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September 4, 2012

Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson: Part One — Guest: Melinda Collins

Learn about Margie's Master Immersion Class

Whoo boy, do I have a treat for you today. The lovely Melinda Collins recently returned from an Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson, and she’s here today to share her experience.

I’m playing this cool now, but it was a different story earlier. When I heard Melinda was going to a weekend-long writer’s retreat, I’ll admit to a pang of jealousy. When I heard this retreat was going to be with the amazing Margie Lawson, I begged her to stuff me in her suitcase and take me with her. *sigh* But I was too tall.

So we get the next best thing, a Margie Lawson/Melinda Collins extravaganza! I have Part One of Melinda’s post here. Part Two is with Angela Ackerman at The Bookshelf Muse blog. And Margie Lawson herself is at Melinda’s blog.

And… And! There’s a giveaway at each of the three posts! Woo hoo!

Read on for the details and let’s get this extravaganza started. Take it away, Melinda…

*****

Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson: The Experience, The Takeaways, The Lessons – Part One

Thank you, Jami, for inviting me over today to talk about my recent experience in Colorado with the wonderful, talented, writerly genius, Margie Lawson, and her Immersion Master Class!

The Experience

Ever had one of those energizing, eye-opening, and exciting experiences that feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity? Well that’s what Immersion Master Class was like – only it’s also a career-changing, confidence-boosting experience as well!

The kinship between the writers in the class began the moment we set foot in Denver. We each met Margie at the arrivals entrance and were literally, instantly welcomed with open arms. Margie and two classmates were there and waiting for me, and there were hugs all around (even though we’d never actually met before). The special kinship between every one of us was already there before we set eyes on one another because of the shared lessons, enthusiasm, and dedication we each had for our writing craft.

Once we picked up the last of our airport-arrival-buddies – whom we also welcomed with open arms – we trekked from Denver to Margie’s home all the way up a mountain where, unless you had a particular cell carrier, cell service was nonexistent – which is a good thing!  Who needs the distraction of a cell phone when you’re there to work your butt off and learn, right? *wink*

My editing partner, Sam, and I. We met in one of Margie’s online classes. 🙂

The instant we sat down for dinner on that first night (one other classmate was already there, my editing partner, Sam), the learning began. And I have to say that the amount of talent, drive, and excellence sitting around the table was overwhelming in the most amazing way, which is one of the reasons why this particular experience was priceless. Because each of us took the same prerequisite courses (Empowering Character Emotions, Deep Editing, and Body Language), we were on the same level in terms of how ‘Margie-ized’ we were in the writing craft, and we spoke the same ‘Margie language.’

Enjoying a night out in Boulder in a Russian restaurant, Dushanbe!

Due to our common purpose of being on the mountain, we had an immediate, unshakeable sisterhood. The bond we had upon arriving deepened the longer we were there, and one of the many things we learned about our small group was how awesome we fit together. Each of us had weaknesses that others had strengths in and vice versa. The experience in and of itself was one of the biggest takeaways I had, simply because I now have a kinship, a sisterhood, with four other writers who I know will always be there to support me and my craft, who I can reach out to and talk about which rhetorical device will work in a particular passage, who I can send a sentence or a paragraph to and know they will help me make it the best it can possibly be (as in a NYT worthy sentence or paragraph).

The Takeaways

One of the many takeaways, other than the experience itself, is that I now know both my personal style and my cognitive style. One of the first tasks we took on was a survey in which we discovered each person’s style. Above all, I have an amiable style, followed closely behind with an analytical style. This means I’m relationship-oriented, strongly committed to others, a team player AND fact-oriented, a planner, an organizer, and at times may appear to be detached because I’m so immersed and focused on a particular task. A close third in personal style is that I’m expressive, outspoken, and spontaneous.

Granted I pretty much knew this, I never truly realized what parts of my personality and style were more dominant. Knowing your style is extremely important in a group setting, and this was the perfect beginning to the Deep Immersion Master Class.

Another takeaway was I got to sit down and not only listen to everyone else’s goal of where they want to be a year from now, but I actually sat down, thought, and decided where I wanted to be a year from now. This is something I hadn’t done before, and I’ll be forever grateful to Margie to having us think and share on these particular goals.

Workin’ hard to snag an agent!

So where do I want to be in a year? I want to be agented (dream agent: Amy Boggs with the Donald Maass Literary agency), I want to enter a few writing contests, I want to have at least two stories drafted and fully polished (though partially will work too), AND, this is a new goal we each decided upon before leaving, I want to attend another Deep Immersion Master Class next year (yup, we’re going back together next year for more!).

Taking advantage of a beautiful day…and workin’ hard. 😉

The Lessons

Without giving away too much, here’s the first half of the top ten lessons I learned while in Colorado (trust me, there are many, many more):

1. Opening Promises:

The opening of your story, the first sentence/paragraph, should make a promise to your reader. It needs to promise the reader what they can expect from your style, AND what they can expect from your story. Once you’ve got the promise down, you must, must, must follow through and deliver with the rest of your story.

