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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Retreat Wrapup

When all the lectures and the classes are over it all comes down to what you got out of your writer's retreat. From my postings you can see a lot of what I got out of individual lectures and classes. But the real question is, what did I get out of the retreat as a whole? In one easy and completely complicated answer, a life changing experience.

The first thing I realized while sitting through my first class with William Bernhardt this year was how far my writing has come since last year. Last year I was the bumbling beginner in Bill's class with a propensity to over use adjectives and adverbs and bury my writing in gratuitous prose. I fought tooth and nail to keep my old (and bad) writing style and thankfully lost. What I uncovered was that I could actually write something publishable! And I owe that revelation completely to William Bernhardt. If he hadn't pushed me beyond my comfort zones into a whole new way of writing, I may never have learned.

This year I approached the class with a much larger sense of humility. I was an amateur there to learn from the very best and I understood and embraced that. This year my writing was in a whole different place than it was last year, a much better place. I wouldn't say leaps and bounds ahead of last year, I'd say light years. And I attribute that to Bill's lessons. You may be wondering, if that's true, what could she possibly have to learn? Volumes, my friends, volumes.

I discovered that when I thought I was done editing, I wasn't. Editing once and then sending your work out is not enough, not by a long shot. Instead of working on the sequel to my young adult book like I'd planned, I worked on the first one. It's a book I felt pretty confident about but it quickly became clear that it could be better. It wasn't anything big, but it did amount to the difference between a book that looks like a professional author is submitting it and one that looks like a first time writer is submitting it. That may seem like a small thing, but believe me, to an agent and editors, it's not. More importantly, I realized why my novel is such a great book and learned how to communicate that. Bill also taught me a thing or two about agents which will help me out in the submission process.

If you're serious about your writing and you ever get the chance to learn from someone fantastic like William Bernhardt, do it. Don't hesitate. As the economy struggles, so do writer's retreats and conferences. If they disappear that means a door to the publishing world will close to us forever.

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