Last weekend, this weekend…

April 16, 2011 § 10 Comments

Last weekend, I was at the Missouri Writers Guild Annual Conference for 2.5 days.  Of bliss. And information. And ideas.

And coming to grips with writing.

This morning, I’m a the kitchen table, the wind is blowing meanly just on the other side of the paned glass doors and the dogs are tapping nervously, wondering about their walk.

Wow. It’s easier to be attending a writing conference than it is to be at your desk, writing.
It’s easier to be writing a blog entry than it is to be doing your “required” writing.

Anyway, prior to grabbing coffee and really writing, here are a few things observed from last week’s conference.

1) Take your writing and twist it. Sure you can use 8 words in a paragraph and drop it in a box to see if your para wins out 175 entries. But you’d better do something special with it. Because surprisingly, a lot of people will have the same idea if the words are “tropical, gargantuan, lackluster,” etc.  Yup, tons of people came up with a tiki hut on a beach and gargantuan drinks. One guy was a re-incarnated fruit in a tropical fruit salad. He won the contest.
So take your story idea, your poem, your song, your whatever and put on a twist on it.

2) A lot of editors – from books to magazine types- require query/cover letters. Take the time to write a straight clean simple one and use the guidelines on the internet OR in the publication to which you’re applying. Please do not waste time at conferences asking questions over and over about queries.

3) There is a glut of YA lit starring teenage girls.  Editors are looking for YA from a teenage boy’s point of view. Likely this will create the next “glut.” But still…it’s worth a shot to shift main character to male gender if you’re writing YA. (Yeah, Diary of a Wimpy Kid already has that underway, but apparently, the editors want more…   ah, “writing” and “trend”  –   gives you chills, doesn’t it?)

4) You’re a writer. Get a business card. It’s a business, a profession, not a hobby. It’s good to show you take it seriously. You may find you don’t like the one you have once you get to the conference but DON’T worry about it. Pass them out. Exchange them. Use them.

5)Investigate independent presses for publishing your manuscript. Publishing is turning many corners. Seize the day. Better yet, get a friend to do it for you. You are busy writing. Catherine Rankovic, published writer & poet as well as a book evaluator also suggests putting together your own chapbooks. Yup, make them by hand, even. She’s onto something, but that’s for another blog. I’m thinking of asking Jeanie…?  She’ll have cool ideas…

6) Get a First Reader, a reading buddy. A first read friend. Maybe it shouldn’t be your BFF unless he/she is an excellent reader. This person reads BEFORE you let your ms go out there to any agent/etc. Someone who understands good writing, a good story, a good article. (drat, I need to do this myself. In terms of articles, however, it means getting them done long before deadline so there’s time to give it to the First Reader.)  Keep in mind this First Reader should likely be paid. Then you are  both invested in the writing and you both “win.” A lot of people like/join critique groups. And that’s a great thing. (personally, I find they get off track and meetings head into other conversational topics and then get sidetracked with refreshments.)

(little gargoyles from Nor that hold the page (in jrnl) and keep me at the desk, except for when I must…get…coffee!)

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§ 10 Responses to Last weekend, this weekend…

  • Heather says:

    I just LOVE your gargoyles. I’m going to have to find me some of those!

  • shoreacres says:

    Some very good points here. A couple of things crossed my mind…

    For me, my blog is my required writing, and producing a good one requires as much as producing an article for a boating magazine. I take my blog as seriously as any other author takes his or her work, and although it’s taken some time, I’m gaining clarity on where I want to go with it.

    Not only that – I’ve had my “business card” since the beginning. When I showed up at my first writers’ group meeting, way back when, I’d been writing only three months, but I had my card! They’d never seen a writer with a card before. 😉

    Eventually I’ll change the font and update the tagline, but I’m too cheap to make the change until I’m down to 100 cards. (I started with 1,000!) I give those danged cards to varnish customers with my phone number written on the back. I leave them with librarians and apartment managers. I have friends who hand them out. I’ve even handed them out in grocery store lines.

    Shameless, people! You have to be shameless! You may not be Nora Ephron or Mary Oliver yet, but I’ve learned a lot of people absolutely love the experience of watching someone develop!

  • jeanie says:

    Excellent comments every single one! And hats off to you for incorporating them, working with them. I’m just waiting to be one of the readers of that manuscript. I don’t have to be first, but I want to be there!

  • litlove says:

    Very useful thoughts there, Oh. I do have a little stable of people who read my novel, bless them, and gave me such useful feedback. The two best crits came from a) a psychotherapist, who was brilliant at seeing me behind my words and what I was wanting to express with them and b) a French woman who used to teach dissertation writing, and who had a really clear eye for form. Everyone had something fascinating to contribute, though. What I find with my writing is that I have to imagine an audience for it. If I do that, then I see clearer what I want to stress in my material, what story I want to tell, I suppose. I’ve often tried to write without that sense of audience, and then it’s a mess! 🙂

  • Bella Rum says:

    Good advice and the gargoyles are a hoot!

  • These are all useful writing tips, thank you so much for sharing them! I hope I get to attend a writer’s conference soon, but there are quite a lot being organized here in the Philippines 🙂

    You just gave me an idea about the business card! Also, regarding having a Reading Buddy, I’m glad I have an older sister who has been my official editor since I started writing in kindergarten. It really does help, I would get excellent reports in school only because some fresh, sharp, reading eyes scanned through it first.

    I subscribed to your blog, thanks for dropping by mine!

  • seachanges says:

    Good for you keeping at it and persevering. I think blogging is a good way to keep the writing going, in fact it is my only way…. for the time being. What are your writing? Novel, stories, fiction, non-fiction? I keep telling myself that once I retire I’ll have the time – what is that, delaying tactic or what? I’m sure you’ll do it though and there is nothing more satisfying than a complete story, written by you. Looking forward to reading it

  • Arti says:

    Thanks for the useful tips, oh. And I agree with your commenters too. Thanks for taking the time to condense the whole conference and share the key points with us. So, when’s your next literary event? Can’t wait to learn from it since I won’t be attending any. 😉 Love that photo too, particularly the open book with actual pen and ink hand-writing!

  • Becca says:

    First, I envy you going to a writer’s conference. That is definitely high on my list of things to do, but I’m chicken to go alone.

    Second, these are great tips, and thank you for sharing. It helps to narrow my focus a little bit in terms of what I should be doing to get on with a more professional writing life.

    Third – the gargoyles are delightful!

  • qugrainne says:

    So did you get yourself a business card?
    I am in line after Jeanie for the manuscript…..

    I am taking a course – we must take steps forward, right?
    And I hope you had a lovely Easter 🙂

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