Boost your writing enthusiasm; attend a Writers Conference.

Who should attend?

Because I thought I needed a finished novel to attend a writer’s conference, I waited until I had what I thought was a complete manuscript before attending one.  In actuality, that may have been a mistake.  The knowledge I gained from attending the conference helped me to redirect my writing efforts, to start promoting my work before publishing and to overcome fears, objections and writers blocks.

Last April I attended the Unicorn Writers Conference in Connecticut:  http://unicornwritersconference.com

I was nervous but quickly found my confidence.  As a result, I had an incredible experience, further solidifying my wish to become part of the writing community.

Dashing preconceived notions:

I was not the only one who still had work to do on my novels.  I met both published and unpublished writers wanting representation for cookbooks, single novels at various stages or multiple novels.  There were also self-published novelists looking for representation and publication for new work.  A further surprise was how many unpublished Authors were writing blogs and already had Author websites.

Just mixing with other writers was a bonus for me.  Writing is such a solitary activity and if you do not already have writing friends, you may not have anyone in your life who truly comprehends your passion for writing and the struggles you face, like the fear that kept me from attending a conference sooner.

Fear is a major obstacle for writers, whether it is fear of failure or fear of success.  Both are roadblocks to power through.  A conference offers an opportunity to attend seminars that will help allay your fears and concerns by offering facts, success stories and pertinent information.

Attendance also gives you a leg up on writers who rely solely on the internet, due to face time with Agents and Editors.  It is a professional but relaxed setting that pulls down the barriers between Writer and Agent or Editor.  They are just people after all, people with the power to make or break us, true, but people in a business seeking good writers.

The self-publishing threat:

Self-publishing was a hot topic, with Agents warning against writers jumping in without proper editing or serious effort made to seek traditional publishing.  Were they nervous about losing clients to self-publishing?  I’m not sure, since so many, take on so few clients.  Some said they only take one or two per year, not great odds for us.  Nevertheless, there clearly was an opportunity for self-published authors to use their online sales to option a publishing contract for new book sales.

I left less fearful, with some new contacts, the names of some great potential Agents and a better understanding of the publishing business.  I received some strong encouragement for my novels, but have since decided to rework them.

If you attend a conference, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not taking advantage of submitting your work ahead of time for the nominal fees charged, versus traditional costs of $3 or $4 per page charged by many online agencies.  I paid $45 for a review of my first fifty pages.  I also found the query letter review well worth the time.  Every author in my query letter group was given the opportunity to send his or her first fifty pages to the Agent running our workshop, following the conference.

If budget is an issue and you have never attended a conference, you may want to start with a small, local conference.  The next Unicorn Conference will be held on March 9 2013, prehaps I will see you there.  Writer’s Digest lists upcoming conferences monthly in the Conference Scene column by Linda Formichelli.

Finally the most common theme:

In a panel discussion at Unicorn, the Agents and Editors mentioned repeatedly, that they are seeking that next great story idea, but none seemed able to explain exactly what that meant, just that when they saw it, they would know.  It makes sense, if you think about it, they handle the bulk of the business end of writing and they need us, writers, to come up with fresh, saleable and entertaining ideas.

So, here’s hoping one of us is working on that next great story right now! 

Getting to know your ABC’s: Author Websites, Blogging and Contests

Thought for the week:  If you do everything you’re told, will you win a prize in the end? 

Reading the writers magazines and listening to industry guru’s the word is you need to build a platform to succeed as a writer in today’s marketplace.  This is a terrifying prospect to those of us who are technologically challenged.  And what if you prefer a little anonymity and are not driven by ego or insecurity and refuse to measure your worth by your number of Facebook friends?  Is self-publishing the only alternative?

I was dragged kicking and screaming into the age of technology, having written my college papers on one of those giant word processors using word-perfect.  If you are under the age of 30, now you are wrinkling up your nose and thinking, huh?

The papers disappeared into that blasted machine, often lost by my incompetence and haste in writing assignments the night before their due date, still, I cursed the computer for eating my work.

It took me years to get an ATM card, trusting my a passbook savings, something I had control over.  Again-huh?  Was anyone else convinced the machine would give their money to the next customer or that the funds would disappear altogether?

