Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2015 Day Four

The last day of conference started off wonderfully early, but with breakfast with friends. Great conversations and comparing plans for the sessions of the day.


The first session of the day was, again, from a friend Bree Ervin called Beating the Block: Mental Fiber for Creative Constipation. Here are some great tidbits and quotes:

  • You can fix a bad page but you can’t fix a blank one.
  • Sometimes you just need to have the confidence to jump around rather than write linearly.
  • “You’d be surprised what you learn from your characters when you describe their bedroom.” – Bree Ervin
  • Get to know your characters, sometimes that’ll help free up blocks you’ve formed in your mind.
  • Try changing POV.
  • If all else fails, move to a different project for a bit and see if returning later helps you come back to the flow.
  • Just write. No matter what, get words on the paper. Even if they’re crap.


The next session I have notes on was for one by another author friend MK Meredith and her agent Liz Pelletier called How the Process Works: Your Gateway to Hell.


It was a great session on the process from writing up to getting published. They touched on things from critique groups to knowing your genre. From query letters and understanding markets. The biggest thing they pointed out was

Perseverance is key. Don’t stop.

 Sunday is the short day, only a few sessions and then lunch. I only went to those two sessions and then actually felt the need to write so I sat and was writing. There were a few people around and we actually ended up talking about our families. It was a good end to the conference.


I went to lunch and sat with friends. Then afterwards talked with more friends.


Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2015 Day Three

The day started off earlier. More socializing at very early hours and talking to old friends and new.


Then we jumped into our first session of the day Exploding Plot Points with Alex Kourvo. This was a great session, even as early as it was, because there were a lot of great friends in that session. And Alex is a friend from previous conferences.


This session also had a bunch of us from Twitter in there and we all kept joking about how we were quoting many of the same earworms given during that session.


I’ve actually taken a lot of Alex’s ideas and turned them into a process for me to use with my plotting. I have a post planned on my plotting craziness that will talk about it there as well. The biggest thing I took away from this session was Alex’s idea of the five major scenes:

  • The hook – opening pages that draws us into the action and drama right away. Must be action, no back story.
  • Doorway of no return – early in the novel where the main character makes a decision they can’t turn back from.
  • Midpoint – in the middle and gives a major reversal. This is usually an external conflict that changes things up.
  • Dark moment (all is lost moment) – about 3/4 of the way through the story where the character is at the lowest low and has no clue how to get themselves out.
  • Climax – everything comes together.


A lot of great information and examples.


Next off we had another session with Josh Vogt called Constructing Your SciFi or Fantasy Novel. A great session on world building. A lot of great information here. He gave a great worksheet for world building that I plan to use in the future.


After that we went onto a great session called Writing the Strong Female Protagonist with Barbara O’Neal. Here are some of the pointers I got there:

  • Girls and boys are different and you need to address them differently.
  • Avoid victim mentality.
  • Everyone has something that shames them and the scars that life has given them.
  • The world is approached differently by men and women – understand that and use it to your advantage in your writing.
  • Women are judgmental and this starts big at puberty.
  • Everyone has quirks and habits – use them.


A lot of great ideas here on how to use the differences between men and women to your advantage in writing.


Next up was a session on dialogue called Talk the Talk by Margaret Bail.  Here’s what I took away from the session:

  • You can get characterization and voice from dialogue. It reveals relationships and can create tension.
  • Necessary dialogue only – get in late, get out early.
  • Listen to actual conversations to understand how people talk. Understand that people uses contractions and silence to express themselves.
  • Keep tags simple.


The last session was one done by a Keynote Speaker Seanan Mcguire called Part of a Balanced Breakfast: Serials, Series and Keeping them From Getting Stale. These are the kinds of things I got from it.


Here she talked about the different type of stories that you can run into:

  • Standalone
  • Duology – a pair of books with the same story being continued from one to the other.
  • Trilogy – A journey through three books with a good final ending.
  • Series – Several books with a continued major story and mini stories in each book.


She taught us that different markets ask for different types of set ups. She also taught us that you need to make sure you keep some kind of “bible” to keep track of characters, scenes, settings and everything else.


