Getting the Most from the Conference

  1. When you receive critique in your morning workshop group, this is a time to listen and not speak. Write down all the comments that have been given. Think about these later and choose what to use in your rewrite.
  2. Don’t argue. This time you have with other writers—and especially ones who know about good writing—is valuable. Don’t justify your choices. Don’t say, “It gets better on page forty.” Listen carefully to comments
  3. You are not the boss of the four-hour morning sessions. The faculty leader is. Keep your comments to the point. Don’t monopolize conversation. Don’t interrupt. Think of this as a fair-share time. Everyone wants the same amount of time from the faculty member.
  4. Don’t beat a point into the ground. Once a point is made (e.g. Your character doesn’t seem realistic in his conversation)-there is no reason to hash and rehash that statement for a writer. Give a strong example of how this bit of the story is not working, then move on.
  5. Pay attention when others are being critiqued. Don’t use time when others are being critiqued to write letters, excuse yourself from the room, or drift off into la-la land. Pay attention. What mistakes are you making that’re the same as someone else’s mistakes? Can you use what you’re hearing to improve your own writing? Some of the best help I’ve received on a manuscript is listening to my peers discuss what fellow members of the group are working on.
  6. Give an example of how something might be improved. Like: “You could use a stronger verb here. Pummeled is a better word Try that.” Examples teach. they show the author what you mean. Grammatical errors don’t need to be pointed out in class. Instead, mark these on the author’s paper. In fact, writing comments on the page is excellent for the author.
  7. Don’t focus only on the negative. We all want to believe there’s hope for our stories. Say what works in the piece and what doesn’t work. There’s no need to say, “This is the stinky-est piece I’ve ever read,” even if it is the stinky-est. There are nicer ways to show how to help someone improve his or her writing. Be kind, but be honest.
  8. Don’t only sing praises for an author either. Everyone wants to have a publishable manuscript underway by the time they leave this conference. If you don’t point out problems, a writer can’t improve. Only saying the good, and ignoring what’s not working, isn’t effective.
  9. We all like different things. Just because I don’t write fantasy doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a well-told fantasy tale. Don’t let your personal opinion color your professional opinion.
  10. And whatever you do, don’t try to incorporate every single person’s comment in your story. This is your work. Yours. So pick and choose. What will really help your manuscript succeed?~Carol Lynch Williams