Here’s my newly polished, pitch-perfect opening paragraph:

When you’re happy and with someone you love, you never hear clocks ticking your life away. But the second they leave you, time snickers and revels in your isolation. I eyed the ghostly white clock hanging above the door with a sneer on my lips. Once, not too long ago, I enjoyed the sound of its ticking, especially when writing and pitch-perfect prose appeared on the page.

2. Opening in the Right Place:

One lesson I learned is that when you think you’ve got your story opening in the right place, nine times out of ten it’s not. And that’s okay, because it can take several a few tries to get it juuuuust right. You not only want to start in a place where your two promises will immediately shine, but you also want to start where the action begins.

Sometimes where you think it starts is actually backstory, or it may be where you think it starts is nothing but deep internalizations. We all know both of these are a BIG no-no, but both can creep up without you knowing it, and the next thing you know, you’re getting comments back from Beta Readers and/or critique partners saying the beginning doesn’t pull them in, so what you do instead cutting, cutting, cutting, and pulling, pulling, pulling, is you add, add, add to hook them in.

What I should have done when I got back those comments is look for my first action/paranormal scene, pull it to the forefront, and immediately fulfill a promise I made to my readers. When Margie showed me where my real beginning was, that meant I had to say goodbye and bury four pages of my original opening! And now I can say with confidence, that I know where and how a story should really start.

3. Transitions Aren’t Just for Scene Breaks:

Let’s say you’re reading a character description and the author goes from describing their face directly to mentioning an ugly scar on the character’s shin. Hmm… without a proper transition between the two, this can trip the reader, especially since when we’re describing a character, we normally go from top to bottom, or vice versa. But if you decide to jump from one important, mesmerizing detail on the face to a noteworthy, ugly detail on a leg, you’ve got to transition the reader for a smooth read.

Here’s an example off the top of my head:

His eyes were dark and silky, jaw sharp and sexy. An ugly scar marked his left shin from knee to ankle.

When you started to picture the character’s face, didn’t you instantly place a scar somewhere along his jaw at first? Exactly. There has to be a transition there to take you from the face, to the legs. Something like this that is so incredibly simple makes a huge difference in the reader’s mind.

With a transition:

His eyes were dark and silky, jaw sharp and sexy. She gave him the once-over and caught sight of his left shin. An ugly red scar, from knee to ankle, protruded from his silky, perfectly pale skin.

Better, isn’t it? Nothing to trip the reader when they begin to picture this character in their mind, right? Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t just for descriptions – it can be used for internalizations, setting descriptions, dialogue, etc. This is now one of the many items on my editing checklist.

4. Find Your Pattern:

We each have a pattern when it comes to our writing style, and discovering that pattern is important. An example would be beginning 9 out of 10 dialogue entries with an action beat. Or following-up 9 out of 10 dialogue entries with internalizations. Another pattern could be tending to start every chapter with straight description, internalization, or dialogue.

Most times we don’t know or see what our pattern is, at least not by ourselves. This is where editing/critique partners and/or Beta Readers come in handy – they can help identify your pattern.

A comment as simple as, “I think this action beat should really go behind the dialogue, or better yet, you really don’t need this action beat at all,” will identify a possible pattern of yours. You can then take this comment, add it to your editing list, and make a pass through your MS intending to look for dialogue entries that follow an action beat. If you have sixty of those throughout your MS, then now you know it’s a pattern and you can work to cut 80% of those action-beat-before-dialogue entries.

Bonus Note: Other than Beta Readers and/or critique/editing partners, another way you can find your pattern, is by taking Margie’s Deep Editing online course. She has an EDITS system she teaches that color codes items such as descriptions/setting, emotional/visceral responses, dialogue, and internalizations (to name a few). By highlighting each of these items on a hard copy of your MS, you can spread your pages on a table (or floor) and easily visualize your pattern. Ex: I begin chapter four of my MS with a sea of GREEN (setting and description). Not good. Now I know I need other colors in there like YELLOW (internalization), BLUE (dialogue), and RED PEN (action or senses).

5. Track Important Story Elements:

Let’s say your story has a paranormal element to it such as mindspeak, or maybe your MC has a pet cat, or story has sprinkles of backstory on every page. These are the types of elements you’ll want to track (and these are only three of the many, many, many types of elements you can track). The best way to do this is:

a. Print your MS in full

b. Decide on the elements you’re going to focus on:

  i. Important paranormal elements
ii. Mannerisms (Ex: character pinches the bridge of his nose a lot)
iii. Pets
iv. A character’s snarky attitude

c. Beginning with page one, circle/highlight/underline the element you’re tracking.

d. Once you’ve made a pass through the entire MS, go back and look for those areas where you might’ve forgotten about MC’s dog for about 50 pages, or you might’ve forgotten about the snarkiness of a character during intense or high emotional action scenes.

Tracking these items will you ensure you’re creating a balanced story. Since I write paranormal and urban fantasy, and I have a mindspeaking element that enters the story about halfway through, I need to make sure I’m not forgetting about that ability for 25 pages.

The same can work for a MC that likes to run his fingers through his hair when he’s frustrated, or has eyes that go black when he’s pissed. If you know where these characteristics are,  then you can work to make each one as fresh as possible, or better yet, you can remove about 20% of them and replace them with a different, more unique mannerism.

