GENREALITY

Archive for 'Craft'



Monday, August 20th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
A Fly on the Wall

On my personal blog last week I wrote about the new Total Recall movie and a movie it borrowed heavily from for its look and feel:  Blade Runner.  By complete chance I happened to watch fifteen minutes or so of Blade Runner right after seeing the new Total Recall, and I had a lightbulb moment about storytelling.  I want to dig into that a little more, so this is me thinking about it.

From my blog:

“The dialog in Total Recall is terrible.  It’s on the nose, obvious, it telegraphs the plot (which it was most likely written to do) and states the obvious, but doesn’t sound like people actually talking.  They’re just words to be gotten through until we get to the next car/helicopter/robot chase-fight.

Then we get to Blade Runner.  I watched the scene after Deckard has given Rachel the V-K test.  She leaves, and Tyrell is standing there, grinning, and Deckard says, (roughly) “She’s a replicant.  She doesn’t know.  How can she not know?”  It’s a quiet scene of two people talking.  Tyrell feeds Deckard information, until Deckard figures it out:  “Memories, you’re talking about memories.”  The whole thing is essentially an infodump, which you’re not supposed to do — deliver information to the audience in a chunk.  Usually, this kind of thing is done poorly.  But this is a great scene.  So what’s the difference?

In the scene in Blade Runner, the conversation is the kind of thing that these people in this situation would actually say.  Also, the scene involves more than just the words:  Tyrell is showing off, playing with Deckard, and he’s absolutely gleeful at what he’s accomplished.  Deckard has the look of a man who thought he’d seen it all get hit with that one more thing, who now knows that this sucky job is going to suck a lot worse than it did a minute ago.  It’s not just an infodump, this is part of the story.  The result is, I feel like I’m a fly on the wall.  This thing is happening, and I just happen to be watching it.”

Writers often talk about a scene doing “more than one thing,” and that’s what that scene in Blade Runner does:  it delivers information we need to understand the world and how replicants work, but it also reveals a lot of character:  Deckard’s intelligence and cynicism, Tyrell’s hubris — both of which will impact the story later on.  And it all feels so natural!

The same kind of good or bad writing happens in prose.  Science fiction writers joke about “As you know, Bob. . ” dialog in which characters tell each other things they all already know, for the sake of delivering that information to the reader.  When you’d probably be better off just giving that information in an expository lump.  A paragraph of exposition doesn’t remind the reader that they’re reading an artificially constructed situation, and it doesn’t force characters to behave out of character.  (The infodump-in-dialog scene in Blade Runner works precisely because Deckard doesn’t already know what Tyrell is telling him.)

So many little details contribute to this “fly on the wall” feeling I get from really good books and movies — or detract from it.  I recently stopped reading a story in which many pieces of thought/dialog/action were unconsciously repeated.  i.e. The viewpoint character expressed an emotion, then expressed the exact same emotion in a following line of dialog.  Or said he was going to do something, and then repeated that intention to do something in the following exposition.  It made the story seem long and tedious, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.  We only need each piece of information once.  I saw the scaffolding of the writing, rather than feeling the action/emotional impact of the story.

Back to quoting from my blog piece:  “bad writing/storytelling. . . feels like:  stock characters going through the motions, flat cutouts on a paper stage, and I never forget that I’m watching a stage, and actors on a stage, who are going through a checklist of scenes.  Rather than watching people living their lives, already in progress.  I think when people talk about stories “coming to life,” this is what they’re talking about.  As an audience, of books or movies or anything, I’m reaching for that fly on the wall moment.  I want to be there, not in the movie theater or in my chair reading a book.”

One of the big leaps in my writing ability happened when I could start seeing my stories from a reader’s perspective.  I’m still constantly asking myself:  what is a reader going to see in this?  How are they going to experience this?  Are they going to see the scaffolding that the story is built on, or are they going to be a fly on the wall?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Questions for writers regarding craft and career

I wrote my first draft of The Novel Writer’s Toolkit in 1994 after four books published.  It was all of 11 pages long.  That was the extent of what I consciously knew about writing a novel.  In 2009, I wrote my first draft of Warrior Writer, a book designed to teach writers how to succeed as authors after my frustration over the lack of education for writers and all my experiences—it evolved into Write It Forward.  I still have not had a single response from an editor or agent showing me what their formal training program is for an author they sign or contract with.  In today’s fast moving marketplace, writers can’t afford to learn like I did—the hard way.