There was a discussion on momentum and keeping it fresh no matter how many books there are.


Keynotes were wonderful that day as well – sorry I don’t have many details for them, I enjoyed the time and the experiences. I remember old friends and new.

Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2015 Day Two

Friday, bright an early, found me getting coffee and connecting with some of the people floating around early and getting checked in. Then it was off to get learned in all things writing.


The first session of the day was Less is More: Cogent Fiction Writing with Dana Isaacson.


All in all, a great session. Was basically editing, but not really in a standard way of seeing it. It was very informative on how to make sure that when you’re writing you do it in as few words as possible. A few tidbits:

  • All writing is editing.
  • Focus on the action.
  • The necessary cuts aren’t obvious – just the sin of too many words. It’s laborious and time consuming.
  • “There’s no author easier to work with then a dead one.” – Dana Isaacson before jumping into us editing old works.
  • You need to read a piece of work multiple time to see what needs to be cut. The obvious ones stand out first, the hard ones may take time.
  • Edit in different ways – hard copy and digitally.
  • Make sure you always keep the voice of a piece when cutting pieces. Don’t make cuts that sacrifice your voice.


The next session was One Moment in Time: Writing Scenes with Cara Lopez Lee. The topic of this was pretty obvious but there were some great tidbits:

  • “The moment you think your characters can’t stand the heat … keep them in the kitchen!” – Cara Lopez Lee
  • A lot of buildup can be cut in half or to a couple of sentences because the build up is not necessarily as important as the moment of crisis. We don’t need as much as we think of the buildup, we need the event. The reader needs to see everything.
  • Pause over sensation, use your senses and feelings.
  • “When I started out I wanted to be an actress. Because that’s easy. Then I wanted to be a writer because that’s easier.” – Cara Lopez Lee (sarcasm).
  • You get more emotions when you spend more time.
  • Use all your senses.
  • Think in dream-space, you can slow things down. Don’t turn them into dreams, but keep the quality.
  • Stick through the tension.


This was a session full of information and made fun by the presenter.


Next off we went to Writing Combat in Science Fiction with Kevin Ikenberry. He was a great presenter, a lot of fun. I don’t write science fiction but I do plan to have more and more conflict in my stories and was hoping to get some ideas from this session. Here are some of the things I took away:

  • A plan never survives enemy contact. You can’t plan an attack to cover all possible scenarios.
  • There are different levels of conflict – strategic (on the largest scale), operational (narrowed down to a specific area) and tactical(narrowed even further to a specific group/team). You cannot jump between these levels in a single scene without really confusing your readers.
  • Things should not go perfectly for your character, the enemy is not going to do what you expect.
  • There is no such thing as a fair fight.
  • Research is important. Know your weapons and how they work.
  • Choose your details: There are some things your readers need to know, but some details can be left to imagination.


There was a lot of good information, stuff I’ll be able to use in the long run. Not sure it was exactly what I was expecting, but it gave me something I needed none-the-less.


Next off we have Snapping Pictures With Words: The Art of Description with Angie Hodapp. Obviously a class on description, but it was a lot of great information and a lot of fun:

  • Descriptions awaken imagination and evoke emotion. They convey tone and atmosphere.
  • People – and thus characters – describe things differently. Look into the way a character describes things. Don’t change that voice of your character, don’t have them describe things in different ways.
  • Let your reader live in the moment.
  • Descriptions can describe both character and plot.


There was a lot of information here and different things to practice with. There are a lot of amazing people that go to PPWC.


Next up was Foundations of a Freelance Career with Josh Vogt. There was a lot of information there on how to create portfolios, professionalism, where to find jobs and pitching yourself. He talked about different resources and pay rates as well. There was a lot of information and I wish I had the drive, and time, to do freelancing.


That was the last class of the day. We had both the welcome speech during lunch and our first keynote speaker at dinner. It was a great day.

Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2015 Day One Afternoon Session

The afternoon session was spent learning about queries in Queries with Claws: Compose a Query Letter that Grabs Attention with Andrea Somberg who is an agent with Harvey Klinger.


She spent the afternoon session first going over how to write a query letter (including good things to include) and spent the end of the session reading query letters that were brought in.


