I'm just back from my second ever writer's conference, having just returned this past week from the American Christian Fiction Writers' Conference in Minneapolis. I was at one other writers conference four years ago at Glorieta.
The good news? ACFW hosts the largest gathering of editors and agents in the Christian fiction market that I've ever seen. It was a very well run, well organized event. Kudos to all involved in the execution of this grand event. The hotel was nice and thankfully close to outside restaurants so you didn't have to rely on hotel food all the time (no slight to the hotel in question - it's just that generally speaking hotel food is not usually the greatest).
The bad news? There were a billion people at the conference. Okay, it wasn't really a billion, more like 500, but for this mega-introvert-hermit, it was overwhelming! At meal tables we were packed together like sardines (typical at any hotel hosted event, not just writers conferences). I found myself eating meals and escaping the table as rapidly as I could so I could try to go find a little corner of the world that didn't have 9 million other people encroaching on my personal space.
As a side note, a writer friend tells me her son was doing research and that Americans require 2 feet 11 inches of personal space around them - yet nobody in Minnesota seemed to know this fact. 8-) Technically I guess that's not "bad news" about the conference, but it is a very difficult situation for the people-impaired. 8-)
Billions of people aside, it was great to attend this conference for many reasons. First, simply to get away from my day job for a few days, which has been extraordinarily stressful of late. Second, to take a few classes and meet with fellow writer minds to hopefully overcome some extreme burnout and recharge my writer batteries. Also to learn some new things and most importantly to speak to editors and agents.
It was an interesting comparison to my first conference. At Glorieta I went just to take classes - not to meet with editors/agents. At Glorieta I was a sponge - taking class after class. At ACFW, I took probably half as many classes and found the most valuable part of the experience to be my appointments with the two agents and one editor. And surprisingly, I wasn't particularly nervous in speaking to them! I thought I'd be a nervous wreck. Guess that's the difference when you believe in what you're writing.
Got great advice from both agents and one asked me to follow up with him, as did the editor.
I also found the pitch practice session to be very valuable. In this session, workshop attendees turned in their one sheets and two agents and an editor critiqued each one on the spot. I learned a whole lot and realized how many things I'd done wrong on my onesheet - so I had to scramble to the hotel business center to redo it and reprint it just in time for my appointments. In a nutshell, the onesheet should right away tell genre, word count and title of book and launch into a brief synopsis of the story. It should keep author bio to a minimum (particuarly if its not directly relevant to fiction publishing credits) and be mostly about your story (not your life history or why you wrote the book).
The best educational workshop of the event was the Police Procedural class. I found that very valuable and insightful - and I don't even write books that contain this information!
As far as the various classes go, that was a revelation to me. The revelation was that I've grown a lot as a writer since attending Glorieta four years ago. At Glorieta, the classes really clicked with me. At ACFW, while I gleaned a few new tidbits, the majority of the classes did not resonate deeply with me. However I realize that has nothing to do with the quality of the classes, but with where I am now as a writer. Do I still have a lot to learn? You bet I do. A whole lifetime will never teach me all I need to know.
The difference is, that at this stage of my writing life, most of my writing education has to come through the trial and error of writing my own work, not taking classes. I think over the last four years I've overdosed reading books and articles on writing and taking classes. To the point that its not having much effect on me now. So now I need to concentrate on "on the job experience." And that's okay, because that's what I should be doing.
But now the honeymoon period of the conference is over and the hard work begins. Finalizing my manuscript and sending it off as agreed. That's where the rubber hits the road. I absolutely LOVE the concept of my novel. It is very compelling, and if done well, will be very powerful. But that's also my single greatest stumbling block. I want this story to be so well done that I tie myself up in knots over it. That's the bad habit I've got to kick. Sure, I need to do the absolute best job I possibly can on it, but then I need to let it go and see what happens - whether for good or ill. That's the part of writing that separates the wannabees from the doers. I very much want to achieve doer status.
And that's my prayer today - to take the blessings of open doors that God has provided me accomplish the task set before me.