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Colorado Gold Conference & Gabaldon on Immersion

Every year, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is pleased to present the Colorado Gold Conference, where hundreds of writers from all over the United States and beyond gather for a full weekend of writerly camaraderie, exciting programming, and opportunities to pitch projects to the industry’s top agents and editors.

Programming focuses on craft improvement, genre knowledge, career management, industry savvy, and continuing education and professional development for published authors.

Whether you’re new to the idea of becoming a writer or you’re a veteran published author, whether you hope to pursue a traditional publishing contract with a big New York publishing house or launch a self-publishing venture, you’re sure to find the skills, knowledge, inspiration, motivation, and support you need at Colorado Gold.

Although Colorado Gold is not specifically a mystery writer’s event, there is significant coverage of the genre that make it well worthwhile. Members of Sisters in Crime and the Mystery Writers of America are well represented as presenters, authors, and attendees.

No writer/prospector leaves without a handful of nuggets in the form of relationships, craft, marketing, or personal career development gold. The 2017 conference featured keynote speakers Diana Gabaldon, Sherry Thomas, and Lori Rader-Day.

At this year’s conference, which was held Sept. 8-10 in Denver, master classes included writing fiction with the Book Architecture method, deep character building, deep revision, writing a series that sells, MFA in half a day, and self-publishing like a pro.

There were more than 75 workshops on craft, marketing, and career development, touching on topics such as creating book trailers; sex, gender, and sexuality; avoiding bad publishing contracts; creating unreliable and unlikable characters that people still want to read; networking for introverted writers; writing YA; and using Facebook ads.

Gabaldon on Immersion

In Diana Gabaldon’s seminar on immersion, she discussed the importance of underpainting in the creation of story structure, using her Outlander novels as examples. In visual art, underpainting is an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. This technique, when applied to writing, anchors and enriches through flickers of action and small bits of information or pictorial detail.

To build a sense of immersion, Gabaldon says paragraphs should be kept short with at least one sentence involving an action. Less is more—practice restraint and engage small details, not heavy-handed descriptions.

This subtlety works particularly well in sex scenes. The Outlander protagonists, Jamie and Claire, are among the most sensual of literary lovers.Following is an example she used to illustrate the underpainting technique. She discusses this further on her Facebook page.

(Claire’s POV) He made no noise, but I felt him at once; a warmth, a thickening, in the cool air of the room.

“Are ye well, Sassenach?” he asked softly from the doorway.

Gabaldon pointed out that, technically, she is invoking the sense of touch, even though no one is actually touching. Contrasting “warmth” and “cool” enhances the impression of touch, and metaphorically equating Jamie’s presence to “warmth” and “thickening” establishes his presence as immediately attractive.

Layering upon the larger background also helps build what Gabaldon refers to as micro-tensions. The author wants the reader to constantly be pricked by questions to create a feeling that something is about to happen.

As part of underpainting, Gabaldon suggests adding backstory a snippet at a time, and using at least three senses in every scene to add dimension and connection to the characters and their environment.

When asked why she thinks more writers don’t employ underpainting effectively, she chuckled and commented how much time it takes to create an immersive story. The payoff for Gabaldon, however, has been that millions of readers are begging for more.

Next year’s conference

The first 2018 keynoters have been announced, both of them bestselling crime fiction authors: James Scott Bell, also an acclaimed writer’s coach, and Kate Moretti.

Find more information on the conference at

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