Friday, March 14, 2014

Janette Rallison's Tips On How to Get the Most Out of a Writing Conference.

So you’ve signed up for conference and you want to know how to get your money’s worth. My advice: Don’t worry about money. As soon as you sell your manuscript, you’ll be super rich.

Ha ha! That’s some author humor for you. (We need to find ways to amuse ourselves, or otherwise we’d cry, and you know how awkward that is. No one likes a writer who is sobbing during lunch.)

Here are 10 tips to help you get the most out of conference.

1)      Come with a learning attitude. If you think your manuscript is perfect, and you’re just at conference to land an agent, you’re going to miss out on some great opportunities to improve your craft. And you can always improve your craft. I’ve had 21 books published, and I’m still learning new things about writing.

2)      Don’t skip classes that deal with other genres. Even if you’re writing science fiction, you can still benefit from a romance class. A romance might be just the thing your robot wars book needs. Ditto if you’re writing romance. Many romances could be improved with a good robot war.  Someday you might want to write YA, or you might want to pump up the suspense or horror in your current work in progress. Check out other genres.

3)      Don’t stalk the agents and editors. Yes, it’s fine to talk to them. Yes, you can ask them questions. They come to conference to help writers and to find new projects—hopefully yours! But be professional. As much as I enjoy hearing editors’ bad-writer stories (One of my editors had someone pitch to her at her mother’s funeral.) you don’t want to become one of those stories. You can’t sell your manuscript anyway—it will always be the manuscript that sells itself.

4)      Send your manuscript to the editors or agents after conference—after you’ve incorporated the things you’ve learned at conference to make your book better. Don’t print out your manuscript and give it to agents or editors at conference. They can’t carry a lot of stuff on the airplane, so they won’t take it—and a bunch of trees somewhere will cry at the paper wasted.

5)      Do stalk the authors. Okay, not really. What I mean is that authors come to conference because for some weird reason we feel compelled to help our competition. It’s probably self-defeating behavior, but we do it anyway. We love other writers. Writers are a special breed of people, and we like connecting with each other. Don’t feel nervous or intimidated to talk to an author. They love hearing that you read their book, or liked their cover, or whatever. Our kids refuse to believe we’re cool, so we enjoy meeting people who think we are.

6)      Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Frequently presenters leave time at the end of their class for questions. Don’t be shy about asking. In fact, don’t be shy at all. If you want to be a successful author, you’ll need to learn to get up in front of people and speak.

7)      Check out the book store. I’m not just telling you this because I don’t want to lug boxes of my books back through the airport. (Although I don’t.)  If you want to be a writer, you need to read. Reading helps you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Every time you don’t finish a book, ask yourself what the author did wrong, and don’t do that thing. If you like a book, reread it. Study it. Mark it up. Also, most authors in the bookstore discount their books, so you can find some great deals. I have it on good authority that Christmas will come this year, as well as all the birthdays you celebrated last year. Books make wonderful gifts. And hey, if you buy one of my books that is half price, your loved ones will think you spent twice as much money as you really did. Score.

8)      Take notes, and be sure to review those notes later as you work on your manuscript. There’s too much to take in during conference and you’ll forget a lot of what the teachers said. But if you’ve got good notes, they’ll be able to help you all year long.

9)      Go to Janette Rallison’s (C.J. Hill) classes. She’s super awesome. Just saying.

10)   Enjoy! Have fun. How often do you get to hang out with a group of people who think that hearing voices is a perfectly acceptable way to work on dialogue? We understand each other. We are a tribe. Make friends. Look into the support/critique groups that are available, such as Authors Incognito, (anyone who goes to conference is eligible to join) LDStorymakers, (anyone who is LDS and has published with a traditional publisher is eligible to join) ANWA (LDS women writers) or Indie Author Hub (LDS self-published authors.) Or start your own critique group with people you make at conference. Have a great time!

Find out more about Janette Rallison and CJ Hill books here. She's a multiple Whitney finalist and well-worth reading. One of my personal favorite authors, actually.

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