Working on your novel, or just dreaming about it? Plan now for next year’s writers conference(s)

Map of US with writers conferences by state and month

If you would like me to add your favorite writers conference to the map, please let me know.

I wanted this map, it didn’t exist, so I made it.  It took a little extra time, but I created what I wanted and there is a lot of information there. Enjoy (and site me).

Last post, I went into detail about some of my favorite aspects of The Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Conference. Now, I want to speak more generally to what you can get out of going to a writer’s conference. The main point being dive in and buy your ticket as soon as you can.

For a first time author, or someone only starting to write their first novel, a writer’s conference is a huge decision. There are a lot of costs to consider, not only monetarily, but emotionally, and physically. So that brings us back to my final notes from my last post:

Was going to PNWA16 worth the time, money and stress? Absolutely.

 

Let’s go into the details of why:

Meeting other writers – Everyone is at the conference for different reasons, but they all have one thing in common, they write.

Many writers spend the majority of their time alone and avoiding social situations. Spending time with others might be in critique, or in fear of critique, so the idea of a conference feels like throwing oneself to the slaughter.

Okay, I’m talking about me. I almost didn’t go. I imagined myself hiding somewhere. If I hadn’t made myself responsible by volunteering, I most likely would have excused myself and psycho-somaticly died of the plague. The moment I walked in, however, I didn’t feel a moment of nervousness. Not a moment of disrespect or why is she so weird or they are talking about me or why does she have that look on her face. I felt accepted, wanted, interested and interesting and it was AWESOME. I did what I needed to do and it turned out that I was good at moderating sessions. I made others feel strong and good about themselves. That is a great feeling.

Many of the sessions at writer’s conferences are about creating your writers platform on social media. I had done everything I could for my Gator McBumpypants books, but I had one true fan for my efforts (totally worth it) and it was the daughter of a person in my writer’s social group, not anyone from my social media efforts.

Social media is way more fun when there are real people you met and care about to read your messages. Who knew that a romance writer might be my best twitter friend and the Seattle Library Summer Bingo would turn summer reading into crazy discussion? Suddenly I want to be there  when before it was a terrible chore.

Also, it is a great way to meet people who will look at your work before you send it out and let you help them with their work which is a wonderful honor.

Pitching to agents and editors –

This was definitely the most stressful part of the conference AND the reason I was there. I thought it was the only reason to go to a conference and had prepared for my pitch for over six months.

I was surprised to find people that were there and didn’t pitch. Those people have a year up on me.

I was prepared. First day, I walked sheepishly into a room that said practice pitching. It was a round-table of people talking to each other, sounding very knowledgeable while waiting for me to get my nerve up. None of them shared their pitches. A wonderful older man joined us and shared his pitch.He had a good story, but it wasn’t a pitch. He was appreciated and given good feedback. I felt ready. I volunteered my pitch.

I was given praise. I was not asked much in the way of questions. I was told my pitch was awesome. I thought I was ready. I had prepared correctly.

I was not ready.

My months of research and all the nice people couldn’t prepare me for my pitch session.

I thought, I was told I’ll see four to six agents today, I’ll probably see everyone who’s interested in my work. I want to see these agents first, then I will go through the best on my list. From what I was told, I had the impression I might see everyone I wanted in one session.

I got shut down. I felt like I was hit by a truck.

Again. If I hadn’t volunteered to moderate sessions which was  stressful, I might have given up and crawled under a rock and died. But somehow, the writers sitting in chairs upstairs where I sat down to decide if I could take another second of thinking I am a writer or should just give up completely were so kind and accepting of my little breakdown, it was like all the horror never happened because one had been through worse and one wasn’t ready to try yet. So, you know, you have to get ready for tomorrow. They helped me decide to stay for the evening presentation. By the time dinner was over, I was ready to try again.

