By Kate Morrison Simpson
Rachel Weaver’s Your First 25 Pages class is a life-saver. Or at least a manuscript-saver. And to think, I almost missed it.
After receiving feedback from an editor and an agent—both of whom I’d give my right arm to work with—that they weren’t in love with my humorous, middle-grade, action-adventure story, I was tempted to toss six years of hard work in the trash. Instead, after a great deal of thought (and chocolate) and consulting with my mentor (a must-have), I signed up for another conference and looked for guidance on how to tweak my manuscript.That’s where I came across Rachel Weaver’s First 25 Pages class at Lighthouse.
Perfect. I knew my problem was in the beginning of my manuscript, and that it’s those first 25 pages that get you in the door. Except signing up for anything is a problem for me. As an over-decider, I evaluate most decisions until my brain bleeds (or the deadline passes).Writing decisions are further complicated by my chicken-and-the-egg struggle: Do I wait to spend more time and resources on writing until after I’ve had some affirming success? Or will spending the time and money now lead to the affirming success? Worst of all, signing up for a class means I have to engage in several behaviors I find distasteful, like spending money, leaving my house at night, and making long-term commitments (an entire eight weeks!). Mostly though, I feared I would commit, spend the time and money, only to be disappointed. I have to take continuing education classes for my day job, and most make me want to stick a fork in my eye. Despite all that, I joined Lighthouse and signed up for Rachel’s class.
Right from the get go, I loved it. Going to the house at 1515 Race Street made me happy. It reminded me of AA’s York Street House, with people lingering on the porch, clearly consumed by a common hex. I immediately felt at home. For me, writing is a lot like an addiction. I binge. I lose hours. I neglect my responsibilities.
Rachel, as our instructor, was terrific. Using tips and techniques, both old and new, she gave us numerous, concrete ways to evaluate and improve our first 25 pages. In addition, her keen editorial insight, humor, and humility from within-the-trenches made this class invaluable.
I’m also indebted to my classmates. They had all completed manuscripts in different genres, making this like a graduate-level class. Together, we examined our first 25 pages and experimented with ways to manipulate our manuscripts using our new tools. Then, we workshopped our drafts, and I received enlightening insight as to how some tiny changes could make a tremendous difference.
By the end of the eight weeks I had a new direction, a new bag of tools to improve my writing, a critique group that I will continue working with, and a fabulous must-read list of books on craft, as well as ones that exemplified the techniques we discussed.
If you have a manuscript you think is ready, or like me, one you took out to agents and editors and didn’t get the feedback you were looking for (a sale), I highly recommend this class. It was the answer I was looking for with my current work, and I’m optimistic about making a sale once I incorporate my new revisions. I also know the class leveled me up, craft-wise, which I’m sure will be evident in my future writing. I am deeply grateful to Rachel and my classmates and proud to say that I’m a Lighthouse Writer!
Kate Morrison Simpson is a humor columnist, real estate agent, and children’s book writer living and working in Golden, Colorado. Her humor columns have appeared in the Sunday Denver Post, HumorTimes (an Onion like paper out of Sacremento), and FunnyTimes (from Cleveland Heights, Ohio) alongside Andy Borowitz, Dave Barry, and other names worth dropping. She re-posts published columns at www.katemorrisonwrites.com. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rachel Weaver’s next Your First 25 Pages workshop starts October 17.