I really, really, really want to encourage everyone to visit Margie’s site, purchase and read and absorb the lecture packets and/or enroll in an online course, then, if possible, attend an Immersion Master Class yourself to fully learn not only these techniques/lessons, but soooo much more! In all her courses, you’ll learn ways to add psychological power to your writing and how to write a page-turner that will keep your readers up until the sun peeks over the horizon!

Before I go, I just want to say thank you again to Jami for having me over today and allowing me to share a small percentage of what I learned in Immersion Master Class.

Because I have so much to share, the second part of this two-part blog post is at The Bookshelf Muse blog today! *smiles* And, as an added bonus, Margie Lawson will be over at my blog today, Muse, Rant, Rave, sharing even more writing technique goodies! *double smiles*

*****

Melinda Collins lives in North Carolina with her freakishly tall husband – AKA: Lurch – two black cats, and drunken muse.

Growing up in the south with an imaginary friend meant Melinda relied on herself for entertainment. Thus, the bug for making up stories – ones that don’t get her into trouble – bit her in the ass in the most gnarly way. She grew to love the paranormal and fantasy worlds while her muse grew to love Grey Goose vodka (she loves him regardless).

When not writing or stuck in a corner listening to a never-ending, story-driven playlist, Melinda can usually be found on Facebook and Twitter.

*****

Awesome information, right? But I still wish I could have fit into Melinda’s suitcase. *sigh*

Don’t forget, Margie is giving away one lecture packet ($22 value) here, another lecture packet at the Part Two of this post (with the rest of the top ten lessons) at The Bookshelf Muse, and an online course ($40 value) at her post at Melinda’s blog. Just leave a comment at each blog to enter. The winners will be decided/announced by Margie around two p.m. (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, September 5th.

Before you pop over to The Bookshelf Muse for Part Two, with more of the experience, takeaways, and lessons from the Margie Lawson Immersion Master Class, or to Margie’s guest post on Melinda’s blog, Melinda wants us to think about the following:

Where do you want to be in a year? What is your style? Do you have the two promises in your opening sentence or paragraph? Do you follow through with your promises? Does your story start in the right place? Do you have a pattern in your writing? Do you have story elements that need to be tracked?

And finally, do you have any questions for Melinda? *smile*

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129 Comments on "Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson: Part One — Guest: Melinda Collins"

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Melinda Collins

Hi Jami!

Thank you again for having me on your blog today! I STILL wish I could’ve fit you into my suitcase! You would’ve had such a great time! But I’ll be going back next year, so maybe we can try to stuff you in there again? Maybe it’ll work this time? 😉

Again, thank you so much!! 😀

Tami

Hello, Melinda! Sounds like you had a fantasmagorical time, and now even I’m jealous. (*hands Jami a shared jealousy cupcake*)

I love the “promise” bit — I learned that in another class (with a slightly different twist) and it was one of the things that stuck to me like a burr in a mane. Writers are constantly promising things to the reader — whether they intend to or not. Becoming aware of the promises I was making in my stories has sharpened my prose immeasurably!

Odd question: how does one go about finding a “dream agent”? What makes her stand apart from the other agents?

Melinda Collins

Hi Tami!

Yes, making and keeping the promise are VERY important, and I think that most times we forget to keep those promises. Like Jami said, that’s why it’s so important to have beta readers and critique/editing partners – they help to ensure we keep those promises! 🙂

Hmm…. finding my dream agent is a lot like the process Jami’s got, however, I first begin with the authors that I admire within my genre (J.R. Ward, Thea Harrison, Laura Wright – and that’s just to name a few), then I take a look at their agents, follow them on Twitter, get a feel for their personalities a bit (if possible). Then I take what I’ve learned from social media, and I put that together with Jami’s super-duper checklist, and TA-DA! I’ve got myself a few dream agents that I really want to work with. 😀

What really stands out for me is not only their knowledge of the industry, but also their personality. I’m going to be putting my writing career in their hands, so-to-speak, and trusting them with my everything to not only sell my work, but help me get the best contract possible for me and my work. So their personality and how well I’d probably work with them is right up there with their industry knowledge for me. 🙂

Thank you for stopping by and commenting! 😀

Julia Broadbooks

I’ll admit to my own twinge of jealousy at the idea of spending days obsessing over my book! I still refer to the notes from the classes I took with Margie and I know my writing is better for it. Hooray for no more huge chunks of green!

Margie Lawson

Hey Julia —

Yay! You’ve mastered your GREEN in my EDITS System. Good for you.

I bet you would love my Fab 30 class. Full title:

Fab 30 in 40 Days: Advanced Deep Editing, A Master Class.

Fab 30 enrollment is limited to 30. I deep edit 30 pages from each class member, and post lectures and give feedback on assignments.

Fab 30’ers have the option to deep edit sets of pages from each other — before posting them for me to deep edit. There are three prerequisites (ECE, Deep Editing, and Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist), so Fab 30’ers are all Margie-ized, and smart, smart, smart at deep editing.

