Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1st 5 Pages Workshop Success Story: Ki-Wing Merlin

Ki-Wing Merlin participated in our November workshop mentored by A.C. Gaughen, and I am so thrilled to welcome her here today to talk about her success! Ki-Wing writes middle grade fiction (once upon a time, she wrote computer code). When not writing, she can often be found with her husband, chasing their two sons around their home in North Carolina. Online, you can find her at or Ki-Wing is represented by Tamar Rydzinski at the Laura Dail Literary Agency.

Revising and Rethinking toward Success

by Ki-Wing Merlin

I signed up for the First Five Pages Workshop with Guest Mentor A.C. Gaughen shortly after recommitting to my first book. I had finished writing the book six months prior and had been querying it.

My query generated requests from agents, and I was excited. Until rejections started trickling back. I suck at waiting and at being rejected (I'm unique this way, right? :) ), so I started another book to distract myself. Then two agents passed, but asked what else I was working on; they liked the sound of the second book.

Unsure whether to give up on the first book, I sent in pages for a critique at my regional SCBWI conference. The assigned critiquer, a published author, loved the pages and spent the conference talking me up to the agents (I'm sure she did other things, but this is how it felt to me). So I came back from the conference determined to give the first book another chance. I still had fulls and partials out with agents. I got another reluctant-sounding pass, but with notes. Then I got a phone call from Tamar Rydzinski. Tamar loved the main character and the story, but she had a list of revision suggestions for me.

And I was ready for that. Really, I was dying for that.

This was when I participated in the First Five Pages Workshop.

I have a critique group and a network of beta partners, but the workshop offered something else: a group of people committed to reading the very same pages week after week. It gave me a chance to think and rethink every decision made within those pages. I ended up undoing a flashback so the first scenes were on the same timeline. I also ended up hyper aware of where readers' attentions were during those scenes. Unfortunately, their attentions weren't always where I wanted -- worse, my attempts to fix the distractions distracted further!

So I left the workshop with more questions about my first pages than I had going in. But that's what I needed. It pushed me another step toward the understanding (and courage) to take a sledgehammer to my book. Then I could build it anew.

Altogether, I took six months to revise the book.

Three weeks after completing the revision, I accepted an offer of representation from Tamar. Yes, I signed with the agent who called during that crucial earlier time. :)

So thank you, Martina, Lisa, and A.C. for organizing this workshop and for your perceptive critiques. I feel lucky to have taken part. Fellow writers, take advantage of this if you haven't already! (and good luck! I hope to meet you here and elsewhere)

June First Five Pages Workshop Opportunity

Interested in doing a workshop? We have a very special treat for you! Our June workshop will start accepting entries at noon on Saturday, June 1, 2013 Eastern time with guest mentor Nancy Kress.

Nancy is the author of 32 books, including 25 novels, four collections of short stories, three books about writing, and a YA fantasy trilogy published under the name Anna Kendall (CROSSING OVER, DARK MIST RISING, and A BRIGHT AND TERRIBLE SWORD).

Her work has won every major science fiction award, including two Hugos and five Nebulas. The novels include science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. Her most recent books are AFTER THE FALL, BEFORE THE FALL, DURING THE FALL (Tachyon, 2012), a long novella of eco-disaster, time travel, and human resiliency; and FLASH POINT (Viking, 2012) is a YA novel about a future TV reality show in an economically stricken United States.

Intermittently, Nancy teaches writing workshops at various venues around the country. A few years ago she taught at the University of Leipzig as the visiting Picador professor. For sixteen years she was the “Fiction” columnist for WRITERS DIGEST MAGAZINE. Nancy lives in Seattle with her husband, writer Jack Skillingstead, and Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle. You can find her on her blog or her website.

You can also pick up her amazing books on craft!

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint

Beginnings, Middles & Ends

Dynamic Characters

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