How A Writer’s Conference Helped Me Better Focus My Novel

DFW Writer's Conference 2014

DFW Writer’s Conference 2014

Last weekend I went to the DFW Writer’s Conference in Hurst.

Led Edgerton, author of Hooked was there to give a seminar on characterization.  Before going, I told myself that I wanted to meet him but was a little trepidacious about it because all his pictures make him look like a rough and tough dude and one who is not to be messed with.  He’s got a colored history being an ex-con and all so that’s probably why he looks like that.

Les Edgerton

Les Edgerton

I shouldn’t have been worried.  The man has a heart of gold.  After the class I asked him a few craft questions then he asked me about my novel.  After I gave him the low down, he suggested that I break the three story lines apart and consider making each one a stand alone novel.  I resisted because, darn it, I wanted to write that novel the way I wanted.

Donald Maass was also there and gave classes on characterization and setting.  I had only read one of his books, Writing the Breakout Novel, but actually sitting in his class brought to life everything he wrote.  He broke things down into manageable chunks and helped me see how I could make my novel better.  For example, in one class he asked us to write down three things our character would never do.  Then he told us to find a place in our novel in which our character does each one of those things.  I never thought to do something like that but I’m going to do it now.

Later I asked him if his agency represented historical fiction and when he said yes, I asked if they were seeing any trends.  Until then I hadn’t thought to ask that particular question but I kept hearing about trends in the YA market so I figured I should ask that question about my market.  Seems that there is and the trend is swinging away from epic style historical fiction.

My novel, with its three story lines and a huge background conflict, is epic style historical fiction.  We talked a bit more and he suggested that if I really wanted to write all three story lines, to break them apart and make each one a stand alone novel.  Ok, now that’s two completely unrelated conversations with people in the know giving me the same advice.

When I started this novel, my plan was actually for one story line.  I only added the other two when I realized that there was a bigger story that could be told.  Now I know that just because it could be told, it does not necessarily HAVE to be told.

So I’m taking their advice and splitting the manuscript apart to focus on one character and you know what?  I feel liberated.  For the longest time, I’ve been working on this complex story and now that I’ve cut it down I feel a sense of relief.  It’s almost like I’ve been carrying around this great weight and now that it’s gone I feel lighter.  And happier.

What about you?  Have you attended a conference that changed your work in some way?  I’d love to hear about it.

Take care now.


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2 Responses to How A Writer’s Conference Helped Me Better Focus My Novel

  1. Your post on this today has made me actually stop and think about how complicated my story has become. It feels like I try to fill up what I believe is a good page count instead of taking the time to focus on a single aspect of the story.

    The fact that you had two major authors tell you the same thing, shows to me that I myself have been doing it wrong. Looks like it is time to take a step back and reflect. Good post!


    • I’m glad to hear that my experience has also helped you. I wouldn’t say that what you were doing was wrong but I’ve come to realize that we do tend to make things more complicated than they need to be.

      Thanks for stopping by and keep writing!



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