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2014 Summer Writing Retreat - Editing Your Way to Excellence: The Second Phase of Making Your Book Sing

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Sul Ross State University
Alpine, TX 79832

8/3/2014 to 8/7/2014 From 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Sorry - this class is currently sold out. To be added to the wait list, please contact us at 512-499-8914.


with Carol Dawson 

$329 Members

$379 Non-Members

"Carol was outstanding! Helpful and direct. Rather than telling us what works, what doesn't, she presented myriad examples from literature, which really made the lessons come alive."

-- 2013 Summer Writing Retreat Attendee on Carol Dawson's Class

Finally finished writing that first draft? Ready for the fine-tuning process? Are you both glowing with gratification and trembling from terror?

Welcome to the moment every writer must face, when the prospect of editing, revising, and tightening the first draft of your novel or non-fiction manuscript seems like a task so daunting that you’d rather spend the next six weeks in the dentist’s chair. Even the most seasoned and well-published authors often shrink from this phase, for the simple reason that it requires a separate set of skills deployed by a different part of the brain. In fact, most writers spend years, and much agony, learning on their own how to do it.

Editing and revising a manuscript is an exacting and demanding process. Because it’s so very different from, and yet so similar to, the initial creative phase, we often would prefer to believe our first draft is already pure gold, and skip it completely. This is a mistake. As any agent and editor will tell you, the editing process is crucial to making your book the best it can be.

But it doesn’t have to seem so frightening! It can prove fun, and eventually grow so pleasurable and satisfying that you look forward to it, even while you struggle through the first draft of your next book. The key is in knowing what to look for, and how to fast-track your procedures—to actually take joy in cutting and re-shaping.

This course will teach you how to jump that brain separation so that you can look at your manuscript from the editing vantage point. During the five-day workshop, instructor Carol Dawson will introduce the basic elements of strong narrative, focusing first on Voice and its elements.  Class participants will talk about what makes Voice the most powerful hook of writing, and study both great beginnings and bad ones. You’ll talk about revealing too much, too soon, and sharing too little, too late. You’ll talk about showing rather than telling, and how and why to make it work. You’ll cover line editing, word choice, verbs of all kinds, how to deepen characterization, and how to cut to hone your story further during the polishing stage. Finally, you'll take your individual manuscript, read and assess the opening paragraphs, and edit and revise that section aloud in class.

This course has as its chief goal the crafting of your book for professional acceptance.

Class Takeaways

• You will learn how to develop the skills that shape your book into the best form it can attain, through discussions on structure pertaining to YOUR PARTICULAR GENRE AND INTENT.

• You will learn what to look for in order to give your manuscript its greatest power.

• You will learn how to create authority on the page through editing and revision: how to trim away excess, sharpen dialogue, deliver thrust, flesh out what has been left unrealized, and persuade the reader with the certainty of your authorial voice and your crisp prose.

• Most especially, whether you are writing a fiction or non-fiction narrative, you will learn how to keep that reader riveted to your story.

Who Should Attend

• Fiction writers editing first- or later-draft manuscripts

• Nonfiction writers editing first- or later-manuscripts

• Writers wanting to learn more about the editing and revision process

Requirements: You must bring a completed manuscript to class, as well as two hard copies of your first chapter. Please be prepared to read from it aloud (an essential tool in objectifying and problem-searching your pages). The instructor will also edit the opening chapter of each of your books in after-class hours, to provide you with ongoing editing examples to suit the specific needs of your narrative. On the final day of class, you and the instructor will have a one-to-one, fifteen minute session and go over your edited chapter (or first 20 pages, if your first chapter is short) to analyze the ‘before and after’ and talk about the differences.

About the Instructor: Carol Dawson is both a novelist and nonfiction author whose books include the novels The Waking Spell, Body of Knowledge, Meeting the Minotaur, and The Mother-in-Law Diaries, all published by Algonquin Books, Simon and Schuster, Viking-Penguin, and translated overseas into several languages. Her award-winning non-fiction book House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Luby's Cafeterias was published by the University of Texas Press. She has taught creative writing and literature at the College of Santa Fe, as well as in numerous workshops. In addition, her work has been published in magazines and journals, including Texas Monthly, Southern Living, The Oxford-American, Parenting Magazine, etc. Currently she is working on two historical novels, and researching her latest non-fiction book, Miles and Miles of Texas: The Story of the Texas Highway Department, 1917-2017, to be published in Fall of 2016 by Texas A&M University Press.

Note: All credit card transactions will incur a 4% handling fee. Tickets are not refundable, but they are transferable. If you purchase a ticket and then find you cannot attend, someone else can attend in your stead. Simply contact us at or 512-499-8914 and let us know so that we can update the class roster and send your replacement the necessary information.


Writers' League of Texas classes and workshops are funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts - Investing in a Creative Texas. For more information, go to