Ann Crispin offered self-editing and marketing tips at her Advanced Writers’ Workshop at Dragon*Con 2005. The author of twenty-two novels, including seven New York Times bestsellers and Storms of Destiny, the first novel in a new fantasy trilogy published by EOS, Crispin annually shares her insights on writing and publishing with new and veteran writers at Dragon*Con. This year, Ann taught beginning and advanced writers’ classes that left her students clamoring for her return next year.
Crispin stressed that self-editing should result in the “constant smooth flow of images and information” so that the reader will read and follow-through with the whole picture as presented on the written page. She cautioned her class to look for flow and pacing and variation in sentence structure. Warning that “repetition is our enemy,” Crispin told students to check for repeated words, ideas, and concepts. She suggested including the five senses in description, complementing merely visual images with a range of experience featuring auditory, kinesthetic, and olfactory nuances. She told students to “trim and tighten lengthy descriptions” and to look for adverbs and adjectives, noting that prose derives its strength from nouns and verbs. Although she stated that adverbs and adjectives were acceptable usage, she asked her students to consider trimming these descriptive modifiers where they became excessive.
Crispin said that if three consecutive pages have no dialogue, the editing writer should think about adding some. She also warned against “info dumps, . . . indigestible expository lumps.“ The key is to “stay focused on the point of the scene,” asking yourself “why does the scene exist, what is it designed to convey?” Crispin said. She emphasized that editing is not just about cutting out words, that the writer should feel free to add material, especially if added words can “do double-duty” by “advancing description and setting, plot and character,” among other examples. Crispin also suggested that writers rely on trusted alpha (first) and beta (second) readers to assist in making editing and revision choices.
Crispin was equally generous with her tips on marketing. She offered advice on what to include in query and cover letters and explained the different functions of these types of correspondence. Duties of literary agents were a hot topic as well as promoting your work once you had become published. Crispin noted the new trend in POD (print on demand) books. Although she did not completely discount the use of this avenue to publication, noting that some POD publishers paid advances and royalties, Crispin suggested that POD should be a publication venue of last resort.