Some Fab 30 class members have taken Fab 30 all four times I taught it this year. I’m teaching it one more time in 2012 — Oct. 29th – Dec. 7th.

Okay — I got chatty. 🙂

Just wanted you to know about another online option to strengthen your writing!

Thanks for chiming in. I look forward to connecting again.

Melinda Collins

Hi Julia!

Hehe… yes, having no other worries than my story and getting that first chapter polished up was definitely an amazing feeling. And it made me realize that taking a weekend here or there to check into a hotel, by myself, just to work on my WIP is totally okay. Sometimes even shutting the door to our office, or our bedroom, isn’t enough to truly clear our heads and get away from it all. When I explained that to my husband though, I had to approach it this way: “Honey, it’s an investment in myself, in my business, in my future. And we don’t want the CEO going insane, do we?” 😉

Oooh yeah for no more big chunks of green!! Isn’t the braiding of the EDITS colors fun?!? 😀

And I definitely suggest the Fab 30 class Margie mentions in her reply. Me and my entire immersion group have signed up for the one in October and we can’t wait to get started!

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!!

angelaackerman

I am so glad you had the opportunity to go to Margie’s. I know that with just one lecture packet, that I could see the huge value and opportunity it offered to allow me to improve my own writing. I can’t wait for my schedule to free up a bit so I can snag another one. And I remember reading somewhere that Margie’s working on a writing book, and I can’t wait to get that, too!

The EDITS system is a great way to pick up those patterns and become more aware of them. And I loved all the real examples she used in her lectures. Writing fresh is my struggle, and so Margie’s lessons are a perfect match for me.

Don’t enter me in the contest as I’m part of the blog extravaganza, but thanks so much for sharing your knowledge Margie & Melinda, and thanks to Jami as well for letting me steal Melinda for the second half of her post!

Angela Ackerman

Melinda Collins

Hi Angela!

Thank you so much! I’m so grateful that I got the chance to visit to Margie and learn and absorb all that I could from her (heck, I still am! LOL!). I definitely can’t imagine my writing journey going much further without these classes…now I feel as though I’m one edit away from querying! WOO HOO! 😀

Yes, the EDIT S system totally rocks! Especially one you get the hang of it because you’ll find yourself writing in colors, already braiding in all those greens, pinks, yellows, etc. into your first draft. That’s the fun part right there! 😉

Thank you again, Angela, for hosting me on your site as well! I’m glad we were able to put together this extravaganza so that I got most of what I learned out there in 2 posts vs. 4,5,6 or 7 posts on my own blog (and as it stands, I still have about 3 add’l lessons I could possibly write about in the near future 😉 ).

Thanks for commenting!

Shana D.
Shana D.

Wow, great info and tips from the Immersion Master Class. We are all at different places in our writing so what stuck with me today is the one-year goal idea. I’ve always had the vague goal of someday having my fiction published. I think that narrowing it down to specifics sets a target and gets the process in motion.

Also loved the lessons Melinda included. Many things for me to think about and work now! Thanks for sharing.

Melinda Collins

Hi Shana!

You’re exactly right! We’re all at a different place in our journeys right now, so having a place where you could sit and think about your short/long-term writing goals AND share them aloud with at least 5 other writers is incredibly important. None of us are currently contracted, some of us are closer to querying than others, some of us already had full requests, and one of got news that she finaled in a writing contest, so having each other to lean on push us towards those goals was – and still is – an amazing feeling.

Oh, thank you! So glad to hear that you got something from today’s post! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

Margie Lawson

Hello Melinda and Jami!

Melinda — Thank you for sharing a taste of Immersion class! I love teaching and connecting and laughing and helping Immersioners make every line carry power.
Can’t wait to work with your whole Immersion class again next year!
You are all so talented. A year from now, all of you could have received THE CALL!

Melinda Collins

Hi Margie!

Oh, thank you so much for offering ALL of your online classes, and for opening up your home to all of us hardworking writers who want to learn from your genius! 🙂

Can’t wait to work with you and my Immersion Sisters again next year too! Squee! I’m definitely excited to see who gets THE FIRST CALL! 😀

Margie Lawson

Hello Jami —

Love your blog! Thank you for being part of the TRIPLE BLOG EXTRAVAGANZA!

I’m counting on meeting you and Angela at National next year. Tell me you’re both going to Atlanta!

Zena Parks

Whoa, my head is reeling from all the info in this post…I’m going to have to go away for a while, drink some water, breathe, then come back and assimilate. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

Melinda Collins

Hi Zena,

Oh no…. lol! I completely understand. There’s so much info, so much going on sometimes, so many ways to learn the craft…and one awesome instructor who puts/brings it all together in best way possible for us all to learn it – and that’s Margie! Don’t worry though…it seems like a lot, and your head does spin a little bit, but it’s a GOOD spin – I promise! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Annie Neugebauer

Fantastic lessons! Thank you (both) so much for sharing.

Melinda Collins

Hi Annie,

Thank you so much! It was my pleasure to share what I learned (I think this has been one of the top highlights of the Immersion Master Class for me – the sharing!).