Over the years, I rewrote the Toolkit every six months, adding all I was learning about writing.  The Toolkit ended up being 80,000 words long and was published by Writer’s Digest in 2001.  It earned out in less than six months and had a great run.

Last year I updated both books extensively, partly because I’ve grown as a writer and now an independent author. But also because today’s publishing environment has changed and with that change has come the ability to update books to meet the changing needs of today’s successful writers.  The Novel Writers Toolkit now focuses 100% on the craft of writing.  I removed the business section because that belongs in the other book, formerly Warrior Writer, which I renamed Write It Forward: From Writer To Successful Author.

One key thing I added in the Toolkit was a section on Conflict, especially the Conflict Box.  I put in all I’ve learned in the past several years.  I have to say I believe I’ve learned more about writing in the past two years than in my first twenty.

In the Toolkit, I teach how to answer key questions about your book including:

Can you state what your book is about in one sentence?

Do you clearly have conflict lock between protagonist and antagonist?

Do you know where your ‘camera’ is when you write each scene?  i.e. Point of View?  Do you know when you’ve done a cut?

Do you know all your characters’ primary motivations, their motivation leveles, and their blind spot?

Write It Forward is the sum of what I’ve learned in 20 years of traditional publishing and two years as an indie author and publisher.  I made many mistakes over the years and I wrote this book to keep others from making the same mistakes.  I’ve included where I believe publishing is now and where it’s going.  I also focus on helping writers sort out their own path to Oz, given that each of us are starting from a different place and our vision of Oz is unique to each of us.

For example, can you answer these questions, which Write It Forward poses as exercises and then teaches you how to answer:

What is my strategic goal as a writer?  Where do you want to be in five years?

I’ll do anything to succeed as a writer, except don’t ask me to do . . . . ?

My greatest fear as a writer is?

How high is your ‘imposter syndrome’ as a writer?

Are you in command of your writing career or are you counting on an agent or editor?

Do you know where you stand on the three P’s: Platform, product and promotion?

Both books focus on building the complete writer:  one who masters the craft of writing into being an artist, and one who develops their work into being a career writer.

Reference the Novel Writers Toolkit

“A book to inspire, instruct and challenge the writer in everyone.”
#1 NY Times Best-Selling Author Susan Wiggs

“An invaluable resource for beginning and seasoned writers alike. Don’t miss out.”
#1 NY Times Best-Selling Author Terry Brooks

“Something for every writer, from neophyte to old hand. My hat is off to Bob.” Best-Selling Myster Writer Elizabeth George

Reference Write It Forward

“I have always loved how your programs delved deeply into the psychological models you need to develop characters. No you are using that to develop people.” Co-Creator of the Chicken Soup Books Jack Canfield

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Learning the Craft of Writing Over Time

My first novel was published in 1991.  It doesn’t seem that long ago to me, but I suppose it is a while. I wrote my first draft of The Novel Writer’s Toolkit in 1994 after four books published.  It was all of 11 pages long.  That was the extent of what I consciously knew about writing a novel.  In 2009, I wrote my first draft of Warrior Writer, a book designed to teach writers how to succeed as authors after my frustration over the lack of education for writers and all my experiences.  I still have not had a single response from an editor or agent showing me what their formal training program is for an author they sign or contract with.  In today’s fast moving marketplace, writers can’t afford to learn like I did—the hard way.

Over the years, I rewrote the Toolkit every six months, adding all I was learning about writing.  The Toolkit ended up being 80,000 words long and was published by Writer’s Digest in 2001.  It earned out in less than six months and had a great run.  I got the rights backs and re-wrote it one more time, adding all I have learned since 2011.

