I’m actually combining two Diva challenges, this week‘s and last week‘s, because I wanted to do both and didn’t get around to it. I’m using brand new gelly roll pens that I bought with the money my dear brother Bill sent me for Christmas (Thank you, Bill!) and I used some designs that were featured on Tangle All Around in the last couple of weeks: Heartrope, Heart N Half (with Luv-a), Stribations, and Heart Offset, with varied levels of success. I really like Heartrope and the Heart N Half/Luv-a combo.
On Tuesday, ARHtistic License posted suggestions on how to choose a writers conference to attend.
Now that you’ve registered for the conference of your dreams, what’s next?
- Research the presenters. Some may have written books about the craft of writing, and/or some may be excellent speakers. Find out about the people running critique sessions. Are they published authors? Social media influencers? Are the agents and editors interested in the kinds of things you write? Who is the organizer of the event? Note the people you would like to meet.
- Plan which presentations and events to attend. Often, there are many more you’re interested in than you could possibly work into your schedule. It’s alright to have a backup choice for each time slot just in case you know after five minutes that a class or workshop is not what you anticipated.
- If you’re pitching a book, first of all, finish the manuscript. At least have a coherent, well-edited draft done, even if you suspect it needs more work.
- Memorize your pitch. Know what comparable titles exist. (For example, one of my children’s books is similar to The Lion King—if Simba were his own worst enemy, no evil uncles involved.)
What to bring with you.
- It used to be that you needed to bring copies of your manuscript. Now, most agents and editors don’t want to carry all that paper, so they’ll ask you to email it to them.
- A way to snap pictures: either your phone or your camera. You may want to post on social media and have illustrations for a blog post about the conference. (Selfies with your favorite authors!)
- Pens and notebook. You’ll want to take lots of notes, and especially write down contact info of agents and editors who are interested in your work and other writers who are interested in being a critique partner or a collaborator. Ideas flow like crazy at conferences—story ideas, marketing strategies, ways to improve—don’t think you’ll remember them all. Write down everything you hear and every epiphany you have.
- Laptop and/or flash drive containing your manuscripts (optional). Some people prefer to take notes on their computers or on their phones. Or maybe someone asks you for an old-school hard copy and you don’t have one—you can run to an office-supply store and get one printed out.
- Your prescription meds, plus any emergency meds you might need, like OTC painkillers, antidiarrheals, sleep meds, throat lozenges, or allergy pills.
- Nutritious snacks, like apples or nuts. A water bottle you can refill as needed.
- Clothes, mostly comfortable, “professional casual,” but maybe one or two nice things for meeting with important personages. Sometimes dinners or parties have a dress code.
- A pre-determined sum of money or a credit card with your own spending limit, so you can buy a few well-chosen souvenirs, and books by some of your new favorite authors.
- Your business card. You can print these out yourself, on blank perforated business card forms you can buy at the office supply store and separate after printing. Your card should reflect your brand with a logo or a photo of you, and include your preferred method of contact (email or phone number or snail mail address), the kind of writing you do, titles of published books, awards won, and the web addresses of your website, blog, and social media pages. (All that needs to fit on a 3.5 x 2 inch card. If it won’t, prioritize.)
Getting the most out of the conference.
- Introduce yourself to other people you meet, and make intelligent conversation. Be kind to everyone. That’s a good policy in general, but at a writers conference even more so—you never know if the awkward woman you’re sitting next to is the beloved auntie of the agent you want to impress.
- Ask questions. Of presenters, of agents, of other attendees. You’re there to learn.
- Plan in advance which activities you want to take part in, but make room for serendipity. A chance conversation with another attendee can put you on a path you didn’t anticipate.
- Go with the flow. If the person you came to see is a no-show, pick someone else. If things don’t go as you’d planned, look for those proverbial lemons and squeeze them.
- Follow your body cues. If you’re exhausted, it might be a good idea to go back to your room for a quick nap.
- If you have a 15 minute meeting, watch the clock. At 15 minutes, stand up, smile, thank the agent for her time and tell her you look forward to speaking with her again soon. She will appreciate your respect for her schedule and put your name in the maybe column instead of the not-in-a-million-years column.
After the conference.
- Follow up. If an agent or editor asked to see your first three chapters, send them. As unbelievable as it seems, many writers neglect to take this step. You can’t get your baby published if you don’t send it in! The money you spent going to the conference is a significant investment in your career. You wouldn’t take out a mortgage and never move into your new house, would you? (By the way, if you didn’t follow up on a conference request in the past, I’m giving you an assignment: Locate that agent or editor and send in that manuscript this week. I’ll be checking.)
- Reread your notes. Share what you learned with your writing friends. Write a blog post or a guest post or a magazine article about the conference.
- Rewrite something in your files, improving it based on what you know now. Then submit it.
- Write something new based on a brainstorm from the conference, and send it out.
A writers conference is a valuable experience for the growing writer. It’s an investment in your career, your professional development, and especially important if you don’t have a college degree in creative writing. Try to attend at least one small conference a year, and save up for some big ones every few years. Then put into practice what you’ve learned.
Now it’s your turn. Share some of your conference experiences in the comments below.
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Stuff to make, thoughts to ponder.
- How quilters utilize non-quilting gizmos to make their art.
- Introducing Kendall Kessler, artist.
- Walk with the elephants. On the video, use the directional compass in the upper left hand corner to move right and left 360 degrees. (I got myself into trouble when I tried to go up and down.)
- Gorgeous tree photographs.
- The history of rock, if you could get your history from Facebook.
- Needle felted creations.
- The American Quilter’s Society has issued a challenge for 2019.
- Kelsey Montague painted five murals near me. I feel a road trip coming on.
- A beautiful article on the loss of Mary Oliver.
- Do you feel like you’re wasting time on social media? Here’s how to make it worth your while.
- Small ways to improve the quality of your life.
- Creatives, need a break from your work?
Thank you to Janice Hardy and to Writers in the Storm for this excellent article on plotting the novel.
Unless you’re playing with a non-chronological story structure, plot unfolds as time marches on in a novel. It starts when the problem is discovered (more or less), and ends when the problem is resolved. But just because the story is in chronological order, doesn’t mean we need to plot it that way.
I’m currently working on the outline for a novel a bit outside my normal genre. It’s still science fiction, but it’s a detective novel at heart, with all the twist and turns and plot requirements that entails. Information needs to be revealed in the right way, otherwise my plot might feel too rushed or too slow, and some of the logic leaps my detective has might not make sense. This holds true of most stories, regardless of their genres.
Luckily, there are pinch points I know I’m going to have, such as finding the body, uncovering the killer, revealing key secrets and clues. These clear moments are “destination points” for me to plot toward.
Pantsers just write their way there and see what happens, but I’m a plotter, and I need to have a solid outline in place before I begin a novel. When I can’t find my way forward, I skip to the end and go backward. Because of those destination points, I know exactly where I need to be.
With a genre as structured as a mystery, this is even easier. For example, I know my detective will discover the killer’s identity at a certain point. So I start there–what specifically reveals this? What clue leads him to this discovery? How does he find that clue? What is he doing when he discovers this clue? At each point, I figure out what had to have happened to get him there.
Let’s look a little closer.