Margie Lawson’s Immersion Master Class

I’m sitting at my desk surrounded by hard-copy pages of my manuscript, assorted highlighters, paper clips, sticky notes, pencil, stabler…and a timer. Oh, and I also have a mini-computer. Hey, I haven’t drifted back into the middle-ages of writing, I’ve been Margieized.

Margie and ThaliaWhen I first started studying Margie’s techniques, I have to admit I felt overwhelmed. Okay, confession: that’s a rhetorical device known as understatement. I felt like a tiny goldfish in the great big ocean of rewrites. Sure, my book was good. I’m not a BAD writer. Yeah, there were some cliche’s, but…y’know…cliche’s happen. I’ve even heard people argue that they’re useful, kinda like pictures, y’know? Worth a thousand words? Except that Margie proved to me that they weren’t worth the words they replaced. When forced to write the words, I learned more about my characters, more about their interactions, and more about myself. Not bad for a $22 lecture packet.

The problem was, the more I learned, the more I wanted to rewrite the novel. I was trapped in a rewrite loop of intergalactic proportions, and frequently was heard to utter curses in Margie’s direction — always with much love and followed by prayers for blessings upon her lovely blond head.

A little over a week ago, I had the blessed opportunity to attend Margie’s Immersion Master Class. You have to understand — before you take this class you must complete two of her lecture packets (and one of THOSE is a double), and write a novel. Get the idea this class isn’t for wimpy weekend writers? Like Rachel Gardener says, it’s a lifestyle.

So, I braved the Denver airport again — with the usual results. On the way out, my plane had an emergency full-stop on the runway, followed by replacing the plane and allowing all of those who no longer wanted to fly ever again to find land transportation. Yes, I got on the new plane and flew. On the way home, I got stuck in the snow in Colorado Springs. When I finally got to Denver a day later, I bought myself a Ben & Jerry’s milkshake. (DIA is a lovely airport. I just have bad luck every time I try to go there. It does have the only Ben & Jerry’s shop I’ve ever seen, though.)

One poor attendee had to drop out at the last minute, so there were 6 of us climbing to the mountain top abode of our guru. Because I do her website, Margie spoiled me and let me stay in her house. I won’t try to tell you what was in that class. There are lecture packets for that. Study them all, multiple times. Then analyze a few best-selling novels, and you’ll come close to the content. Seriously. We were up at 8AM, eating — and talking about writing. We’d start work as soon as our mouths were empty and usually remember lunch around 1PM. With minimal bio-breaks and surrounded by abundant healthy snacks to keep the brains active, we studied, asked questions and generally ripped our novels — and each others’ novels — to shreds and then put them back together like master-works of papermache’ art. There is just no greater writing jazz than seeing a scene you’ve hated come to life.

After brief pauses for lunch, we’d work until about 5PM or whenever we decided we were starving, then we were off to a local restaurant for delicious food. Most of the time, though, I was so full of learning I had little appetite. Meals were spiced with stimulating writing conversation as we discussed each other’s characters, plots, and writing styles. Anyone still awake after dinner was welcome to keep working until they fell over. I did — work until I fell over, that is.

We were from different genre’s, different backgrounds, and different literary styles…and Margie made each of us feel welcome, valued and about-to-become-the-next-Dean-Koontz. Margie is…as strong as her mountain and as fearless with writers as she is mountain lions. (I so would not go out there at night with just a flashlight…she says you can just yell at the bears. Oh my.)

At one point, I felt so overwhelmed, I cried out that I was just going to go back home and knit scarves. Margie looked at me with her calm demeanor and started discussing the proposal I’m working on for a certain daydream agent. Wow. I learned something. When the voices are busy whispering “you can’t do this!” the best response is to simply ignore them and do it. I left Margie’s mountain feeling competent and empowered, and with a draft of the proposal which I polished during my long waits while trying to get back to DIA. Hey, nightmare airports are good for something.

If anyone ever wonders if that class is worth it, stop wondering. Finish your novel. Do your homework. Then try to get one of those precious spots. You’ll leave that mountain with a toolkit containing everything you need to build a novel.

Oh, and bring extra highlighters.

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