Thanks for commenting!

Liz Lincoln
Liz Lincoln

To answer 1 of your questions, Melinda, 1 place I want to be in a year is at one of Margie’s Immersion classes.

Since I write romantic suspense/mystery, and typically start in the middle of the suspense or mystery, I’m pretty sure I start at the right place. There’s typically a dead body in my first paragraph.

Melinda Collins

Hi Liz!

Oh, that’s a good goal! 😉 That will definitely take your writing to new heights (cliche-alert!). Romantic suspense/mystery is right up Margie’s highway…she loves those types of stories, so she’ll be able to sign into your MS and help you deep edit, deep edit, deep edit! Dead bodies in your first paragraph? *sideways glance* That’s one way to hook ’em! Awesome! 😉

Thanks for commenting!

Gloria Richard

Well, done and said, Melinda. You did get a Margie immersion while on the Continental Divide.

You reminded me of how much I learned, how much I loved the Immersion Master Class experience. Having Margie look at the pages in my ms and point out nuances was cliche-alert-priceless.

Amazing how quickly she spots opportunities. My particular weakness and watch-for item is switching motivation and response. There are times I’m so enamored with the character’s response, I fail to get the motivation out there first. *Barn door hits escaped horse on the rear* analogy anyone?

FAB30? It’s a bargain to get Margie’s brain wrapped around thirty of your pages. I’m glad to know there’s another coming up this year.

Melinda Collins

Hi Gloria,

Yes, I looooved having my pages looked at – and not just by Margie, though God knows she’s amazing at spotting those missed opportunities! I did enjoy having writers of other genres look at them too. It’s amazing the diversity of opinion you get from a group like that…and everyone’s right, everyone has a valid point, and everyone’s just so super supportive that you don’t feel bad for having missed an opportunity. 🙂

I sometimes fail on the motivation/response switch too. It’s high up on my editing list, thank goodness, and one day I won’t miss any in a first draft. *crosses fingers*

Oh yes, Fab 30! Will I be seeing you in the forum at this last one next month? 🙂

Thanks for commenting!

Julie Glover

As someone who is working through Margie’s Deep EDITS system on a YA novel, this is more great information for me to know! (I’m also trying to figure out what to sell to pay my registration fee to her upcoming workshop in Houston.)

Thanks so much for the information. I’m a fairly recent convert, but I have already seen the benefits of looking for these particular elements and going deeper in my editing.

Melinda Collins

Hi Julie,

Oooo, a fairly new convert? Yay!! Hope you’re enjoying the EDITS system thus far! I find myself dancing in my seat when my colors are perfect balanced and perfectly braided. Just knowing that system alone has helped my writing tremendously! So glad you’re seeing the benefits too!

LOL! I’m also trying to figure out what to sell so I can keep these classes up. I’m a greedy-learner – I wanna know as much as will fit inside this measly little brain of mine! *grin*

Thanks for commenting!

Tricia

When I “stumbled” over Margie (that sounds so violent!) I’ll admit I refused to believe the rah-rah over her. But I was stuck editing my first manuscript and I couldn’t figure out how to make the story kick ass.

Margie’s lectures made sense, the packets were affordable, and her classes can’t be beat.

If I EVER get to take an immersion class, I may finally discover writer nirvana.

Trish

Melinda Collins

Hi Tricia,

Ya know, I was the same way about a year ago? But I decided that I was tired of not knowing how to fix my WIP, tired of feeling as though I couldn’t quite master my craft, and just damn tired of editing with what felt like no actual movement whatsoever. I’m glad I finally just signed up for an online class and got my writing butt in gear! Her lessons are definitely manageable, filled with actual NYT examples, affordable, and Margie’s just such an awesomely infectious person to be around and have in your corner. 😉

Ooo, writer nirvana. Yes, yes! You’re definitely gonna get there! 😀

Thanks for commenting!

S. J. Maylee

Fabulous. Thank you, Jami, Melinda, and Margie.
I would love to have a book under contract in a year, but most importantly I want to be a better writer than I am today. I want to keep working and moving forward.
Transitions Aren’t Just for Scene Breaks, brilliant, I’m looking at this next. Here I go 🙂

Melinda Collins

Hi S.J.,

That is a great long-term goal! And you’re right, even if the contract isn’t there (yet!), just being a better writer than you are right now is more than enough of a payoff. We can only go up and get better from here! 🙂

Hehe… yes, I’ve got transitions near the top of my editing list. I was surprised at how many important transitions I missed in my WIP. And when I found ’em, I was even more surprised at how much stronger the work read with not only having edited and included a transition, but how fresh and NYT-worthy some of those lines turned out to be. 🙂

Thanks for commenting!

Stina Lindenblatt

I’ve studied all her lecture notes and am in an online course now through her university (not her course though). I wish I could attend one of her intensive sessions. We looked at having her for a one day workshop with my local RWA chapter, but she’s very expensive, especially compared to Michael Hauge and Donald Maass.

Melinda Collins

Hi Stina!