Last year I updated both books extensively, partly because I’ve grown as a writer. But also because today’s publishing environment has changed and with that change has come the ability to update books to meet the changing needs of today’s successful writers.  The Novel Writers Toolkit now focuses 100% on the craft of writing.  I removed the business section because that belongs in the other book, formerly Warrior Writer, which I renamed Write It Forward: From Writer To Successful Author.

One key thing I added in the Toolkit was a section on Conflict, especially the Conflict Box.  I have to say I believe I’ve learned more about writing in the past two years than in my first twenty.

In the Toolkit, I teach how to answer key questions about your book including:

Can you state what your book is about in one sentence?

Do you clearly have conflict lock between protagonist and antagonist?

Do you know where your ‘camera’ is when you write each scene?  i.e. Point of View?  Do you know when you’ve done a cut?

Do you know all your characters’ primary motivations, their motivation levels, and their blind spot?

Write It Forward is the sum of what I’ve learned in 20 years of traditional publishing and two years as an indie author and publisher.  I made many mistakes over the years and I wrote this book to keep others from making the same mistakes.  I’ve included where I believe publishing is now and where it’s going.  I also focus on helping writers sort out their own path to Oz, given that each of us are starting from a different place and our vision of Oz is unique to each of us.

For example, can you answer these questions, which Write It Forward poses as exercises and then teaches you how to answer:

What is my strategic goal as a writer?  Where do you want to be in five years?

I’ll do anything to succeed as a writer, except don’t ask me to do . . . . ?

My greatest fear as a writer is?

How high is your ‘imposter syndrome’ as a writer?

Are you in command of your writing career or are you counting on an agent or editor?

Do you know where you stand on the three P’s: Platform, product and promotion?

Both books focus on building the complete writer:  one who masters the craft of writing into being an artist, and one who develops their work into being a career writer.

A writer just can’t afford to learn things the “hard way” by trial and error.  It’s also grossly inefficient.

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Writers Conferences: How To Spend Your Time

It’s that odd day, the 29th of February.  Happy birthday to those of you who only have birthdays every four years.

This is an excerpt from The Writers Conference Guide: Getting The Most of Your Time & Money

Arrival

After registering and meeting at least one new person, go to your room and unpack.  Check your plan against the final conference schedule, as sometimes workshops and presenters change at the last minute.  Dump all the extra stuff they give you in the conference packet/bag and repack your bag for the conference with the material you’ll need. Don’t haul around forty pounds worth of stuff.  You’ll have a lot of papers that you can deposit in the room.

Then leave your room.

 

Our Rule

Every day when you leave your room in the morning, you don’t go back to it until you are done for the day (with one exception, covered shortly).  Way too often attendees hide in their room.  You’re not going to learn anything in your room and you’re not going to network in your room.  It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but get out there.

Even if you’ve registered and there are no workshops for a while, go to the lobby and wander about.  Check where all the rooms for the workshops you will attend are located.  This is essentially doing a reconnaissance of the venue.  Sometimes certain rooms are difficult to find and you don’t want to be scrambling trying to find that one key workshop with just two minutes to get there.

Once you have the site down, hang around near the registration desk.  Talk to people.  Get a cup of coffee in the lobby.

The more people you meet right away, the more people you’ll know on the second day.  Some people take two or three days to feel comfortable enough to chat with others, but by then the conference is winding down.

We recommend spending the first few hours of the conference after registration as the time to set up meetings with your social media friends or other writers you have meet on-line, but have not met in person. We’ve been at conference where twitter buds all wear a purple ribbon on the name tag so they know they are a twitter bud. As more of you gather, there is less of a chance you will ever be by yourself at the conference.

The Workshops

Every conference is run differently and offer different types of classes, workshops, etc. Jennifer will be teaching a 3-day track at the Philly Writers conference on Romance Writing. The participants sign up for the tracks they want to take and the presenters are told ahead of time how many will be attending.

Bob often teaches pre and post conference workshops along with doing keynote presentations and workshops. Each type is a little different and depending on size will depend on the actual interaction during these workshops.

