very few flaws in this format for the seminar:  on day one, everyone received critiques and advice on their query letters and opening pages.  Those attendees who lived locally were able to go home, make revisions and reprint them.  Those of us staying at the hotel faced more obstacles in doing that.  I was able to make the changes to the query letter since they were minimal, and I could simply read the changed letter aloud, but there was neither time nor resource to re-do the first two pages.  So at our workshops on the second day, some of the writers were reading completely revised material, and some of us were reading our original submissions.

Two of the agents we had met the day before were also part of our day two workshops, but on this day they were reviewing opposite material (for instance, if they had heard our query letters on the first day, on the second they heard our opening pages, and vice verse).  It was interesting to hear their take on how our work meshed.  Did the opening pages live up to the promise of a good query letter?  Or did our queries eloquently capture the story introduced in those first two pages?

It was also interesting to hear the sometimes-opposite advice given on our material.  Some of the writers who had done revisions were exasperated when their newly-amped worked was criticized--for being the opposite of what they had presented the day before! 

I think the most overwhelming lesson I learned from the entire seminar was that it's all subjective.  We heard stories about authors signed who had sent in abysmal queries.  We heard agents say that they choose which queries they will read strictly by the title, and others who said titles meant nothing.

And here is what else I learned:

--Never ever begin your story with someone waking up.
--Each sentence should both move the story forward and provide backstory.  If it can't do both, it must do one or the other.  (Comments on this one??)
--No info dumps
--The first line is paramount.

I'm sure I'll have other thoughts in the next few days, but these are my initial impressions.  Now it's time for me to pack up and leave NYC. . .

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