The conference was awesome. I’m tired. I’m having a hard time readjusting to normal life. And I’m tired, but it was wonderful. I met so many passionate, talented writers. I made many new friends with both students and faculty. And I had to sing a Kelly Clarkson song while dancing on stage. What could be more awesome than that?
After listening to so many breakout sessions and plenary talks, I do have several goals/habit changes I want to try in the next few weeks. Here are some of them:
1. I want to read ten books (including ones outside my normal “genre”) and I want to read them fast. Cheri Earl talked about how this can help you create your own system of categorizing novels/stories. What stories are good? What stories are not so good? What stories are bad? What is my criteria? It’s been a long time since I’ve read a high fantasy novel. Maybe I should step out of my comfort zone and dig in. I think I’ll try the following: High fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror (?–maybe not), romance, paranormal, historical, steampunk, and contemporary. Any suggestions? Anyone want to do this with me? I’m also reading a lot of memoir right now. Looks like this will be the summer of reading.
2. Writing 500 words a day. I’ve talked about this a lot in my classes and I really believe it. In fact, I used to think it was pretty wimpy. What about 1000 words a day? Easy. 2000? Kind of hard but doable. Now I’m realizing that slow and steady wins the race. I want to write at least 500 words a day. I also want to feel good about that if I have other things going on and that’s all I can do. Guilt be gone.
3. On that same note, Ann Cannon talked about finding joy in other writers’ success. Professional jealousy is real and difficult in this crazy writer world. It’s easy to feel left behind or less legitimate if things aren’t happening as fast as we think they should for us and especially if they are happening at warp speed for others around us. I really believe there is room enough for all of us. Ann suggested that when we feel this way (or always, actually) we should try hard to celebrate with our friends. My goal is to try to go to more author events. To send more congratulations emails. To also send more thank you emails to people who have influenced me. More gratitude all around.
4. See the positive more often. I think we load up the idea of publication being the end all when really the writing itself is where we should find our happiness. I am going to try to see the little things as triumphs more often. Maybe even reward myself. Did I get over a particularly hard scene? Why yes, yes I did. Did i figure out that I needed to cut my main character and start over THUS MAKING MY NOVEL 100 TIMES BETTER? Why YAY! yes I did. Did I get a nice email from someone who read something I’d written? Maybe. and if so, I should feel happy. Writing these stories is no easy thing and we should celebrate all our successes.
5. Read more picture books. Cynthia Leiteich Smith talked about this and I couldn’t agree more. Picture books do so eloquently in so few words what we have pages and pages of space to accomplish. We can learn a lot from a stack of PBs. I’m going to take some time to dedicate myself to studying some picture books.
6. Letting things go. Mette talked about this. I wasn’t able to go to this breakout but my students told me how reassuring and fantastic it was. Sometimes I try to do too much of everything. It comes down to priorities. What matters most? Where will I spend my time? How am I currently spending my time? What needs to change? My family will always come first, of course. But where does writing fit? I want to assess this and give myself a break.
7. Characters. Characters are the heart and soul of novels and that’s what sells books. sometimes I forget this and start to impose plot too much on my people. This always leads me astray. Alexandra Penfold talked about this–how she wants characters that we’ll love, ones we want to be friends with. Characters we can cheer for. I agree 100%. The trick is letting go of our tight grip and letting the people on the page tell us what they want to do, let them grow and breathe and become more real.
8. We need each other. It was so invigorating to be around other people who share my love of stories. We need to be there for one another. We need to support each other. We need to laugh our faces off with each other. My critique group was so passionate and so kind and so generous. It felt magical. We need that.
9. First impressions. John Cusick, the agent at the conference who also happens to be an author and I just finished his book GIRL PARTS and he did amazing things with POV, P.S., talked about how important first lines are. I believe this one hundred percent. I also believe that we are usually starting our stories in the wrong place. We need to move things forward. I’m going to reassess my first chapter on a couple projects and see what’s really going on.
10. Writing a synopsis is a great way to find out what your novel is really about. I suggest everyone write a one sentence synopsis. A one paragraph synopsis. Two paragraph one and then a full page one. It will open your eyes.
11. Dialogue is life-blood of your manuscript. Tim Wynne Jones did an amazing breakout on this and I loved it. He was hilarious and spot on. You have to stay true to your characters. Your dialogue should also DO something, whether it be advance the action or unfold the character. Etc. etc.
I think that’s all for now. I could go on and on but I won’t. I also didn’t get to go to all the other break-outs and I’d love to hear any other insights people had. In fact, Carol and I would love it if anyone would like to guest post about your experience. You could talk about one of the breakouts that helped you, or maybe your workshop group, the vending machines, how my group’s song clearly was the winner, etc. etc.
all in all, it was a wonderful week.