Oh, I love how diverse the courses can be through her university. There’s so many on there now that I think I may end up being in classes for next two years! 😉 I’m especially looking forward to she has another ‘Fang It To Me’ class. I missed the last two but desperately needed a break after Deep Editing, Empowering Character Emotions and Body Language/Dialogue Cues.

Thanks for commenting! 🙂

Barbara Rae Robinson
Barbara Rae Robinson

Thanks for your insights, Melinda! And such a lovely reminder of how perfect the Immersion Master Class was. And then I took all four Fab 30 classes and learned tons more. But there’s always more to learn.

Barb

Melinda Collins

Hi Barbara,

Ah, another Immersion Grad! 🙂 I wish it wasn’t over because it was so much fun. But there’s always Fab 30, right? 😉 There’s definitely a lot more to learn from both Margie and our fellow Margie-ized writers. 🙂

I’m starting on my first of what I hope to be many Fab 30 classes next month! Maybe I’ll see you in the forums? 🙂

Thanks for commenting!

S.A. Hussey
S.A. Hussey

I enjoyed this post and the tidbits of info. I’m going to look into the packets/classes for sure. Thank you Melinda for sharing – it appears you had a blast at this class and learned quite a bit. Now onto the 2nd blog. 🙂

Melinda Collins

Hi S.A.,

I *think* I may know exactly who you are…. listened to any good playlists lately? 😉 Hehe….

So glad you enjoyed the post! Drop me a note/email if you have any questions, my friend. 🙂

See you over on blog #2! Thanks for commenting!

Lisa Wells
Lisa Wells

Melinda,

Great post. I spent a week on the mountain this summer with Margie, so reading your post evoked oodles of nostalgia.

My goal for one year from now – be agented.

Lisa Wells

Melinda Collins

Hi Lisa —

Oh, thank you! So glad the post evoked some nostalgia! 🙂 Don’t you miss being up there on the mountain? Ahh…. If I could move there tomorrow, I most definitely would. 😉

Ah, great goal! I’m right along with ya on that one, Lisa! 😀

Roni Loren

I love Margie Lawson’s stuff and have seen her speak a few times. I also have two lecture packets already and find I have to read them in small doses just so I can absorb all the fantastic information.

I totally credit the opening of my second book (Melt Into You) to a Margie lecture. I went back home after seeing her speak and wrote a whole new first chapter (technically a prologue) and it’s one of my most favorite chapters I’ve written.

I haven’t used the deep editing system yet, but that’s because my deadlines have been so tight lately, I end up having to send things to my editor shortly after I finish the draft. But I’m hoping I can one day soon break out the highlighters on something I’ve written. 🙂

Melinda Collins

Hi Roni,

Yeah, those lecture packets are JAM-PACKED with information – definitely better in small doses! 🙂

Oh, really? *pulls up copy of Melt Into You on Nook* WOW! That *is* a great prologue!! Awesome, Roni! *moves book further up on the TBR list* 😉

Yes, the EDITS system does take some time to get down. I do hope that you get the chance to break our those highlighters soon! Once you’ve done several chapters, you’ll find yourself drafting in color. As in, “Hey honey, check this out – I’ve got an even amount of yellow, green, loads of blue, fresh reds, and powerful pink!” And the hub’s response would be, “Um….I don’t see those colors. Are you feeling okay?” 🙂

Thank you for commenting, Roni! 😀

Debra E Marvin
Debra E Marvin

excellent points Jami. I wish I were a ‘better sponge’. Loved your explanation of transitions. You know, I have a list of things to check for when I am editing as there are just too many things to think about. It’s all part of what makes writing so stinking tough and amazing at the same time – we never stop learning and improving. I hope.

I just signed up for the Oct 29t class. I know what the EDITS system and other Margie-isms have done for my writing but I’ve still got a long way to go.

Melinda Collins

Hi Debra!

The best way I’ve learned how to best absorb new techniques is to practice, practice, practice. Like Jami said, once we do it so many times, it’s internalized so that we eventually start using the techniques naturally during the first draft. Ex: I mentioned in my reply to Roni earlier that now that I’ve worked the EDITS system SOOOO many times, I start to see colors in my first draft, so I know when I should go ahead and get some descriptions, internalizations, or visceral responses on the page.

Oh, you’re in the 10/29 Fab 30 class? Me too!! Woo hoo! See you in the forums! 😀

Debra E Marvin
Debra E Marvin

Thanks Jami and Melinda.
I wish there was an easy way to do EDITS on my laptop… have you tried doing it by highlighting text? Of course I swear my brain gets ‘engaged’ better when I am holding a pen in hand!
I look forward to seeing you in class Melinda.

And Jami, when will the winner of the lecture packet be announced?

Paula Boire
Paula Boire

Hi Mel,
Great post! Beautifully summed up information and given with such clarity. Also loved your advice on choosing a dream agent. Can hardly wait until our next Immersion Class. :-)))) Miss you and my other IC sisters.

Melinda Collins

Paula!!! 🙂

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! 😀 Miss you too! Can’t wait to see you guys in Immersion next year!

