Nuggets of Gold From Colorado

By Beth Burgmeyer

I’m sitting in my quiet little room on the last morning of the RMFW Retreat, reflecting on all of the helpful nuggets (and boulders) of wisdom I’ve gotten during my time in beautiful Colorado Springs. I’ve learned so much from the agent and editor who are here, as well as from the incredibly talented writers I’ve met. The talent here is seriously amazing.

My experience here only strengthens my belief that we can always grow and learn as writers, no matter how long you’ve been writing or how many conferences you’ve gone to. Yesterday I attended an hour long workshop about revision strategies led by literary agent, Courtney Miller-Callihan from Handspun Literary Agency. I’ve heard and read a lot of advice about revising manuscripts, but Courtney presented some revision strategies I’ve never heard before—ones I’ll definitely use. I asked her if I could share some of her tips with my writing community and she graciously said I could. You can check out more of Courtney’s tips on twitter.

Instead of sharing her entire list, I’ll share the strategies I’ve never heard of before.

  • Print your manuscript and attack it with highlighters. Use one color for dialogue, one color for character action, and one color for exposition. The main thing you want to watch for are big chunks of exposition that either need to be cut or spread out more.
  • Change the font and read the manuscript in a font you don’t normally use. If you normally use Times New Roman, change it to Courier or another font that looks very different. Doing this tricks your brain and will help you see your manuscript with fresh eyes.
  • Make an EKG of your novel’s conflict. Chart the conflict in your novel from beginning to end. There will be tall peeks where the highest conflict is and some lower peeks where you give your characters a break, but there should never be long periods where your story flat lines with no tension or conflict.


  • Plug your manuscript into a Word Cloud like Wordle and see if there are certain words you overuse.
  • Put your manuscript away for a month, then write a full synopsis. Were there scenes you left out?

Courtney had some other great advice that a lot of us have heard such as cutting anything that slows the story down and making sure you have beta readers and critique partners read your manuscript. Now it’s time for me to put that advice to work. My main objective during the retreat was to revise one of my manuscripts and to lower the word count. Now I feel like I have more tools that will help me do that.

It’s so peaceful here at the retreat center. The only thing I hear are the magpies and the occasional voices of other writers passing by in the hall. Five deer graze on the hillside outside of my window. Now it’s time to get back to my manuscript with new eyes and renewed enthusiasm.


Beth Burgmeyer

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