The View from the Other Side of the Table by Lil Chase
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be asked to attend the 2012 Winchester Writers’ Conference, held at Winchester University. There were approximately 400 writers coming in for either one day, or up to a whole week of writing workshops, masterclasses, presentations and one-on-one sessions with professionals from the publishing industry. Word round the campus was that it was a rewarding (but exhausting!) experience.
I gave a talk about Working Partners: who we are, what we do, and why we’re always on the look out for new writers. (It was also useful to dispel a few myths about who we are not, and what we don’t do – I had a few people ask if we were a publisher, or maybe a distribution company, and some who wanted to know if we buy ideas for books… we are none of those things.)
As well as the presentation, I was asked to meet around twenty authors and have a one-on-one session with them. We talked about their ideas, looking at their concepts and their writing style, and helping them improve to get to tip top condition. I know (because a lot of them said as much) that the authors found this experience nerve-wracking… but it is pretty intense on the other side of the table too! I was aware that each writer was handing me something that was very precious to them. For some, it had taken a many months, others many years, to complete the manuscript. I knew the author wanted me to say: ‘your idea is perfect. I know someone who will sign you right now!’ But as the saying goes – writing is rewriting. No novel is perfect. Not even the published ones.
But the experience was a lot of fun. It was essentially a 15 minute brainstorm where the author and I took a gem of an idea and polished it up till it shone. For some it was rearranging the structure, others meant removing certain plot strands, and others refining characters to make them suit their plot better. It was exciting to see the author look at their idea in a new way and get excited about it all over again.
Barbara Large has been organising the Winchester Writers’ Conference for over 30 years now, and I have never been to such a smoothly run event. If you ever get the chance to go, you should! The people you meet are all at different stages in their writing careers – but they are all on the same journey… to see their next book published, on the shelves, and in the hands of readers.