Monday, December 11, 2006

KB: Mini-Mentoring Clinic, Round One

Last week, I spent a lovely couple of days in the redwoods, just this side of Santa Cruz, California. Why, you may ask, did an Oregonian cross the border into that dreaded enemy, California? (Think I’m exaggerating? Let me just remind you that when I was in highschool, the boys entertained themselves by taking their BB guns out and pinging any California license plates that happened to drive by. Now, just so you know, I’m not so opposed to California as some of my Oregon brethren and sistren. I’m happy to report I’ve pinged nary a plate, California or otherwise. So you can relax…)

Anyway, why did I hie myself to California? Simple: to participate in the Mount Hermon Intensive Fiction Mentoring Clinic (along with our own James Scott Bell…though, of course, my classes were MUCH more fun. *G*).

I had eight intrepid budding novelists in my class, and we spent the entire four days working together to refine one another’s craft. It was, really, delightful. Even those who had to sit on the hot seat said so. I mean, besides being in the company of writers for four days, we were immersed in the craft of bringing story to life. We read and critiqued and dialogued, and it was grand. This was my second year doing this (actually, it’s the mentoring clinic’s second year), and as happened last year, I was tickled to see what great insights novelists have for each other. And how so many of us see both the same things, and different things, in another’s writing.
It’s a chance to let others in on what I get to do almost every day: give suggestions and insights to readers for them to chew on and digest (hopefully not choke!), and then watch how they take those thoughts and apply them. I’ve seen such wonderful improvement in craft, just during one edit. Not, mind you, because I’m such a wonder, but because true writers long to improve. This year, as happened last year, by the end of the clinic we all were caught up in the delight of iron sharpening iron. It confirmed what I’ve long believed: one of the best gifts you can give yourself as a writer is to join a working critique group. A group where you can get into the meat of the writing craft, where you can help each other even as you, yourself, are helped.

Now, I know that’s not always possible. So I’ll just make a little pitch here for the Mount Hermon Mentoring Clinic. If you wish you had a place where someone would read your materials and give you solid insights and counsel, come to the clinic! You won’t be sorry.
Okay, commercial over.

I had intended, in the course of our group’s time together, to lead a number of mini-workshops on such salient points as Show vs. Tell, Point of View, Dialogue, and so forth. Instead, my brave mentorees asked if we could just sit and talk. They wanted a kind of “Everything-You-Wanted-to-Know-about-Publishing-But Were-Afraid-to-Ask-Because-the-Editor-Would-Hate-You-and-Never-Offer-You-a-Contract” bull session. We covered everything from advances to marketing, retailers to publishing committees, covers to titles, and on and on. It was loads of fun
So I thought I’d do two things here at Charis.

One, give you the same opportunity. Ask me what you’d like to know. If I can answer, I will. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll say so. I want to do whatever I can to help you better navigate the world of Christian Publishing. Because we all know there are some serious rocks out there, and we’d rather not end up smashing into them.

Two, since I have these handy-dandy little mini-workshops all dressed up with no place to go, I’ll share them with you. They’re geared to those who wish to write novels, but I think there are applications for nonfiction writers as well.

So please, post your questions in the reply section, and I’ll answer them as best I can. And watch for the mini-workshops, coming soon to a Charis posting near you.
Blessings, all.

Karen Ball writes and edits from her home in spectacular Oregon.


At 8:38 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Thanks, Karen, for a great post, an exciting post, an encouraging post.

You said, "...true writers long to improve."

Amen to that.

Also, thanks for taking our questions.

Question: What are some tips for The True Writer to "find" "herself/himself," meaning, settle into his/her genre/voice/style so s/he becomes The Successful Writer (steadily-contracted)? Keep writing, keep learning, and don't quit, I know, but other pearls of wisdom?

Again, thanks.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Richard L. Mabry, MD said...

As an alum of your class at the first fall Mount Hermon mentoring clinic, let me add an "amen" to what you've said. It was a great experience, and I highly recommend it.
My question to you is this: Now you're writing full-time. Until recently, you were an editor but were also writing. Has your experience as an editor affected your writing? How?
Richard (The Doc From Duncanville)

At 11:31 AM, Blogger eileen said...

Look I have a castle. Oh, wait! I heard Jim Bell's LOCK method, please give me your wisdom. Maybe with two experts, I'll focus and learn more. But it's a pretty castle.

At 12:51 PM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

1. From your days as an acquisitions editor, what were the top three things you consistently saw wrong with a submission that caused you to immediately put it in the reject pile?

2. What have you learned from your time "behind the desk" that you now apply to your own writing and dealing with editors?

3. Are there any trends in Christian publishing you're noticing?

Thanks much, Karen, for taking the time to answer our questions!

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of submissions (C.J.'s question), why is it that between agents, editors and/or publishing houses, each one seems to want something different? One wants a brief, snappy query, the other wants a specific type of proposal, another wants a 3 page ds synopsis.
Writing the novel is definitely the easiest part of the process for me.
Thanks for your always generous spirit, Karen.

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karen, thank you for offering to answer our questions!

My question is similar to CJ's. If you have a well-written proposal and manuscript, what else would it need to have for that unknown writer to sell the book to the publisher?

Along that line, what types of marketing can writers do themselves, things they can list in a marketing plan besides the usual postcard, interviews, news release, etc.

The Mount Hermon clinic sounds heavenly. I may have to start saving my pennies.

Thanks, again!

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Kelli Standish said...

What do you do, as a writer, when you've lost your courage?

How do you find the strength to go on, when the vulnerability of writing requires more bravery than you have?


At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alcoholism and spouse abuse are such delicate subjects yet ones Christians face on a daily basis -- how do you feel about books whose characters battle these issues?

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

How can I make a heroine "deeper" with flaws and still be likeable? What kind of flaws really work?

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Cara Putman said...

There are some great questions here already. Thanks for opening the door for them, Karen.

Here's one I'm wrestling with now. How do editors define "high concept"? I think I'm getting an idea, but know that several agents and editors I've talked to are looking for that elusive concept. Is there any sort of definition or is it truly an "I-know-it-when-I-see-it-and-this-ain't-it" kind of thing? Thanks!

Looking forward to the mini-courses, too. The more I learn the more I see how much there is to learn!


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