Here’s what I learned at the 2015 DFW Writers Conference : I have a bad ass crit group.
For me, the Con began at 9 AM on Saturday, when I had my pitch. DFW is pretty unique in that part of the admissions fee includes one 10 minute pitch with an agent, so of course I used it. Over the years, my pitches have gone from terrible to ok to pretty excellent. This year I pretty much finished the pitch in about a minute, and the agent requested pages. What followed was about 9 minutes of random conversation involving other works, wuxia, the conference, the industry, etc. A lot of my honing the pitch was due to my interaction with my crit group, but it doesn’t end here.
Tex Thompson and Laura Maisano taught a great class on how to beef-up a manuscript while cutting word count – in essence making for “tighter” prose. This was proooobably the only class I really got anything out of.
Kevin J. Anderson was the first keynote, and that was right before lunch, so as of lunch, I had only attended one class. The unspoken undercurrent of all this is that I didn’t attend those other classes because I felt like either A) I’d already been to similar classes or B) I’d already learned those things from my crit group.
Later there was a world building class hosted by Mr. Anderson and no joke, it was mostly stuff I’d already experienced or run-into through my crit group. The same happened with the villains class after that. Granted, these were both mostly “101” classes, so they involved a pretty basic overview of said subjects.
The con ended with a narrative pull class which I think contained a bunch of things I’d already learned, but hadn’t articulated into actual bullet points. Through most of these classes I could think back to instances at our crit group meetings when such and such person would basically be talking about the same lesson, but in a more personalized way.
Is this me talking smack about DFW con? Nope. Those classes are good, I’ve just advanced past them, and I’ve done so mostly with the help of my crit group. Don’t get me wrong, I had a LOT of fun – made contacts, pitched the manuscript repeatedly, hung out with old friends, etc. But going to crit group every single week had invalidated the need for most of the classes. Does this mean I’m not going to the next con? Nope. Just signed up.
On the flip side of this, I talked to a member of our crit group who stopped showing up a while back. An agent told them they “just need a good crit group,” to which they responded “I have one.” Nope. If you don’t show up, you don’t actually have that crit group in your corner. Thus, the lessons here have been : 1) find a good crit group with as many high-quality members as possible, folks who aren’t afraid to tell you how it is, and 2) show up. Plow other things out of the way to show up.
I’ve gone over this a few times in other posts, but nothing hammered the point home more than sitting in those classes this past weekend : if you’re looking to close that gap between yourself and greatness, a good crit group will go a long way towards helping with that.