Bernadette Hearne
Bernadette Hearne

Seems that going back for a second immersion class is a popular pattern. Everyone from my class is planning to reunite next year, too (which reminds me, girls; we need to pick a date!). It’s amazing how quickly the groups click. I’ve only known them since June, but I can’t imagine life without my immersion sisters, either. Aren’t writers the coolest people?

Melinda Collins

Hi Bernadette!

Yes, it seems it’s starting to become a pattern. We decided to return the night before we left. And yes! I LOVE how we all clicked and fit together, filling in one another another’s weaknesses and pointed out one another’s strengths! It’s the BEST feeling and I really can’t imagine what I would do without these ladies.

Our group created a Yahoo Groups page so we can chit-chat, exchange pages and/or passages with one another, ask for advice, and all that jazz. It’s an awesome way to keep in touch with one another before the next Immersion Class. 🙂

Stephanie Ziegler
Stephanie Ziegler

Wow, I didn’t even know something like this existed! I love to write. My imagination runs wild. Problem – I never seem to be able to sit & write more than a chapter. You will find beginnings to books all around my home. Help me finish one! 😀

Melinda Collins

Hi Stephanie,

I’m with Jami – there are many reasons why it can be hard to get past that opening chapter. I also wonder if it’s a “I’m moving forward in the wrong direction” type problem. Sometimes when I move past that first chapter, I find myself stuck because I went in the wrong direction, or I’m writing the right scene at the wrong time. Well…that and I also have the distraction problem Jami refers to as well. LOL! 🙂

Rinelle Grey

So much great advice. I’ve bookmarked this to come back to later. I especially love the find your pattern and track story elements points. Definitely going to use those.

Melinda Collins

Hi Rinelle,

Oh, thank you! So glad you were able to get something from my post! Er – yea, the tracking is super-fun, but can also be super-scary sometimes. LOL! But still, it’s such a great tool to use! 😀

Janet Bailey
Janet Bailey

It is great to see how authors learn and improve their writing. What a great opportunity to ramp up my own writing. Thanks for sharing.

Melinda Collins

Hi Janet,

Yay! I’m so happy to hear that this helps ramp up your writing!! And thank you, I enjoyed and jumped headfirst into the opportunity to share what I learned! 🙂

Staci Troilo

I agree with everything you said, but nothing resonated more than the part about the proper beginning. I’ve rewritten chapter one of my second novel more times than I can count. I eliminated the first draft of chapter one entirely (it was all back story), I got rid of one that was too prologue-y, and I’ve revised more versions than I can count. I still can’t say that I’m quite satisfied, but it’s getting there. There’s a fine line between too much back story and too much immersion in action too quickly. We need our readers to care about our characters before we put them in peril, but they don’t need a full bio first. That’s a hard lesson to learn, and an even harder one for me to execute.

Melinda Collins

Hi Staci,

Whew! You are so right on with that on. I rewrote my first chapter 20 times before going to Immersion class, and when I got there Margie chopped two full pages of it! *headpalm* So having her take a look at those pages definitely helped me pinpoint the balance my first chapter needed in order to get the reader to care, get them intrigued, and also give them enough action to keep them reading!

It’s definitely a hard lesson to learn! My new rule is: When is doubt, cut it, save it. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

Addy Rae
Addy Rae

An odd pattern I’ve noticed in my writing is that the character structure always lines up like this:

A female main character forms a close bond with another female character (one she either didn’t know or disliked previously) who works to support her, and she continually rebuffs the attentions of one boy interested in her while courting another who is either neutral or not interested.
Romance isn’t my primary genre, YA is, but I always have this some variant of this structure! Not sure if I should try shaking it up. :/

Melinda Collins

Hi Addy,

So interesting that you would mention that structure pattern. I was making a long drive to work yesterday morning and thought about the fact that I’ve written two stories now where the crisis or crisis for the heroine is where she’s brought face-to-face with her father (among other things), and it’s always a father’s that abandoned them at an early age.

Subconsciously, I might’ve written/plotted them that way because it’s something severely personal to me (and would feel like a crisis if it happened to me), so I decided that this is something I’d start to consciously steer clear of in order to shake things up and be more creative with the messes I put my characters through. 🙂

Thank you for sharing!

A J Hawke

Thanks for the reminder of being aware of what we promise the reader. I also struggle with where to start the story. Before I begin to write I have played the story in my mind which often builds an elaborate back story, but I know that is not where I need to start for the reader. ‘sigh’ Sometimes I wish for a crystal ball.

Melinda Collins

Hi A J,

You’re most welcome! Hmm…. yea, we all struggle with that one. One of my Immersion sisters actually ended up cutting her original, first forty pages because it all ended up being backstory. It was filled with action and everything, but alas, it ended up being backstory, and I hated it for her (but this was all done before the class). I tend to do the same thing with imagining an elaborate beginning, but then I end up fighting with my muse because where the story should start. *sigh* A crystal ball sounds like an awesome idea. 😉

Shannon
Shannon

This was inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing. I definitely am going to use the tracking and the editing suggestions. I also happen to be one of those people who thinks her story starts in the right place. Now I’m second-guessing myself. Any suggestions on how to know for sure?

