Writer’s Digest is looking for stories from writers about their experiences in getting trained, getting an agent, getting hope for the future. Until Sept. 30, 2006:

Joanna Masterson, editor of Guide to Literary Agents, wants to gather some first-hand feedback on writers’ conferences for an article in the 2008 Guide. Here are some of the scenarios she’s especially interested in:

1. A writer who successfully pitched a book idea at a one-on-one agent meeting. How did you prepare? What was the result of the meeting? Did the agent offer to represent you after seeing more materials? Did the agent refer you to another agent or give other helpful advice?

2. A writer who attended a “technical” session on writing (e.g., character development, dialogue, query letters, conflict, etc). What was the session and how did it impact you? How did you apply the information to your own writing?

3. A writer who attended a particularly inspiring keynote address. Who was the speaker? What was the message? How did you apply it to your own writing life?

4. A writer who socialized with other attendees and in doing so joined a writing/critique group, found someone to co-author a book, got inside information on an agent, etc. How did you meet? What was the result of the meeting?

5. A writer who is brand new to publishing and attended a conference with the hopes of learning about the publishing industry. What did you learn? What resources/sessions were most helpful? Did the conference help jumpstart your career?

If you’d like to participate, please send an e-mail to literaryagent@fwpubs.com with your name, the name of the conference you attended, when you attended the conference (the more recent, the better), and a short description of your conference experience.

If this sounds like Chicken Soup for the Soul kind of material, where you share and then someone else gets the material for their book or article, well, it is. But you might find that recounting your experience — especially for items 2 and 3 — is good for your own writing enlightenment.

As for me, here’s the answer to No. 2. I just came back from the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, where Lon Otto took us through five days of Setting, Point of View, Characterization, Dialogue and Structure. Each with a 150-300 word assignment. I told my son Nick it was the best five days of writing training I’ve ever had.

How am I applying this? I am now looking for serious flaws to apply to my favorite characters in Viral Times. Not just “he’s rude to bigots.” More like, “he’s a moral coward when threatened with telling the truth about his friends.” Many writers protect the characters who are most like the writer. Then you share your writing, and it turns out the readers could care less about your favorites. They like your villains instead — because they’re seriously flawed.

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