Enjoying the Journey: My first writer’s conference.

Well lovely writers, I did it, I confronted my fear of the professional literary world this weekend.

Just to clarify, I don’t exactly fear the lit world; it’s more so I find it a bit intimidating. I love following industry professionals and other authors on Twitter, but being connected via web versus talking to actual people in person are two different things.

So on Saturday, I attended the Chesapeake Writers Workshop in DC. The majority of the day was spent absorbing a TON of information about the industry from Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest. From self-publishing versus traditional publishing to building your own platform, Chuck covered a LOT of topics and provided an incredible amount of insight. If you have an opportunity to attend one of his many speaking events, do so. It’s more than worth it.

He’s posted a list of his upcoming events on his website, here. Also, if you haven’t checked out his blog, Guide to Literary Agents, on Writer’s Digest, do so here.

Along with the fantastic lectures, I had the opportunity to formally pitch two agents. Both Ella Kennen of Corvisiero and Jamie Bodnar Drowley of Inklings were so sweet and knowledgeable and really made my first pitching experience so enjoyable [though I’m pretty sure I was a rambling mess!]. Leon Husock of L. Perkins was also kind enough to hear my bumbling pitch after the workshop ended, which I am EXTREMELY grateful for, especially because I’m pretty sure he was done for the day and just wanted information on getting a cab. Sigh.

Attendees of the workshop also had the opportunity to have their WIP’s first page read by the agents in a panel setting. The agents, including Mr. Husock, gave their feedback on what would cause them to stop reading the sample. Though my own first page was not read (there was a limited amount of time for the panel and there were a LOT of writers in attendance), the agents’ input was incredibly helpful. Many first pages had similar issues, so I will be sure to try and avoid those pitfalls in the future.

In conclusion, my recommendation is to do your best to attend these conferences and workshops. Even if you bomb your pitches, discussing your project with an industry professional is an invaluable opportunity. It can let you know if you’re heading in the right direction or if you need to re-evaluate and adjust.

As I said in a previous post, be gracious and kind. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but you and your WIP will be better for it. So even if you hear something you don’t want to hear [like the importance of building your platform], don’t argue, just accept the advice and make a decision later.

And most importantly, just keep writing!

Inspiration vs. Dedication

As writers, we constantly struggle with productivity. We fret over our projects, sacrificing time, energy and sanity for them, but when we sit down to actually get work done, all of our notes and thoughts don’t translate to print. It’s like the muse just got up, left and took all the files with him.

For years, when I hit this brick wall of “writer’s block,” I would stare at the screen, write a sentence, rewrite said sentence, delete sentence then walk away. After all, why force it? If I force it, the writing will sound forced. Right?

But let’s be honest for a quick minute. “Writer’s Block” is really just a term we’ve put in place of procrastination to make us feel better. I know I’m guilty of it (see above “forced writing” excuse), but if there’s anything I’ve learned this past year, it’s:

  1. NOVELS DON’T WRITE THEMSELVES!
  2. Polished manuscripts take numerous drafts, so you might as well pump out a vomit draft then make it gorgeous in revision.
  3. Sometimes looking at the big picture makes it difficult to identify individual small pieces. So don’t worry so much about the end product, focus on the individual plot points and eventually, your rough draft will start to look like a novel.

Basically, what I’m saying is writing a novel is a marathon. You just have to put one foot in front of the other.

A couple weeks [months] ago, Chuck Sambuchino, an editor at Writer’s Digest, tweeted the below quote:

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.” ― H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I’m pretty sure this tweet was the revelation that motivated me through National Novel Writing Month. There were days where I stared at my screen and tried to find the right words to write.

The day that really sticks out to me of that entire month was the moment I made the transition from linear writing to non-linear.

I was sitting in Starbucks on November 5th attempting to write a scene between my MC and her [eventual] love interest. It was supposed to be the very first time the two characters communicated and the words just weren’t coming. I knew who both my characters were. I knew their intertwining story arches, but the words just weren’t coming.

Then Mr. Sambuchino tweeted that remarkable quote.

So I pulled out my outline and looked for a scene to write. This scene just happened to be the pinnacle of the characters’ relationship arch, which helped me write the evolution of their relationship in a more natural way. It also provided me with insight into both characters that I hadn’t quite had before.

In short, keep writing. Even if the words are awful and bland, just keep writing. Your first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect, plus your characters always find a way to throw a wrench in your perfect outline.

So stop fretting, don’t give up, and WRITE!

And follow @ChuckSambuchino on Twitter. Seriously, huge wealth of knowledge!

Happy writing, everyone!