 

Presentations and Keynotes

Keynote presentations are generally inspirational speeches given after meals. Presentations are large lectures (often given by the big names or as a pre or post workshops) where the presenter(s) give information and there is little interaction.  It depends on the conference size and the group size in the room.

 

Workshops

Often times it is difficult to decipher the difference between a presentation and a workshop. The key is really size. Most conferences know which topics and which speakers are going to draw the most attendance, so they plan accordingly. When Jennifer taught at the Dallas Fort-Worth Conference this past February, her class on Synopsis writing was in a double room and turned out to be standing room only. It was more of a presentation than an actual workshop. Her class on Upping the Stakes was in a smaller more intimate room and she was able to interact with the class and get them to talk about their current work-in-progress.

Panels

Panels are a group of people who sit at a long table, usually with a moderator.  Usually, attendees are told to ask questions and each member of the panel answers the same question.

We’re not big fans of panels either as presenters or attendees.  Figure out how many are on the panel, how much time is allocated and you’ll often see that each presenter will get X minutes of time.  Often, panels are pretty generic.  Once you’ve attended your first editor/agent panel, the second one won’t be much different.

Arrive Early

If it’s a workshop you’re on the fence about, and there’s another that is your second choice, sit in the back near the door so you can make an exit as easily as possible if it turns out the workshop is a dud.  Otherwise, sit near the front.  When it comes to the larger conferences, most presenters understand people will wander out and wander in, partly due to editor and agent appointments and partly because it didn’t meet the needs of the attendee. As presenters, we understand this and generally don’t take offense, as long as when you leave or enter, you are respectful.

Size of Workshop

If you walk into a workshop/presentation/panel and there are few attendees don’t assume it’s because it won’t be a good workshop. You picked it based on your goals. The presenter(s) have something that you want or are discussing a topic you feel is important. Often times, the presenter is against a ‘big name’ to whom every other writer has flocked. Often small groups can be tailored more to meet specific participants needs.

If the presenter is using Powerpoint, make sure you are in position to see the screen.

Handouts

If there are handouts, make sure you get one.  Often, they run out of handouts, which is another reason to arrive early. If there are not enough, ask the presenter if they can email you them later. Often times, they are more than happy to, but it usually entails you emailing them as a reminder.

Interaction with Presenters

TNWIFConference(6)We recommend against trying to chat up presenters before their workshop. Often the previous presenter is besieged by people and trying to pack up and the new presenter is trying to set up.  You could ask if they need help, which is a way to break the ice, but remember they are mentally preparing themselves for the presentation they are about to give you.

Recording the Workshop

Some people try to record the workshop.  Many conferences have a policy against this.  Many authors have a policy against this and it is important to find out ahead of time.

Some conferences actually do their own recording and sell the CDs/Downloads.  If that’s the case, you definitely cannot record.  If it’s not the case, at the very least, you should ask the presenter and respect their wishes.  What they’re giving you is their intellectual property for free if you do so.  If they do say yes, remember you can only use the recording for personal use, not post it or upload it.

Note Taking

Do take notes, but don’t take notes on everything you hear.  Often we see people who are so busy taking notes they’re not listening.  Only make notes on things that strike you, either good or bad.  LISTEN.  Absorb.  You don’t need a notepad full of rapidly scribbled notes that will make little sense to you later on.

Often it’s better to jot down your initial reactions and thoughts to the workshop immediately following instead of trying to get every word down. If they gave handouts, they gave them for a reason. It’s the highlights of their lecture. Those handouts are the points they are trying to make.

You can use your laptop to make notes, but try to be as quiet about it as possible.  As presenters, we’ve seen people checking their email in workshops.

One new thing we’ve seen a lot is writers’ tweeting from workshops as they happen. While people follow the tweets when they are not there, we appreciate the recap, but how much are you actually getting out of the workshop? One thing we do is make a list of the things we learned in the workshop and tweet about them when we are not enjoying the total conference experience. More often then not, we write a recap of the conference and post it on the Write It Forward Blog.

