Weekend With Your Novel: Crafting a Compelling Manuscript

What does “compelling” mean?

It’s what readers want.

It’s often what a literary agent will mention in a rejection letter: “I’m afraid this wasn’t compelling enough for me. Best of luck elsewhere.”

This special weekend just for novelists focuses on how to create and craft a compelling story.

At a glance

What: Annual fall writers' retreat

When: Nov 14 (6:30-8pm), Nov 15 (Workshop day, 8am-6:15pm), and Nov 16 (9-10:30am)

Where: Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St, Madison, WI (Sat)
Lowell Center, 610 Langdon St., Madison, WI (Fri/Sun)

Cost: Varies, from $12.50 for the luncheon and presentation, to $185 for Saturday's workshops and critique groups. See event details page for breakdown and early-registration special.

REGISTER ONLINE» or by phone at 608-262-2451

Questions? Contact Christine DeSmet at cdesmet@dcs.wisc.edu or 608-262-3447

What is Weekend With Your Novel?

New every year, this annual fall weekend is packed with techniques and wisdom for serious novelists who want to start smart or revise right for publication. The ultimate goal is getting you published.

With 12 workshops and 120 valuable tips in Tracks 1 (beginning) and 2 (advanced level), this intensive and fun weekend retreat is a thorough, roll-up-the-sleeves boost for any novel writer. Take 1 day or 1 workshop—or more—your choice.

Get pro-level revision tips and checklists to fine-tune your novel and make it ready to pitch. Agents and editors look for a marketable concept and excellence in craft. This retreat shows you how to sharpen your premise, plot, style, scenes, and more.

Your workshop leaders—all authors and experienced writing mentors/coaches—focus on the “best-of-the-best” advice and techniques to save you time, heartache, and dough during your journey of writing a novel.

Add a critique group for a hands-on, instant makeover of your pages and watch your manuscript move from “good to compelling” overnight.

This weekend also helps you polish professionally for upcoming conferences, agent meetings, or indie publication.

Saturday sessions include:

  • Top Reasons Agents Say “Not Compelling”
  • Fix My Opening Hook
  • The Nonlinear Story and the 12-Step Journey
  • Understanding the New “Story Physics”
  • How to Stop the “Rewriting Forever” Syndrome
  • Mastering Your Genre
  • and many others

Sign up for Saturday’s luncheon with Ann Garvin

Don’t miss the luncheon where you’ll get to know other writers like you. Enjoy learning from the presentation with author Ann Garvin who will give us her prescription for novel writing and marketing success.

The luncheon buffet includes options for vegans and vegetarians.

Something for every level of writer

Track 1: “I’m starting out in novel writing and writing workshops.” Who benefits most from workshops in this track? You’re probably writing your first chapters, or maybe you haven’t written at all but want to start smart. Maybe you’ve written a whole manuscript that’s been sitting on the shelf for a long time and you’re ready to re-start. Or you’ve vowed to start a new novel differently and smarter this time.

For new writers who may want to learn writing jargon and prepare prior to attending, please see “Writing Books We Recommend” on the event details page» If you can only read one writing text, start with Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. A second best book to delve into would be Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, which explains the 12-step story journey and internal arc progression for a protagonist.

Track 2: “I’m close to looking for an agent or self/indie publishing.” Who benefits most from workshops in this track? You’ve finished your manuscript or are close. You may have gone through a revision or two already. Maybe even suffered a couple of agent rejections. You’re serious about polishing and using all the advice you can get in a short time. You’ve likely taken other workshops and read several good how-to books so you know the jargon and don’t need the basics explained to you. You may be looking ahead to pitching to the agents coming to the March 2015 UW-Madison “Writers’ Institute” conference.

You may attend any session, no matter what track it’s in. You may also change your mind at the last minute and attend a different workshop if you wish.

Do you need guidance about critique groups or which workshops to attend? Call Christine DeSmet, 608-262-3447, or email her at cdesmet@dcs.wisc.edu.

Friday night bonus

Short on time? Can’t attend the entire weekend? Attend Friday night’s “Weekend in 90 Minutes”!

For only $35, join us just for Friday night’s workshop, Identifying Compelling Elements in a Novel led by Laurie Scheer. We promise a fast-paced, in-depth overview of many techniques for creating a compelling manuscript for today’s readers.

If you’re signed up for Saturday’s workshops, this workshop is a free bonus for you.

Recommended reading beforehand: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. Laurie will discuss the compelling elements that shine throughout the book.

You don’t even have to read the suggested book to glean good tips for your writing, but we hope you can find the time beforehand because that will enhance your workshop experience.

This workshop presents techniques that apply to all types of writing. You’ll be among writers of many genres seeking tips to improve their voice writing skills.

Critique groups

Choose from critique groups on Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday. Would your first 10 pages hook a reader or agent?

Take command of your writing style and voice

We look forward to seeing you in Madison!

– Christine DeSmet, director, cdesmet@dcs.wisc.edu, 608-262-3447

P.S. The fall weekend retreat is an ideal warm-up for those of you pitching to agents at the March 27-29, 2015, 26th edition of the Writers’ Institute in Madison.

Get complete details about Weekend With Your Novel speakers, workshop content, critique sessions, and program agenda, as well as fees, location, lodging, logistics, and more.