Immersion Master Class…Or What 5 Days at the Top of a Mountain in Colorado Did for My Manuscript

From October 9 through 13, I attended an Immersion Master Class hosted by Margie Lawson. Immersion is an intensive workshop during which you receive general writing coaching and specific help with your manuscript.

So what did I get out of my trip to the Rocky Mountains for this writing workshop? Here are five takeaways:

1. Receiving terrific writing instruction. Writing coach Margie Lawson offers some wonderful craft classes online and through her lecture packets. However, some teaching is specific to Immersion.

Margie Lawson and Me (oh, and Calypso)
Margie Lawson and Me (oh, and Calypso)

This was my second Immersion class, and this round reinforced what I’d learned before and added new craft knowledge. Margie not only explains principles of good prose, but provides examples so you can see how other excellent authors wield these useful tools.

2. Spending time with fabulous writers. Our writing group came from here, there, and yonder. With writers from Colorado, Texas, California, D.C., and Montreal, it was an eclectic group. Yet we bonded like a trial-by-fire sisterhood. Those who’ve attended workshops and conferences know the benefit of hanging out with other writers who share their experiences and wisdom, not to mention their laughter and chocolate.

My Lovely Fellow Immersioners
My Lovely Fellow Immersioners

Oh, and I roomed with the marvelous Jenny Hansen. That was an extra punch of fabulousness.

Jenny Hansen and Me
Jenny Hansen and Me

3. Seeing my progress. The commentary from Margie and fellow Immersioners made it clear I’ve improved my writing skills. Having Immersion experiences one and a half years apart made it easier to see how far I’ve come. It’s a bit like the kid who grows bit-by-bit, but you only recognize just how tall they’ve gotten when you scratch that pencil-mark onto the growth chart and compare it to last year’s mark below.

Sometimes it’s worth stopping and celebrating how much further down the road you are. Especially since it can be easy to get frustrated that you’re not yet writing like your novelist hero or hitting the bestseller lists or even waving your three-book contract around to your family (“See? It’s not just a hobby!”). I had the pleasure of feeling I really have “come a long way, baby!”

4. Learning my weaknesses. Before we get too worked up about my progress, this workshop also highlighted where I still need work. I’ve come a long way, but I haven’t arrived.

An edited ("Margie-ized") page from Immersion
An edited (“Margie-ized”) page from Immersion

Of course, no author arrives entirely, since there’s always something one can improve. But I know where my focus needs to turn, which writing skills require more of my attention and effort. As I edit, I’ll be looking for those problem areas and applying new skills to fixing them. If I struggle with an issue, I also know to request specific feedback from a critique partner (e.g., “Did anything in this chapter sound stilted to you?”).

5. Falling in love (again) with my story. There’s nothing quite like reading a chapter you wrote and getting all tingly-excited about your story. As I worked on scenes in the Immersion class and polished them up, I read passages I loved, reintroduced myself to characters who engage me, and stoked my desire to share this story with a young adult audience. I fell in love…again.

Ultimately, every word, every scene, every character needs to be something the author really, truly likes — such that she’s bouncing in her boots to share it with readers. And with a few more tweaks to this book, I’ll be raring to go.

While I’m partial to Margie’s excellent writing coaching, I know there are other wonderful workshops available, both in person and online. Writers can look for workshops, retreats, “boot camps,” and intensives that meet their needs. I believe such endeavors are a good investment for a writing career.

ROW80

Speaking of good endeavors, I’m back on track with A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Given my trip to the Colorado and the hard drive crash I experienced on my last night there, I haven’t made as much progress as I’d hoped. Unfortunately, I spent much of last week getting a new hard drive, reloading programs, and working with my tech guy to get back my files. Fortunately, all my data seems to be there. But here’s the scoop for last week:

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I met a wonderful writer at Immersion who also likes a bit of snark on the page, and she will be taking a look at one of my shorts to give feedback before I publish. I know this isn’t exactly progress on my part, but I feel good about her being able to help me edit well.

2. Read 12 books. I read The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig and Nothing Sweeter by Laura Drake. Two down, ten to go.

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. During the workshop, I made some great changes to my young adult novel and got a much better sense of where my weaknesses still are. I’m ready to tackle the edits head-on this week and look forward to having a pretty, polished manuscript very soon.

So what workshops, retreats, or online courses do you recommend? And how was your week?

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Lawson Academy Live and #ROW80

So how did I spend my last several days? Well, on Saturday I was privileged to attend a workshop with writing teacher Margie Lawson hosted by the Houston Writers Guild. Margie walked us through how to add power and emotional depth to our manuscripts.

Here’s a sample of a passage in my middle grade contemporary novel before and after. In this scene, 7th grader Beth Whittaker admits that her father is an alcoholic. But Beth doesn’t want to discuss it any further with her mom.

Before (1st Draft): As I spoke, Mom made her way over to me. She shut the refrigerator door and pulled me toward her. I pushed away, as tears gathered in my eyes again. “I’m not hungry anyway,” I said shakily. My mother’s arms enveloped me, as I tried to gently push back.

After (Revised): She wouldn’t leave me alone. She wouldn’t let me shrug off the terrible truth. She wouldn’t give me the yardstick of personal space I clung to like a force field. My mother crossed the floor, pierced my perimeter, and trapped me in her arms.

I had worked my way through some of Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS lessons, but this was a good experience through which we critically analyzed passages by other authors as well as our own work to strengthen our editing skills. If you get a chance to attend an event with her, I’d recommend it.

Plus–what a bonus!–I got to each lunch and dinner with Margie and several writers, including the fabulous Lori Ann Freeland. What a pleasure to meet in person writers you’ve admired online!

Not super-excited about how I look here, but we had a great time!

Now on to my ROW80 goals:

Editing: SHARING HUNTER, young adult contemporary novel.

  • Complete full rewrite. Rewrote four chapters last week, so I’m very happy with how this is going.
  • Revise using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system. Once I finish the rewrite, I’ll edit through with this approach.
  • Deliver to beta readers. Waiting for the first two.

Blogging

  • Post Sunday ROW80 updates, Amaze-ing Words Wednesdays, and Deep-Fried Fridays. Done, although I flew by the seat of my pants on Friday’s post. Having flooring installed in my house two days of the week interfered a bit with my schedule, but I love the result!
  • Send interview questions to two guests I have lined up for my blog. 

Writing

  • Write two short stories. I aimed for 1k on this goal and only hit 597 words.

Learning

Reading

  • Nothing special here. Just read. A lot. Finishing No Apology by Mitt Romney. (Read Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama in 2008. I like reading the presidential candidates’ books to see where they’re coming from.) Also  started 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Nope. And in fact, I went to the doctor on Friday and saw a number on the scale I hadn’t seen since my last trimester of pregnancy. My lovely doc’s response was that, hello!, I need to exercise!
  • Sort through photos and complete at least one album. (I stopped scrapbooking five years ago, and it’s piled up into a big mess. Moving into digital albums.) No progress this week. It was really hard to work on it with the floor installers here.

So how are you doing with your goals? Have you attended any conferences or workshops lately you’d recommend?

Be sure to cheer on my fellow ROWers! You can find them HERE.