Jennifer did this with a panel she was on a the Dallas Fort-Worth Writer’s conference on Digital Publishing sharing not only the content of the workshop, but things she learned from the other panel members.

Bob went as far as to recap tweets from the Digital Book World and he didn’t even attend the conference. This is the power of social media.

Exiting a Workshop

If you have an editor or agent appointment during a workshop, you can let the presenter know ahead of time that you will be leaving. This is good practice in a smaller workshop so the presenter doesn’t assume it’s them or the material that sent you packing, but as stated earlier, if there is a pitch session, we understand that someone might have to sneak out.

As an aside, we recommend that you DO go to a workshop before and after your pitch. Often we see writers skipping valuable presentations to prepare for their pitch, which is at the end of the workshop. Take full advantage of the time.

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Writers Conferences: More on Pitching

Excerpt from The Writers Conference Guide: Getting The Most of Your Time & Money

Original Idea and Pitching

The original idea is also critical when it comes to pitching your manuscript. Guess what the opening line of your pitch is?  In fact, we think it might well be your entire pitch.  This is also the basis for your query letter and will most likely be the first thing an editor or agents reads.

The goal of a one-on-one with an agent or editor is to get them excited and asking you questions.

There are good questions and bad questions.  Good questions are:  That’s really interesting, tell me more about X?  A bad question is:  I don’t get it.  Tell me what you really mean?

We understand you may think this is terribly unfair. You may feel that taking four hundred pages of brilliant manuscript and trying to sell it on the basis of just a sentence or two is a travesty, but here is something to consider–how do you buy a book? Most people buy because they know the author and like reading him or her. But if you are a new writer, then you don’t have this option. So how do you buy a book from an author you never heard of? Do you stand in the bookstore, read the entire book, then go and pay for it?

Go to your local bookstore or even better, local supermarket. Stand near the paperback racks. Watch how long each person peruses the books on the shelves. How many seconds do they give to each book? Then, when they pick a book up, how long do they spend looking at it?
 Why should it be any different for agents and editors?

You have even less time to grab the attention of a reader during the on-line shopping experience.

Remember, this is just our collective opinion and experience, which is also what you are getting when you pitch an editor or agent, plus we try to take their additional issue of not only do I like it, but “Can I sell this?”

Tips for the Elevator Pitch

Have an anomaly for your protagonist

Often we give clichés.  You’ll see where we point this out below.  Give us something we don’t expect from that type of character.  Regardless of what you think of Twilight (Bob only saw first movie, sorry but Jennifer read all four books and she liked them) it worked.

The first book had two anomalies:  no sex despite intense desire, and sunlight doesn’t kill, it makes them sparkle.

Russell Crowe in LA Confidential is a thug.  But he always protects women in peril.  You want to know why.

Writing Series, Pitch First Book

We recommend you focus your energy on the first book.

TNWIFConference(6)You should know your common concept (for Bob—West Point, for Brockmann—SEAL teams, for Susan Wiggs—a town, etc) and common theme (for Bob—Honor vs Loyalty).  And roughly what the follow on books are going to be (for Bob’s Duty, Honor, Country, 1st book 1840 to Battle of Shiloh, Book 2 Shiloh to Vicksburg, Book Three Vicksburg to Gettysburg, etc).  Also, writing the second book in a series when the first hasn’t sold could be fruitless if the second book relies on the first book to have been sold.

Title

In 45 books, Bob had only one title changed without his consent.  Jennifer was asked twice to change a title. The first one had been because the publisher had another title come out the same week with a similar name. The second time the editor just didn’t like the title.

Bob also changed three titles after discussing it with his editor.  Bob secretly wishes he had changed a lot more following this advice:

  • Title should do one (or both) of two things:  Invite readers into the book by giving them have an idea what the book is about.  Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy.  Area 51 (by Bob—which was originally titled Dreamland which means nothing) has sold over 1 million copies with the Area 51 title, but would have died a quiet midlist death with original title.
  • Or the title should be a juxtaposition of words that don’t belong together and intrigues you:  Lovely Bones.  Bottom line, when your book is spine out in store, the title must make the casual buyer reach out and want to see what the heck this is about.