Here are some of the jewels she passed on to us:

  • Your query letter needs to inform and intrigue who you are sending it to.
  • Know submission guidelines and personalize your letter to the specification.
  • Even if you have more than one both that you want to try and pitch, make a query letter unique to just one story. If you’re offered representation then that would be when you may want to mention other stories you have finished so they can help you plan for your future career.
  • Always include the asked for sample pages. Query letters are hard and should show some of your voice but the sample pieces show your story’s voice and the way you write.
  • Email is the best way to contact an agent – but do make sure that you look at the preferred form of contact from the agent’s website.


She went through query letter formatting as well, giving me a lot of information on where I need to go for my own query letters.


Really, though, the best part of this session (other than her jewels of wisdom) was the reading of the query letters.


As much as finding out how a query letter is beneficial, seeing her read and then tear apart the letters was amazing. For the most part she thought they were well written, but she was great at helping everyone make them even better. There were actually some awesome ideas pitched in those letters that I’d love to read.


Did I give my letter up to be torn into? I was in the queue to have it read, but we ended up running out of time. But that was okay, a lot of the suggestions I heard helped me with my own as well.


All in all, this session brought Thursday to a close an everything was amazing.

Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2015 Day One Morning Session

First – Let me apologize for the lateness of this and the other posts following. Life got in the way of getting these posted, despite the fact that these were mostly written before but never scheduled because of life. But let’s get going on the actual post!


PPWC 2015 was the first year of me live tweeting during conference. I made sure to bring my shiny new toy and 2015 was the year of me figuring out how to actually learning how to log in to the hotel Wi-Fi so I could both take notes and share the awesome things I learned during my workshops.


I talked in March before the conference what my choices were for the prequel sessions (morning and afternoon). Here are some of the things I learned from the sessions:


Author 101 with Angel Smits and Robert Spiller.


This was a wonderful session filled with information about things that you should do to get yourself out there as an author, as well as some suggestions when it comes to actually writing.

  • Contests are a great way to set goals for yourself and get yourself out there. You can also offer to judge so you can connect with other writers.
  • When you finish a piece of work, get it to the best quality you can and move on. Don’t sit stagnant.
  • Make sure you love the story you’re writing. If you don’t then no one else will.
  • Find time to devote to writing, as well as a space to do it in. Make the commitment. Make sure others know about it and don’t interrupt it. Plan around it.
  • Never throw anything away. When things are edited out, save them. You never know when a good scene may not work for one book but will work for another.
  • Join organizations – Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators or others that fit your choice genres.
  • Critique Groups are Gold! (more about this in a moment)
  • When submitting work, make sure the work in clean and finished. Follow submission guidelines. Make your query unique to the scenario.


Now, one thing that both Bob and Angel spent a lot of time on is critique groups. Here are some of the things they had to say:

  • You can form groups in different ways: in person or long distance. You need to find a set up that works for you.
  • Don’t allow the group to write the book for you. Take ideas and suggestions that are given to you and consider then. You are the writer of your story and know it better than anyone else.
  • A good group will help you find balance in your work.
  • Learn to judge your critique partners. Everyone has different opinions and different likes. If one person makes a comment, take it with a grain of salt. If multiple make the same comment, look a little deeper.
  • Make sure the group understands what you are trying to gain from their criticism, that way they can get you to where you’re going.
  • Know how much time you can and are willing to devote to the group. If you find yourself in a group that needs a lot of time, but you don’t have it, then it may not be the group for you.


It was a long and informative session. There was lots of laughing and a great amount of fun!


Also, here are some wonderful quotes. Some of which I shared on Twitter and some that were too long to be shared.


“Never stop learning your craft. I’ve gone to a conference and seen Nora Roberts sitting in a workshop. Do you think Nora needs to learn craft?” – Angel Smits


“We write so hearts will break.” – Robert Spiller


“Allow yourself to have your doubts. But don’t let it define what you do.” – Angel Smits


“Network with people, just do it! Make connections!” – Robert Spiller


Since this ended up longer then I thought, we’ll go over the afternoon session in the next post!