Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Conferences & Workshops

Written By: Jessica Morrell

Please join me at the Chanticleer Authors Conference April 25-2, 2019

Bellingham, WA Find the info here.

I will be teaching several workshops, including a Master Class on April 25. JD Barker is the keynote speaker.  Stay tuned for more details. This conference is especially helpful for indy authors.

Here are the details on my Master Class:

Master Class: Revision & Editing: Secrets of The Dark Arts

Jessica P. Morrell ©


Once you’ve finished a draft of your novel it’s time to buckle down. Because writers need to learn how to revise and edit themselves. Period. Revision skills are what separate amateur writers from polished and publishable writers.

It’s not easy, and yes it can seem daunting. But then, it’s a learned skill like many others, so we’re going to dig in with a four-step program. Why four steps you ask? You cannot work effectively at all levels of a novel or memoir at the same time. You need to work first with the structure and straighten out the big problems, then move down to the next level. It’s pointless to become preoccupied with single paragraphs or sentences if the whole structure is shaky. After all, some of those paragraphs you’re obsessing over might not make it to the final draft. In fiction you’re assuring that each of the three acts—intro or set up, adding complications, resolving the conflict, all exist in the right proportion and contain the appropriate twists and reversals. In the same way, you need to tackle each chapter, section, sub-section, paragraph and sentences.

This workshop is designed for fiction writers and memoirists to refine your first draft in thoughtful, organized steps. Step 1 begins with the macro or larger picture that includes the story arc and inspired fixes for pacing and plot holes. During this vital first pass you make certain you’ve got all the necessary scenes and start weeding out the chaff. The first pass also focuses on balance and determines if there is too much or not enough exposition, if the transitions work, and if the dramatic central question carries through each of the three acts.

Step 2 is all about tracking your key characters with a special focus on motivation and goals. Are they consistent? Memorable? Do the members of your cast have distinctive voices?  Do their arcs make sense and is the protagonist interacting with the antagonist and secondary characters enough?  Do any characters feel flat, contrived, or is there too much focus on one?

Step 3 examines individual subplots, scenes, and dialogue. Are the subplots needed and can they be tightened?  Is there too much or too little dialogue?  Do the dialogue scenes need to be cut off sooner? Can you omit attributions and their descriptors? Do the scenes contain tension and forward momentum and have you included cliffhangers?

Step 4 (finally!) means you’ve reached the copyediting stage where refine you until you cannot stand it anymore are satisfied.  You might still be tightening, fixing typos and punctuation, placing “perfect words in perfect places”, amping up verbs and adding music to your prose through alliteration and figurative language.

This workshop includes an exercise so please bring in 3 copies of your opening 5 pages to edit. You’ll receive a cornucopia of cheat sheets and handouts, and learn tricks of the trade from a developmental editor with more than 25 years of experience.


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  3. […] offers a wide variety of writing workshops and conferences around Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. There are day workshops to full weekend conferences, […]

  4. Grace says:

    I loved your lecture at Willamette Writers. Do you teach anywhere in PDX?

    • Jessica Morrell says:

      Thanks so much. I teach my own series of workshops and classes. I took time off last year because of surgeries and moving, but am starting up again. My next workshop is Writing as Resistance. It’s happening on April 28, in Multnomah Village. I’d be happy to send you the information via an email.

    • Jessica Morrell says:

      Actually the date is Saturday, April 29

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