Don’t be a Secret Keeper

We sometimes believe that by withholding something we’re intriguing the agent/editor and making them want to know more.  Nope.  We’re just irritating them.  Flat out tell them the secret.  Let them know what’s at stake.  What’s at the core of the book.

Never tell an editor or agent they will have to read the book to find out what happens.

Focus on Protagonist Goals

What does your protagonist want to achieve?  A goal is an external concrete thing.  Motivation is why they are trying to achieve that goal.   You want to steer away from a protagonist goal where they are escaping, surviving or running awayFirefly was interesting, but failed ultimately because the people on the spaceship had no goal other than survival.  It wears on the reader/watcher after a while, because there’s never an end in sight.

Say Something about Character

Names mean little during a pitch session. Give the editor or agent something tangible about your character. Who are they? What do they do? What do they want? Remember the pitch should say something about your characters goal and their conflict.

Perfect the Pitch

A disjointed pitch is a problem.  If words are so far out of synch it jars the reader in a negative way, you’re disjointed.  The example, “love, mayhem, and possibly the apocalypse.”  The third is so out of the league of the first two, you might as well forget about them.

Book Goal

What goal is pulling the train?  Sometimes in the pitch there is a laundry list of goals.  You have ONE goal for your protagonist.  That’s the key.  Everything else is subplot so focus on the one main goal. Ask yourself who is your story about, what do they want and why can’t they have it? That should help keep you focused on main goal for your main character.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
My Writing Space

I’ve moved a lot, while I was in the Army and afterwards.  I wrote my first novel living in ChunChon, South Korea, as an unsponsored military dependent.  They would turn the power off every so often just for the heck of it, I guess.  I was writing on the original Mac.  512K, no hard drive, one floppy for the writing program, another floppy for the manuscript.  The largest file you could have was a long chapter, so a book was a list of chapter files.

From there I went to Ft Campbell.  My first book came out in 1991, and I was living in a one-room unheated apartment above a garage.  Still working on that original Mac, which frankly was the best computer I ever owned.

Then, Boulder CO where I worked in a variety of rooms, from one with a great view of the Rockies to a room in the basement with no window.

From Boulder, it was to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  I had a great office facing the Intracoastal Waterway.  I could see dolphins swim by.  Boats.  I’d take a break and walk out the deepwater dock, get in my kayak and paddle away.

Then, in the midst of grief, we moved to Whidbey Island, WA.  The first year was pretty grim and dark.  Well, all four years were dark.  Lots of writers there.  It seems it’s easier to stay inside and write when the dolphins aren’t calling.

Then, two months ago, after moving west in death, we moved east in new life as our grandson, Riley Karen Cavanaugh, was born.  He’s named after the protagonist in that first novel so many years ago in 1991.  We moved here to Chapel Hill, NC, with no idea where we were going to live.  We drove around for days looking at rentals until we found the house we’re in now.  It’s got a great built in office on the lowest level.  I can see trees forever down a hillside.  Once they leaf out, it will be all green.  However, I will be buying a simple desk this weekend and put it in a room on the other side of the bottom floor.  That will be my writing room with no internet.  This office with the Internet, the printers, the shelves, the files, etc will be my business office.  Because I have two jobs– writer and publisher.  I really need to separate the two.  I don’t believe you can write with the Internet on the same computer you’re using to write.

I get a lot of work done while traveling, but little creative writing.  I can edit really well on a plane or in an airport or a hotel room.

I think the key is not the space, it’s the attitude.  It’s focusing.

I write on a computer because the most important course I took in high school was typing.  However, I only use six fingers for some weird reason.  The rhythm of the keys is important to me.  My handwriting is awful as I write curved left, which means I smear whatever I’ve already written.

I do believe in printing out a manuscript every 50 pages or so and going through it on the page with my red pen.

I like quiet.  I occasionally listen to music, but not often.  I’m a morning person so I like to create in the morning and do the drudge work later in the day.

Oh yeah– today only, 8 February, my newest release, The Green Berets: Eternity Base, is FREE on Kindle.

