Writing Conferences…why bother?

writers-conference

Writing Conferences…why should a writer bother attending them?

Good question. But you know my answer already because if it was a no, why would I waste time to write this blog post? I would sleep. I like sleep.

Why should writers bother with writing conferences? Two reasons in no particular order…

First, no one understands what writers go through, except other writers. No matter how much your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, life partner, or small furry animal loves you…they’ll never understand what you’re going through. The moment you complain about how your key scene in act one needs more internal conflict or how you dread rewriting all your third-person narrative into first-person because you’re convinced it’s the right thing to do…your loved one will give you a blank stare.

Or they’ll say…

“You’re a great writer. You’ll think of something.”

You know they mean well, but that’s not helpful.

Writing conferences are awesome because it’s the one place where writers can talk about writing and everyone around you understands. Writing conferences are like that bar on the 80’s TV show Cheers, everyone there knows your name, figuratively. They know what you’ve been through because most of them have worn your writer’s shoes. They know how hard it is. They might have rewritten a book from third-person to first-person and they might have learned a short-cut you can use to take the sting out of your rewrite. They might know how to approach an agent. They might know how to write a query-letter. They might even know a cool new way to introduce internal conflict in a scene you’re struggling with.

Writers understand other writers. And since gathering shy writers together in a public setting is about as hard as herding squirrels…any opportunity to step into your writer’s bar, have a drink, and talk shop is something a writer should jump at.

I guarantee you’ll feel better and get a much-needed boost to your writing brain.

Second reason you should go to a writing conference…networking.

Yuck! Dirty word! No!!!!!!!

Chill out. Networking doesn’t mean being a salesman. It means…listening…to people. That’s all. Get to know everyone you meet. What do they write? Who do they like to read? Find the person under the stranger you’re meeting. Get them to talk and listen. Maybe they’re just another writer like you. Maybe they’re a New York lit agent presenting at the conference. It doesn’t matter who that person is…talk and listen to them.

Next, think about how you can help them, not how they can help you. Is that lit agent looking for a zombie-mermaid paranormal romance? You don’t write that, but this nice lady you met at a session yesterday does have a manuscript like that. Help introduce them.

Is that new writer expressing trouble with writing in first-person? Offer advice or a good book on the subject. Help them.

Why should you network? Because you’ll need help on your writing career. Lots of help. Doesn’t matter if you’re pursuing traditional publishing or indie publishing, the same rule applies. I can’t tell you how many times my friends came to my rescue when I needed their help. A free beta read? No problem. Offering me a free interview on their book blog during my launch without me asking them? No problem. A famous young adult author helps me set up a Q&A session with them and their agent to help my other writer friends? No problem.

It’s a great feeling when friends do that. It makes you want to help them even more.

And then they help you more.

You see where I’m going with this?

Give to others without expectations and the smart ones will reciprocate. That’s networking.

And where’s a great place to network and learn from lots of writers and people in publishing?

You know the answer.

If you would like to network with me and my friends…our chapter of SCBWI is having a children’s writing conference on Saturday, April 16 in Oklahoma City. You can get all the details clicking on the banner below. You don’t have to be a SCBWI member to go. You just have to love writing for kids/teens and you want to get serious about it.

Hope to see you there!

2016-Spring-Conference-Flyer

Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My heart can’t help but flutter at the sheer potential awesomeness of this movie. However…my heart must overcome my brain’s horrific memory of that midnight showing of The Phantom Menace. The night the child inside me died. Yes, it was only a movie. But growing up in 1977, Star Wars was everything. As an 8-year-old it shifted my perception. Made me dream. It created the creativity inside me. Or at least gave birth to what was already there.

I hope this movie can give back at least one hour of those six magical ones I spent in the summers of 1977, 1980, and 1983 as a kid munching on popcorn and dreaming of adventures in space. If this film can give just a little of that magic back, I’ll gladly overlook any of its imperfections.

But if Jar Jar Binks shows up I’m gonna lose my sh*t.

Legends Book Cover Reveal!

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Here’s the final cover for Legends (Skid #3) and I couldn’t be more happy with it. I think my cover artist Travis Miles did a fantastic job. I wanted something a little different from the other two books, but still have the same feel as the rest of the series. Some friends have told me it looks feminine and fierce.

What do you think?

The eBook release date for Legends is set for Tuesday, September 1st. But you can pre-order the book right now for the special price of $2.99.

The paperback should be available in October.

Writer Conference Tips

securedownloadYA Panel at Texas Book Festival

Jonathan Demme and PT Anderson Austin Film FestivalDriskill Hotel Austin

Writing conferences are a wonderful thing. Where else can you hang out with a bunch of crazy-writer folk like yourself. Talk about crazy stuff only writers love to talk about. And give your inner writer nerd permission to chase this crazy dream of writing for other people and getting (maybe) paid for it. It’s a dream many of us share. But where does one start? How does one get from point A of writing nothing to point B of becoming a published author?

Writing books. Duh. Did you think it was some other answer? A magic wand? A genie in a lamp? A team of elves who come out at night to write your masterpiece while you’re sleeping?

Sorry. A tad off topic there.

Okay. After writing a book, where does one go to start?

A writing conference of course!

Why?

