My Portland Writing Workshop Experience

Chuck SambuchinoLast month, I found a notice for the Portland Writing Workshop, taught by Chuck Sambuchino. Now, I have been following Chuck’s blog, Guide to Literary Agents Blog, for several years. It has been a great resource for building my literary agent database in preparation for The Swallow’s Spring and Set in Stone to begin making their way out into the world.

I knew this was a workshop I needed to attend because, frankly, whenever I come across the option to take a marketing or a craft class at a writing conference, I just can’t resist the craft class. The sole focus of the Portland Writing Workshop was on getting your finished book published. No distractions.

So, Friday found me and a member of my critique group shooting up I-5 to Portland.

The day was divided into five sessions:

  • Your Publishing Options Today
  • Everything You Need to Know about Agents, Queries, and Pitching
  • Writers’ Got Talent: A Chapter One Critique Fest
  • How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Author Platform and Social Media Explained
  • How to Get Published: 10 Professional Writing Practices that You need to Know NOW to Find Success as a Writer.

Chuck is a dynamo. These were information-packed sessions, that confirmed many things I had been picking up through my reading and conference attendance. I don’t feel like it would be fair to go into detail on his content. Just rest assured, if the workshop comes to your area, it is worth your while to go.

What I will share, however, are my notes from the Chapter One Critique-Fest, which was actually a page one, on the spot critique done by the editors and agents in attendance. My notes consist of a list of things to beware of on your first page ranked from most frequently cited to least.

On your first page watch out for:

  • lots of exposition/telling
  • a voice that does not match up with the genre
  • not being original enough
  • point of view errors
  • no conflict, tension, or action
  • starting out with what should really be back story
  • the narrative voice being too detached
  • not making the gender of the point of view character clear
  • interrupting the momentum of the story with a pause to tell about something else
  • leaving out sensory details that help pull in and anchor your reader
  • using unnatural, elevated language
  • using even a single adverb

That last one really got my attention. The pros all raised their hands for Chuck to stop reading when the writing included its first adverb.

I really got a lot out of this one-day event. Thank you, Mr. Sambuchino, for taking the time to do this, and thanks also for your wonderfully useful and educational blog. Both have been well worth my attention.