I believe in being organized.  And there is a sense of alignment needed for the desk, the computer screen, the keyboard etc.

I go back to the point though– it’s not about the place, it’s about the focus.

Write It Forward

PS:  Hot off the presses next week will be The ShelfLess Book: The Complete Digital Author was just published.  It is all we learned at Who Dares Wins Publishing that allowed us to go from selling 347 eBooks in January 2011 to 100,000 in July.

It will be available on all platforms and I’ll re-announce it here.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
How To Prepare for a Writers Conference

From The Writers Conference Guide:  Getting The Most Of Your Time & Money

Every conference is a little different and every writer is going to approach their conference strategies from a different perspective based on their personal goals. The quality of your conference experience is in your hands, not the speakers, conference organizers, or other attendees. It’s important to go into each conference with a positive attitude and an open mind. Understand that your needs, desires and expectations will be different from every other professional attending the conference.

Expect to be Overwhelmed

No matter how well you planned and prepared for the conference, the moment you step foot into the conference center or hotel, the energy transmitted by that many creative souls is powerful and overwhelming. Make sure you have a plan on how to overcome this feeling. Slow your walking pace down and breathe deeply. This will help to calm you and gives you a chance to absorb the atmosphere.

You will need to go to the registration desk and sign in when you first arrive. The lobby is generally packed with other writers. The excitement is palpable. It can also be intimidating to the newbie conference goer.  Understand everyone else there is feeling or has felt exactly the same way.

The best way to combat this feeling is to take things slowly. Don’t rush the registration process. If you’re concerned about the information you are getting, or don’t understand the process for editor and agent appointments, or anything else, ask. That is what the volunteers are there for. Also, remember volunteers do so that they can meet other writers. They really want to help you.

Expect to Feel out of place

This seems like an odd expectation when you will be in the company of other writers, but often we all feel like a fish out of water when we are either stepping outside of our comfort zone (being social when we are introverted) or doing something new for the very first time. This is normal and will soon fade away the moment you say hello to the person either standing in front of you or behind you in line at the Registration desk.

Again, remember to breathe and to take things slowly. The best thing you can do is linger in the lobby for a while. Make a new friend. Sit down in one of the chairs and go through your packet.  The only way to feel comfortable is to stay in the environment. Eventually, you will feel right at home.

Expect to be Both Energized and Exhausted

Extroverted people tend to get their energy from crowds. Introverted people tend to be exhausted by crowds. If you’re an extrovert, you will assimilate into this environment quickly. If you’re an introvert, it’s important to push yourself to say hello to every conference person you sit or stand next to. You’ll be amazed at how invigorating this can be once you get used to it. A major part of conferences is networking with other authors. You can’t do this if you don’t put out the effort.

In order to help with the exhaustion, drink plenty of water. Often we aren’t as tired as we think, but are dehydrated.

If you’re pitching, really try not to focus on the pitch. Stress won’t help with the feelings of exhaustion and being overwhelmed. We discuss pitching the next section, but editors and agents are people just like you and they are there for one reason…to hear about your story. The more relaxed you are, the more energy you will have, the better the experience.

Expect to Learn

A big mistake many writers make is to focus on the editor or agent pitch and not the valuable information you can get from a conference. While networking is crucial, attending the workshops helps make for an invaluable experience. We’ve often see writers not attend workshops. They either spend all their time in their room writing or in the hallways practicing their pitches or just hanging out with friends. All of these aspects are important, but you’re missing out a wealth of information that could give help you move your career to the next level.

Later we’ll discuss how to pick the workshops you’ll attend, but it’s important to attend them, both craft and industry. The conference isn’t all about pitching, or all about networking, but a combination of elements that make up your future as a professional author. The moment you begin to think there is nothing left for you to learn is the moment your career and your writing become stagnant.

Every workshop is a chance to learn. A chance to meet someone who either you can help, or can help you. And it’s an opportunity to make long term connections.