Because you need to find people who can help you. Agents need manuscripts to sell. Editors and their publishers need books to sell to retailers. And finally authors need readers.

Since you need people to help you get your book project to the next level, you’ll need to network. No, that’s not a dirty word if you embrace one simple philosophy.

Do you know what networking really is?

It’s caring about other people. You’re not there to sell a project. You’re there to sell…yourself.

Writing conferences are a great opportunity for writers to sell themselves to lots of people who could help them. Many of these people (who are smart) are also embracing this same philosophy. If you help someone with no expectations of reward, that person will most likely want to reciprocate. If you keep in touch with said person after the conference, this gives that person amble opportunities down the road to reciprocate.

But remember you have to GIVE freely. Don’t put a price on your helpfulness because that makes you look insincere.

Yes, some people will be a-holes and not return your kind actions. That’s why they’re bad at networking because they burn bridges faster than Sherman marching through Georgia. So if you do encounter such a person, move on. A few bad apples does not mean the barrel is rotten.

I’ve attended more than a dozen writing conferences, some for authors and some for screenwriters. Below I’ve included some tips on how I try to approach every writing conference that I attend…

1. Relax and enjoy yourself. Conferences are a great way to re-ignite your passion for writing. Don’t see this as a make or break event for your writing career. Think of it as an opportunity to meet new people just like you and to say hi to old writing buddies. Plus being relaxed and approachable makes meeting strangers much easier.

2. Develop an elevator pitch for your project. Think 2-3 sentences. Screenwriters know about loglines. A two to three sentence description concerning the central idea of the screenplay. Who is the main character? What happens to turn his or her life upside down? Where does this take place? How will they try to fix things? That’s it. Think about your project in terms of those elements and what makes your idea unique? Different from other stories in the same genre.

3. Take business cards. Vistaprint can produce a bunch of nice ones at low cost. Include name, e-mail, website, social media. Hand them out to new people AFTER you talk to them awhile and get a positive vibe. Don’t throw your cards around the room like confetti. That’s your reputation literally becoming trash on the floor and on the tables. Treat your cards with respect. Collect business cards from other people you like. (Or be courteous and take them anyway if you don’t like them)

4. Treat everyone equally. Pay the proper respect to the people you meet. Don’t talk to a new writer and then ditch him or her when Steven King walks in to mingle. You never know if that writer you ditched will become the next Steven King. And then you’ll kick yourself later.

5. Don’t pitch your project. (Unless someone asks about it) You’re there to help others and have fun. But if someone asks what you’re working on…then you should be nice and tell them. Elevator pitch first. Then if they ask more questions you can go into more details since they’re genuinely interested.

6. Always check out the conference hotel bar each night. No joke. You’ll find many of the speakers, guest authors, and other interesting people there. Hang out with them and listen to their stories. You’ll learn a lot and make a few friends. Drink a coke if you can’t handle the hard stuff like a bottle of 3.2 Oklahoma beer. One important thing. Do not get drunk at the conference bar. This will make you memorable. In a bad way. Who dumped the nachos over Neil Gaiman’s head last night? You did!

7. Take a few sessions on craft. Inspire yourself and your writing. But don’t get all caught up in taking exact notes. You’re there to be inspired and to meet others. Note taking is secondary to talking with someone new.

8. Listen more than talk. Someone needs help with their manuscript? A good website to search for agents? Advice on making a holiday cheese and cracker ball? If you can help, why not offer it? Remember to give and you just might receive in a big way.

These are only a few tips. A couple writer friends of mine have shared their own conference-related experiences. I urge you to read those by Gayleen, Valerie, and Regina.

Why am I talking about writing conferences? Because it’s a new year and a bunch of good conferences are coming up so you better be ready if you can go to one.

Two big ones coming soon to my neck of the woods:

Oklahoma SCBWI Conference (only 45 spots left) – Sat, March 28th in Tulsa, OK. (I’ll be at this one so please come and socialize with me)

OWFI Writer’s Conference – May 1st and 2nd in Oklahoma City, OK

What tips have you learned after attending a writer’s conference? Please share!

Ridiculously Sexy Life of a Writer: Day 5

Writing is rewriting. You bet. My 156,000 word book is now down to 136,000 words. Slowly but surely chipping out all the boring stuff while leaving the chocolate creamy stuff inside. For some writers, chopping scenes and even whole chapters can be a difficult thing. Sometimes I have to cut perfectly good scenes because they’re not vital to either the main plot or that sub plot that didn’t turn out to be that important. But this is what you have to do. Be ruthless and kill your darlings as they say.

Contacting some beta readers I know to read and give me feedback on the book. Such a vital thing to do. If what I think is pure chocolate creamy stuff, but it’s actually tapioca pudding with pieces of lint inside, then I need to know so I can make the words chocolate-creamy delicious. Yes, this is exactly what writing is. Making chocolate out of tapioca. Okay, not the best analogy in the world. We can’t all write home runs.

Anyway…

So I’m writing this on a Saturday. Basically, I’ve been rewriting all day on SKID 2 with only one break to watch my Pittsburgh Penguins play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Oh…and I cleaned up my kitchen because things were crawling out on their own power and I must put a stop to that.

Disgusting I know.

All the best,

Doug