FenCon XVII - September 18-20, 2020 | Writers Workshop

A Fan-Operated Science Fiction and Fantasy Literary and Filk Convention in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area


Writers Workshop

We are excited to announce our instructor for our 2019 workshop is Angie Hodapp from Nelson Literary Agency. Check out her bio under our Guests tab.

No more slots remain!

Workshop Rules and Regulations

Participants must electronically submit their own original, unpublished works of fiction (science fiction, fantasy, or horror) for critique. No erotica, please. Students will be required to participate in peer critiques of other participants' submissions.

  • The Writers Workshop registration period will end on July 14, 2019, or when all participant slots have been filled, whichever comes first.
  • This year the workshop is limited to 15 participants. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Each participant must be a paid attending member of FenCon XVI. Either a full Regular Membership or Friend of the Fen Membership meets this requirement. See the membership page for details.
  • There is a $40 registration fee for participating in the workshop in addition to the FenCon XIII membership fee. The fee must be paid at the time of registration.
  • Workshop sessions begin at 7 pm on Thursday, September 19, 2019 at the FenCon hotel and will continue through Sunday, September 22nd. Expect Thursday's session to last until 9 P.M. while the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday sessions will start at 9 am and end at noon. Participation in all workshop sessions is highly encouraged. Please plan your personal schedules accordingly.
  • Short stories are encouraged, but the beginnings of novels are okay. Submissions cannot exceed 4000 words. No shared-worlds or "fanfic" is allowed.
  • The deadline for submissions will be Sunday, August 18th.
  • Each participant will have access to a online forum in a private Facebook group where they can ask questions, interact with each other prior to the workshop, and post their submissions and critiques. Therefore, membership in Facebook is a requirement!
  • Submissions must conform to standard manuscript format and be sent as a Word *.doc.

    We'll start with a good overview-style lecture suitable for a mixed audience (novices to pros). First we look at each of the seven building blocks as they relate to story craft (character, goal, motivation, conflict, stakes, plot/structure, theme). Then we revisit each of the seven metaphorically, as they relate to career professionalism. (Maintain high standards of personal character, establish your writing goals, know what’s motivating you as a writer, structure your writing time, etc.)

    FRIDAY Morning: The topic will be determined by the group's vote. Either...

    (1) Do you need a literary agent? - What is a literary agent and what do they do? What are your publishing goals, and does a literary agent fit into that plan or you?
    (2) Query Letter Boot Camp - How to approach the entire query process, including crafting your best query pitch.
    (3) The Dotted Line - Agency agreements and publishing contracts, what to watch out for, what to ask for, when to walk away.


    (1) Let Tension Drive - Making sure dramatic tension is the boss of every scene. This class has specific focus on dialogue, though we'll look at all types of scenes and many types of tension.
    (2) The art of Description - What in your story is important to describe (hint: not everything!), and in how much detail? How and why to avoid purple prose, and how writing description is different in first person, third person, and omniscient.

    (1) Two Kinds of World Building and Why you Need Both - This covers how to establish (a) The Rules of your world, and (b) The Aesthetic of your world. Writers like this one because I share examples of feedback we’ve gotten from acquiring editors who’ve rejected manuscripts we’ve submitted because the worlds aren’t working as well as they should!
    (2) Your Character Before Page One - I’m very proud of this workshop because it helps writers develop both an internal arc for their protagonist (starting with a wound event that happens before page one, in the protagonist’s backstory) and an external arc (starting with an inciting incident that happens on or after page one). Once writers see the difference between the two and the importance of setting up both, it often helps them figure out where the story is going. So cool to watch.
    (3) Heroes, Henchmen, and Sidekicks: A Characters-First Approach to Plot - This is a super-fun, shake-it-out type of workshop that would be perfect for just before lunch. It’s a fully guided process, though students work independently with index cards to create brand- new characters (as opposed to working with characters in their current works-in-progress), and then I give prompts designed to let new story ideas and plots pop up organically from these new characters.

    Peer Critiques in Small Groups - Participants will be split into small groups for a discussion lead by professional authors to give you not only feedback from your peers but also from another set of experienced eyes.

    If you have any questions or comments about this workshop, e-mail workshop@fencon.org.