Expect to be Disappointed

But then turn it around. How many times have you attended a class or workshop only to be disappointed it wasn’t what you expected? Before you get up and leave, try to change your mindset. You expected A, but your getting B. Can B help you? And did you say hello to the person sitting next to you? Sometimes our expectations get in the way of having a great conference experience. We need to learn to adapt and change to our surroundings in order to get the most out of it. When you’re feeling disappointed in a workshop, ask yourself what it is that is really bothering you. Often it is those things we need to focus on.

Sometimes we hear one simple sentence and it changes our world. Be open to new and different ways of looking at things. Focus on what the speaker is saying, not what you wanted to hear. The hardest part about being disappointed is often it isn’t because of the speaker or topic, but because of our own preconceived notions.

TNWIFConference(6)Perhaps the best thing to do when walking into a workshop is to have no expectations and open your mind to something new. However, if in the end, the workshop just doesn’t get any better, and there was another one at the same time you had been contemplating going to, it is okay to sneak out and into the other workshop.

Expect to be Confused

We’ve often gone to one workshop and then an hour later go to one where the information given is in conflict with what we just heard. Whether this be in a craft workshop or an industry workshop it is often a source of stress for the new writer or newly published author. Whom do you believe? It’s difficult to decide right then and there when perhaps both make sense.

We suggest you take notes during every workshop. Put a check mark next to those things that make you feel strongly one way or the other. If you are hearing conflicting information, write down the opposing points of view. Ask for clarification, without being snarky. You don’t have to say so and so said this and now you’re saying that.

You can also use the conflicting information as a way to strike up conversations with other writers either at the conference, or back home, as long as it is done positively and isn’t putting down the speaker.

When it comes to craft workshops, every writer has his or her own process. Some are plot driven, others character driven. There are plotters and there are pantsers. There really is no right or wrong way to write a book. There is also no right or wrong way to get published, to promote, or anything in between. Your path as a writer is different from everyone else’s. What works for one writer in promotion might not fit your niche or even your goals. Hearing two different points of view can help you understand your path, your goals, your needs and ultimately lead you down the path of success.

Expect the Big Name Speakers to be Busy

At every major conference, there are the big name speakers, keynote presenters and NY Times Best-Selling Authors that are the “draw”. While we are often star stuck by those writers we aspire to be like, many other writers wanting to get their picture taken, etc often surround them. These presenters enjoy being at the conference and appreciate you taking the time to be there, listen to them, support them and they in return enjoy sharing their experience and expertise, through their keynote or workshop, but remember their goals for being at the conference are probably very different. There is a very good chance they are on deadline and must finish the book.

We recommend to you that once you leave your room, you are not allowed to go back and hide, or even write. You are there to meet other writers, take workshops, and socialize with industry professionals, so why does networking with the big names seem a bit different?

Our perspective is that there is a wealth of experience at conferences and the newly published author is the next best-seller. We’re not suggesting ignoring the bigger names, what we are saying is there is talent all around you. Take advantage of the fountain of knowledge that you are being presented with. Don’t think a workshop given by a new author on promotion has nothing to offer you. If you want to know about promotion, hearing how a newly published author does it over an author who has the backing and powerhouse of a marketing team from a major publisher might be a better fit. Hearing how to revise from someone who just went through their first revision for their first contact might be a better fit than someone who can do it in their sleep.

Expect to Make Connections

Not all writers are introverts, but many of us are, therefore we tend to keep to ourselves. If we go in with the mindset that we are there to network and meet other authors, editors and agents, then often we will. The conference is about the business of writing on all levels. You are a part of that business. Make yourself known.

The key with making connections is the follow up after the conference.

Expect to Have a Good Conference

Attitude is everything. If you walk into a conference thinking it’s going to suck, then it will suck. Have a positive attitude and present yourself positively. A good vibe from a person goes a long way. Make yourself available. Do everything in your power to meet all of your conference goals.

In the end, the conference is about you and your career. These are basic expectations and as you become a conference expert, your expectations will grow and change as you grow and change. It is good to write out expectations before you go to the conference with the understanding that the overall experience is totally up to you.

Expect to Have a Good Time

Attitude is everything.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.