I’m cleaning house, dusting, and doing laundry today so that when I get back from my trip, I’ll have a clean house. You see on Monday, I’ll be driving to Hood River, Oregon (about a six-hour drive from Boise). This will be my second year in a row to attend the Writing the Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop. It is a week-long writing workshop being taught by super-agent Donald Maass (who literally wrote the book Writing the Breakout Novel).
Last year I didn’t know what to expect: I was nervous, uncertain, and at the same time positive that my first novel was ready for the best-seller lists (after all, my friends said they liked it). By the time I figured out that it wasn’t ready for prime-time, I had met the most wonderful group of literary professionals, and had been taught how to put tension on every page. Don and his group of editors showed all 30 of us how to make substantial improvements in our writing. The tools were fun and creative, and we could all see immediate improvements in our writing, from the very first day. It was fun. After a week, everyone was energized by what we’d learned. Some attendees got the good news that their dreams of publication were about to be fulfilled; I wasn’t one of them, but I was so excited by what I’d learned and the wonderful people I’d met, I knew that it was just a matter of time and practice until I got there, too.
I went home and spent two months trying to fix my half-finished second novel. But after my Hood River experience, I knew that not only had I started Novel #2 in the wrong place, but I was telling the wrong story. I threw all 170 pages into the trash and started over. When I was done, I had the FATE manuscript, and it was a lot better than I could have ever expected it to be without taking that workshop. My first readers were from among the group of strangers that became my class critique group, and whom I now refer to as my friends.
The Don Maass workshop was not my first writing class, but it is by far the best instructor-led writing class I’ve ever attended. He’s a true teacher (in the very best sense of the word), and the one-on-one feedback each student receives from Don, editor Lorin Oberweger and their colleagues is priceless. The in-class participation and writing exercises, as well as the other students in the class made for a memorable, productive immersion process. By my own estimation, my writing improved more than 300% after last year’s class. This year, I submitted the FATE manuscript, and I am excited to hear the feedback. Whatever they have to tell me, I know that my writing has taken a huge step forward from where I was last year, and I am certain that I will uncover a few more golden nuggets of information that will help me improve and get even closer to where I want to be. I can’t wait!