My point is, I thought I had made all the wrong decisions, but I hadn’t. The first day I found out who wasn’t my match and the next day I was ready for the questions that come after the practiced pitch like : Why did you write this? What happens next? What is special about your protagonist? And the best question I got all conference: So how does it end?

I didn’t get to the rest of the wonderful reasons why you should think about going to a writers conference in this post, there is too much to talk about and I have too much reading and writing to do, but I am happy with my info-graphic of possible conferences to think about.

Chuck Sambuchino wrote a great post about choosing a writer’s conference over at The Write Life

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Why would a writer or a reader not want to learn new words?

The pages of a dictionary partially in shadow

Learning new words can be like discovering a new tool that makes a tedious task simple, or tasting a delicious flavor never sampled before.

I love to learn new words. When I come across a new word I enjoy or relate to, I collect it in my writing notebook in One Note and when I update my website, mbercreations.com, I include a new word on my inspiration page. I follow a couple of great word blogs here on wordpress.Sesquiotica by James Harbeck and WordBowl by Ms. Charlie Schroder.

A new vocabulary writing exercise:

A while back, when I was reading House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, I collected many words and brought my finds to my writing group. We decided to do a writing exercise in which we incorporated our favorite new words from my list into a short piece of fiction. I had been mulling around an idea for a sci-fi story for a while and decided to use it for this exercise. Just for fun, I used all of the words from the list that I could and found some more to create a short beginning to that story. I really enjoyed the exercise, but my piece was most definitely over the top and I put it aside while working on other things.

Revision: Deciding what to keep and what to change.

Recently, I decided to revisit this story for a class assignment hoping to continue to develop it, perhaps finish it, during the class. I expected to simply go through the less familiar words and replace them, but a number of them turned out to be the strongest choice. I didn’t find better words than tessellated and protean to describe parts of my monster rising from the sea and tenebrific truly describes the quality of its shadow. So some of the words I learned from the exercise stayed, and in my opinion began to define the voice of the narrator.

Disappointing feedback gets me thinking.

Imagine my disappointment when the feedback from my peers (three reviews) came to one consensus: they did not appreciate my word choice. The most complimentary said the words were too “technical” and another stated he did not like to look things up in a dictionary while reading. If not while reading, when?

The course is online. The readers are online while reading. How hard is it to split-screen with dictionary.com? Learning new words is easier than ever and people taking a writing class acted as if using a word that was unknown to them was some sort of personal affront. Pareidolia is a great word. If I saw it for the first time, I would be excited to look it up.

The words I used are not archaic or abandoned. They have unique meanings that clearly state what I mean to say.  Should a writer be expected to limit her vocabulary? Why shouldn’t she expect her readers to rise to the challenge? Why would a writer limit his joy of language in fear that his reader doesn’t know the same words he does and won’t pick up a dictionary?

How could anyone who wants to write fiction not want to explore every word and its many uses? Isn’t limiting one’s vocabulary to fit an imagined understanding, condemning readers to a  truncated experience? Isn’t it wiser to assume a love of language and use all of the tools and weapons at hand?

Revision: Some great tips on youtube

DSC05771

Finding a spark of motivation

Hi everyone. Last week, gnlong so kindly shared a link to a youtube video about revision, Novel Revision: Craft a Story Readers Can’t Put Down a presentation by James Scott Bell. It had a lot of good information and tips for revising a manuscript. Surprisingly, the tip I took away from the presentation was to create a cover for my novel, just for myself. To even create an imaginary blurb/ glowing review to get myself thinking of my manuscript as a finished novel. It’s time to get my mind set on the finished product, so I’ll push through to that end.

I then searched youtube for other videos on revision and found another one I liked Revising, Rewriting & Overcoming Obstacles:editing

Have any of you found youtube videos that you found helpful to your writing?

P.S. If anyone is looking for 2015 calendars, I’ve made a couple of my photography and have them available at redbubble.com

(P.P.S. I apologize for missing a couple days, I have a bad cold and today is the first day I can keep my eyes open long enough to write a coherent sentence.)