Melinda Collins

Hi Shannon,

Oh, thank you!!! You are most welcome. It was my pleasure. 😀 Have fun with the tracking – it’s such an invaluable editing tool.

In regards to knowing where your story should start, I’d definitely check out Jami’s post! She’s really got some awesome ideas in that post that are incredibly helpful in ensuring you’ve got a great first chapter. *nods at Jami’s other suggestion* Yup, beta readers and critique/editing partners are also invaluable in helping you decide if your story’s starting in the right place. I usually get a BIG chunk of highlights and one simple note a few – or several – pages into my WIP stating, “This is where your story actually starts!”

So definitely absorb the comments/advice from your beta readers and critique partners and use their suggestions to help you pinpont the perfect starting point. 🙂

E.B.Pike

Thanks for sharing this experience with us, Melinda! It sounds amazing. 🙂

Off to go research Maggie Lawson’s website…

Melinda Collins

Hi E.B.,

You’re most welcome! I’m always happy to share! So glad you enjoyed the post! 😀

Enjoy Margie’s site! I definitely suggest checking out her Pubbed Margie-Grad blog – great stuff within those posts (I’ve got 5 pages of notes from 4 of them!). 🙂

Glenda Poulter

This is all amazing information. I’ve printed it off so I can refer back to it later.

Melinda Collins

Hi Glenda,

Yay! So glad you were able to find something to help you from this post. LOL! I do the same thing – and most times it’s Jami’s posts that I’m constantly printing off for reference. 😉

Margie Lawson

HELLO EVERYONE!

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and post a comment. So fun to read them all!

One of you WON a LECTURE PACKET.

Random.org selected: TAMI!

CONGRATULATIONS TAMI!

If you’re new to my deep editing material, you need to start with the first of my BIG THREE:

MARGIE’S BIG THREE:
1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist

My lecture packet for ECE has over 300 pages of lectures. It’s loaded with teaching points, examples, and deep editing analyses.

Tami – Please email me (contact me from my web site), and I’ll email you a lecture packet.

BLOG GUESTS: Thank you again for dropping by Jami’s blog. I hope to see you online, or meet you in person some day.

I wish you amazing success with your writing!

Melinda Collins

YAY!!! CONGRATULATIONS, TAMI!!!!!

Enjoy your lecture packet! 😀

Tami

I won? Oh, my gooses, I won!

*happy dance*

Thank you so much! Wow, I don’t even know where to begin. Well, that’s not true, you gave excellent advice on where to begin. Tonight, though? Tonight is celebration. Tomorrow, I can be a responsible adult.

*cupcakes, confetti, and party hats for all*

Tami

Margie,

Hopefully this isn’t out of line, but I wanted to check on the status of my email to you. I don’t have an idea of how long it might take, but it’s been a week (and I had a second email regarding your hidden doxie) and I would just like to make sure you actually received the emails.

Thanks very much, and I’m very excited to start on your coursework!

~Tami

Margie Lawson

Jami – –

Thank you again for being part of the Triple Blog Extravaganza!

You and Melinda and Angela are THE BEST!

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

I LOVE Margie Lawson!! Melinda is über lucky!
Sorry I’m late in commenting. Might be that way for a while with all that’s going on in my life right now. But I’ll always come by and RT and FB your posts.
Hugs to you Jami!
Tamara

Melinda Collins

Hi Tamara!

Isn’t Margie the BEST?!? I definitely feel insanely lucky to have been able to not only attend her online courses, but to have spend a few days with her!

I’m so sorry life’s crazy. And I’m sorry you missed entering into the giveaway. Keep your eyes open though…Margie does guest posts fairly often and usually does a lecture packet giveaway with each one. 😉

Yvette Carol

Thanks for a really in-depth, informative post. Most helpful!

Melinda Collins

Hi Yvette,

You’re most welcome! 🙂 Hope you’re able to put some of these ideas to great use in your WIP!

Maryanne Fantalis

Wow, this was powerful. I’ll have to come back here again and again to really absorb it all.

Openings are my trouble spot, so thank you for your insight. I never thought about that idea of “promises” before, and that has given me a lot to think about. I already went back to the MS I’m revising and started playing with the first page with that idea in mind: what do I want my readers to anticipate? And what do I know I can deliver?

Thanks, Jami and Melinda! 🙂

Susan Sipal

The only bad thing about this post is that it makes me so jealous I wasn’t there! Seriously, Melinda, it all sounds awesome — and the scenery must have been so inspiring as well as the company. I’ve heard so many awesome things about Margie Lawson’s workshops from so many writers. Thanks so much Melinda and Jami for sharing this!

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Reetta Raitanen

A class with Margie in person sounds like an immense experience. So much learning and camaraderie 🙂 Thank you for sharing these enlightening tips, Melinda. I especially appreciated the one about keeping track of your focus elements in the story.

Martina Boone

This was such an inspiring post. I took a couple of Margie’s downloadable workshops. I’m actually looking around trying to figure out whether to do a mentorship or one of the big workshops or Margie’s program or something like it, so this was really timely to read. Thanks so much for the info. It sounds like you had a great time and really learned a lot!

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