Am I alone in a preference to receive letters and cards in the mail, you know, tangible paper objects that you hold in your hand?  Does anyone still get butterflies finding odd-shaped envelopes among the bills and solicitations in the mailbox, the kind that give paper cuts, as a remembrance or enjoy examining handwriting and noting what it reveals about the writer?

The modern wonder E-mail, doubled my workload;  I hand wrote messages before typing them on the computer screen, then, deleted and re-wrote them, repeatedly, just because it was possible to do so.

A few years ago, an acquaintance publicly mocked me for not having a Facebook account, as if I were some Dinosaur who slipped out of the muck and landed accidentally in the modern age.

Joining Facebook happened out of sheer laziness; living in Europe, it was too difficult to keep up with everyone back in the States via e-mail and nearly impossible to share pictures of places visited.  It took awhile to get the concept of whole thing.  Why would anyone care what I am doing?  Once, I deleted half of my “friends” because they were not writing to me regularly.  Until I realized, I wasn’t writing to them either.

So hearing that success means you need to build a platform, I know I wrinkled my nose and went, huh?  To what end?  To jump off? 

Surely, some of us could get around this somehow.  What of those of us longing for the old style of publishing, sifting through the one thousand-page, onion-skin, “Writers Market” handbook in search of publishing houses,  Sending full manuscripts in the mail along with a SASE.  Go ahead, say it-huh?

Born too late, I could have been a Pilgrim or at least a Settler’s wife, writing about my hardship with a quill pen.  Using a wooden churn to make butter.  Incidentally, I made butter with my class once in elementary school following a field trip to Plymouth Rock.  Please do not say huh?

Author Websites:

Launching an Author Website, I literally held my breath while pushing the publish button.  It felt just like diving off a large cliff into the open mouth of the sea.  The choice of background photo clearly was not accidental.  Funny how the unconscious mind is so much smarter than the conscious one.

Can you call yourself an Author if you have yet to publish any Novels?  Will anyone know you exist if you don’t?

Amazingly, friends rallied around and it feels safe having an intimate audience of 39 fans.  I have to marvel at people with over one million.  How do they keep up with everyone?  Does having that many fans make them feel comforted or naked and exposed?

Blogging:

Writing a blog is supposedly part of platform building.  Again, I wondered why anyone should care.  What do you say?  How do you come up with something interesting to write about week after week or unimaginably, day after day?

Posting once a week, about the behind the scenes struggle of writing and the effort involved in mounting the hurdles of the changing Publishing world seemed a good way to start.  It might help make someone else’s journey a little easier somehow.  It is also a sort of social experiment, to see if following all of this sage advice will work out or not.

It’s easy writing to an intimate group of nine blogger followers and silent readers, without risking too much.  I’m blessed garnering any interest at all.  It’s interesting reading followers blogs to see what they have to say.  There are some great writers in cyberspace, blogging, because they like writing and will do it gratis, even for a small audience.  It makes sense now, this alternate form of social network for support and sharing of ideas.

Contests:

Of contests, let me preface this by stating my intent in this blog is to help not hinder and I have mixed feelings on this subject.  Coming to terms with who wins and why frustrates me.  Not hearing feedback annoys me.  Am I spending too much time trying to win and need to step back and ask myself why?  To what end?  Is it just a competitive thing?

People have launched writing careers by doing these things, but doesn’t that mean its time for the next great thing? 

Does winning a contest validate a writer?  Or does it mean selling out as a writer to appease the masses or a panel of judges?  Is this winning or losing?  Is it possible contests only benefit the magazines or sites that run them?  After all, if they cared about good writing they could drop entry fees. Struggling writers are poor; do they consider this?  Or am I just “Bitter Pants, party of one,” as my friend L would say, because I have yet to win?

Well, if you read this entire, long-winded post, then I am already winning!  

Thanks for reading and keep writing!    

Yet to come:  The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference; Query Letter Hell; Are You an Artist or a Craftsman?; Where’s The Reality Show For Writers?; Thinking on a Different Plane; What Compels Me To Write? & Why Trying Too Hard Fails