Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer Conference Notes

A couple of weeks ago I flew to LA for the SCBWI Summer Conference. I was happy to exchange triple digit heat for cooler days and jacket-weather nights. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I attended keynotes and workshops and met tons of fellow writers. I even had a consultation with an agent over my manuscript and received helpful feedback on how to improve my work.

When I returned home I was energized and ready to tackle my rewrites. I pored over twenty pages of notes trying to absorb everything I’d learned. To my surprise when I sat down to work on my novel, the words and ideas didn’t come immediately. I spent the next two weeks doing writing exercises and thinking about my characters as new ideas trickled out one drop at a time.

It wasn’t until I began to share what I’d learned with others that my story started taking shape. So, I typed up my notes, emailed them out, talked to people about writing, and reviewed a friend’s manuscript. Applying and imparting what I had learned gave me the jump start I needed and helped me see ways I could rework plot points in my own story.

In the spirit of sharing, I’m passing on some of what I heard at the conference, and some things that are just good-to-know writing or relational habits, in a short series titled Summer Conference Notes.

Today’s topic is First Steps:

Believe in yourself. As writers we ride the rollercoaster of acceptance and rejection. It’s important to be confident in who you are and in what you were made to do.

Sit down and write. At the conference, authors referred to this as the butt in chair principle. Nothing will get written on the page unless you take the time to put it there.

Build relationships with other writers. Writers are some of the most supportive, encouraging people I’ve met. Going to conferences, joining a local writers group and working in a critique group are great ways to find likeminded friends. Also, relationships in general are awesome because they help us grow and add excitement to our lives.

Pay if forward. Help someone else along in their journey. All of the authors I heard were eager to share the tips and tools they’d used and learned to get where they are, and they weren’t the first. For four years I’ve worked with an author friend who has been a mentor for me. Anytime I have the opportunity to give some of that back, I do.

Be humble, generous and don’t have an agenda. Enough said on that one.

Work hard, and don’t give up. Careers are built over a lifetime. Persevere during difficult seasons and celebrate your victories.

I hope this series will encourage others in their writing journey. I’d love to hear any nuggets you’ve picked up along the way.