Willamette Writers Conference and What I Learned About My Novel – Oh and Christopher Moore, Too!

Let me wax philosophic for a few minutes about this writing thing. It’s hard, really hard, and that is a lesson I have only recently learned. My first draft took eight months – boom easy peasy. Then the revisions started. Then I let people read it. Then more revision. Then I let a professional read the first fifty pages. Then, well some hand wringing and hair pulling, but no tears (we’ll get to those later).

Finally, after 2+years of rewrites, revision, and editing, I release this thing to a group of beta readers and get a great response but some questions too.

Kismet dialed my number at the same time and I was given the opportunity to have another pro, someone I respect and admire, read my entire MS. I did this because it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, not because I thought I needed it, I mean I was just about ready to go sell this thing, right? Here is where the tears start – ok, maybe not, but there was definitely a lot of “oh, woe is me” and “I can’t do this” and even some “expletive this expletive writing bull expletive”

I was not ready, I was not even close to ready because I had spent nearly three years just finding my story. All those drafts, all that time, and it took someone who knew what they were doing to point it out to me. Imagine that!

To put it another way, I assembled the car and got it running with nothing by my instinct and some how-to videos on youtube and then I had it inspected: it didn’t pass safety tests or emission standards. I may have even installed the seats backward.

So when I arrived at the Willamette Writers Conference this year, I changed my class load from the “find an agent” lane to the “let’s learn how to actually do this” lane. Classes from the always fantastic Eric Witchy, a new experience in Larry Brooks‘ classes, among others.  As always, the conference was sensational.

So, where does that leave my novel? In pieces, at the moment, but slowly being reassembled into something more stable, something better to look at, something with a spine, an arc, a mission. A novel with a story to tell. The good news is there are many, many elements from my original idea that I get to keep, and quite a lot of what I wrote in those early drafts will make it into the next one, but now I can read each old scene with a sense of purpose and direction, a sense that I know where I am going in the long run, not just what’s over the next hill. I am excited to see if I can get this thing into shape for next year’s conference. Maybe I’ll be pitching in 2018.

On the lighter side of the conference, I reconnected with some good friends from years past like Don Ball and Rex Moody, and met new ones like Erick Mertz, John Worsley, and Ben Gorman.  And of course the fabulous presenters and vendors such as Tex Thompson, Debby Dodds, and the folks over at Myth Machine

One of the highlights, however, had to be Christopher Moore. If you don’t know his work, drop what you’re doing and go find it.