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!

Don’t Be a Jerk. It doesn’t actually get you anywhere.

This is definitely a rant-based post, so stop reading this now if you fall into the category of jerkism.

So if you’re new to my blog, welcome. Usually I like to discuss the different aspects of writing because I am a nerd and to me, writing is a pretty awesome way to spend one’s free time. (Also, I’m a workaholic. I have accepted this and am not currently looking to change this character flaw.) But this week, I’m choosing to rant about an irritating issue: jerkism.

Jerkism (a word I’m making up for the sake of this post) refers to the people who lack sympathy and manners to properly conduct themselves in a professional way with their colleagues and potential business partners.

Here’s the thing, I get that you’ve poured hours upon hours of your life into your project. But here’s a hard truth, art is subjective and everyone is entitled to his or her opinions. If you’re not ready to submit yourself or your work to criticism, then you shouldn’t submit, period.

Agents, publishers, editors and critique partners are all people with their own lives and their own deadlines. You are not entitled to their undivided attention and should not expect to be their number one priority at the drop of a hat. Sure, the wait is frustrating and anxiety-inducing, but you can’t expect the world to revolve around you (because the sun has a MUCH greater gravitational pull – just saying, perspective).

In recent weeks, I’ve seen SO MANY tweets from agents about fellow writers who feel entitled to their time/services. STOP IT! As wonderful as I’m sure your WIP is, it’s not going to be an agent’s top priority. So if you’re querying, be patient, be kind, be gracious. If not for the sake of being a decent human being, at least for the sake of professionalism. No one wants to work with a jerk by choice – common sense, people!

I feel your pain, I do. I’m currently preparing my MS and query for submission, but please, fellow writers, treat the industry with respect. I sympathize with your frustration and the gut-wrenching awfulness that is rejection, but trust me when I say being a jerk doesn’t actually get you anywhere.

So write on, wonderful writers! If it’s any consolation, I’m rooting for you.

Receive Critique & Improve your craft: putting the story above the writing

From critique partners and critique groups to online classes and workshops, there are so many ways to improve your writing. So why do so many writers not take advantage of these opportunities and remain stagnant in their craft?

Hannah Bowman, a literary agent at Liza Dawson Associates, said it best on Twitter:

This tweet was amongst an entire rant of fantastic advice, but I wanted to touch on the fact that as writers, we owe it to ourselves and our work to continuously improve the way we tell stories. Hence the title for this post.

When I first started getting my work critiqued, of course there were some growing pains. You pour so much of yourself into your story and characters that it’s sometimes hard to swallow harsh comments. But here’s the thing, when you start to incorporate some of those changes, you begin to notice the rise in quality of your writing. Then guess what? Your story begins to look like what you always wanted it to be.

So again, as the writer, you need to put your story above your sensitivities about your writing. At the end of the day, your writing is only the avenue in which the reader absorbs the story, so make it the smoothest, possible ride.

For Ms. Bowman’s full Twitter rant, go to: https://storify.com/hannahnpbowman/pep-talk-and-self-publishing-rant

Happy Writing!

Querying Agents: The Importance of Research

Well folks, I think it’s official – I am addicted to research. And I don’t just mean the research that generally comes with novel writing (you know, “healing cycle of burns” and such). I’m talking about industry research.

In this modern day of instant gratification and personal/professional transparency, I feel that there is a certain level of expectation when it comes to a professional starting point.

I realize that sounds a little strange, but let me explain. When I say professional starting point, I don’t mean when you first sit down to write your novel. I’m talking about when you make yourself known to whatever industry you’re trying to break into. Whether it’s publishing, music or any other field, you should have a good idea of what you’re stepping into before taking that proverbial plunge.

And that brings me back to research. Like I’ve said before, I am not an expert, apart from military journalism, I really don’t have any publishing cred [as a writer – graphic design is a different story].

Since I’ve started prepping my work for submission, I’ve read so many articles, books and interviews on queries and getting into the industry that I’ve discovered the biggest disservice you can give yourself is to not research the agent and/or publisher that you’re submitting to. Agents sift through so many queries that if you send your YA manuscript to a strictly Adult Romance agent, you’ve not only wasted their time, but you’ve also wasted yours.

Every submission is an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer, so make the most of it by ensuring you’re sending your well-written, polished query to the right agents.

How do you find the right agents?

So many ways to build your to-query list . . .

  1. Sift through this year’s copy of Writer’s Market, an annually published almanac of publishers and literary agents, what they’re look for and their stipulations.
  2. PublishersMarketplace.com, an online database for all things publishers, editors, agents and recent industry sales, ect.
  3. MSWishlist.com, this online database is full of profiles on literary agents, editors, publishers and what they’re looking for in their next project.
  4. Search the hashtag #mswl on Twitter. Agents and other publishing professionals will post what they wish would end up in their slushpile and tag it with #mswl.

Now that you have a list of agents, DO MORE RESEARCH!

I know it probably feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but seriously, the more you know about these prospective business partners the better. Visit their agency’s website, follow them on Twitter, read their interviews and look at their client list.

At the end of the day, the literary agent that [hopefully] represents you is a business partner, so it’s important that you do your research and make sure that you want to work with them before sending off your query.

Happy writing, everybody!