Posts Tagged ‘writers conferences’

And Now For Something Completely Different

We’re about a week away from PPWC (oh God, I just realized that and I am not ready! ::flails about::), so on top of the writing and the getting ready for pitching and whatnot, I’ve also been working on my costume.

I believe they either started the costume dinner tradition five years ago (which is the last time I went, if you remember) or maybe they only do it every five years (on the 5/10 anniversaries), but one night everyone is encouraged to dress up according to the theme. Not sure what it was last time. I was eight months pregnant so I went as Mother Earth, but my sister and friend went as Capital people from the Hunger Games.

This year is Heroes and Villains, so my sister called me up to ask me if we should do Murky and Lurky from Rainbow Brite (which was a cartoon show from my childhood that my sister and I both remember fondly). They’re both villains, and we ran into issues with who would be who, and eventually settled on me doing Rainbow Brite and her being the evil princess from the Star Stealer movie. (You look at that princess and you know exactly what era that movie is from.)

In the olden days, I would have made as accurate a costume as I could manage, but I don’t have time for that anymore (especially since I didn’t realize there was a costume dinner until my sister called), so what I’ve done is bought a white sleeveless dress and dyed it blue (more on that in a moment), and have ordered rainbow socks and arm warmers, which should get here today.

And then I will need to make a rainbow belt and get a purple ribbon for my hair, and probably hunt down a purple facepainting crayon. I’ve seen people typically wear red converses with Rainbow Brite costumes, but I don’t have red shoes (I can buy a pair for $20 at my local Payless) and am not sure I can be bothered.

Tuesday I went up to my mother’s to dye the dress (my kitchen is currently MIA) which proved to be a bit more work than expected. (Also, my fingers are still slightly blue on one hand.) I bought supplies from Dharma Trading, which is a lovely company that specializes in dyes and things to dye (I suspect their target consumers are artists that dye large amounts of things to sell) and specifically got what looked like their least complicated dye (pour in water, put in clothing, stir for a while), but the powder was a bit messy and a single grain made an awful lot of dye.

The color is perfect, though, I did notice a small hole in the back of the dress. Oh well. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that.

It’s been kind of fun to work on something creative that isn’t writing, even if it’s just making a mess of my mother’s kitchen and ordering stuff off of Amazon.

I wonder how my sister’s costume is coming along.

What have you been up to lately, Squiders? Any fun projects?

A Poll, a Conference, and an Update

Can you believe it’s April, squiders? And, yes, I realize that we are halfway through April, which almost makes it worse.

At the end of April, I am going to be attending Pike’s Peak Writers Conference (henceforth PPWC). This is my third time going, but it’s been five years since I last went. (My mother and sister went last year, and when they renewed for this year, they bought me a registration too. Really hard to say no to a free conference.) I probably talked about it here on the blog back in the day.

(I checked. I did.)

Part of me is really excited. I stopped going partially because it is expensive (almost $400 for the conference alone) and because I’ve spent the last several years working on indie projects (such as Shards, which came out in 2013, and City of Hope and Ruin, which came out last May, as well as ton of really fun anthologies). I am trying a few projects traditionally again this year, so the timing works out.

I’ve even secured choice assignments–an acquisitions editor at Del Rey for my pitch assignment, and Carol Berg (!!!) for my read and critique.

But I’m also not in a great place confidence-wise at the moment. While I am finally getting somewhere on my rewrite (approximately 35K in at the moment) it’s quite obvious to me that this isn’t the final draft. I’m still worried about pacing in the first part (now that I’m past the inciting incident, it seems to be fine) and the first chapter is just a mess all around.

And I feel like I’m being overly critical of my basic sentence structure, which makes flow hard, and what if there’s not enough description still, and…

Oy. You get the point.

At the end of March/April I considered switching projects before PPWC. My options were:

  1. Pitch my YA paranormal that I’m finalizing submission stuff for. The novel is polished, the stuff is mostly ready, I could in theory start querying agents any day now. But I would have had to switch my requests for agents, etc., and that late in the game I was not likely to end up with anyone who was the right genre.
  2. Switch to my space dinosaur space adventure story. It’s at about 54K, the draft thus far is very clean, and the approximately 30K left is easy to get done in a month. Plus, no switching on agents, etc. But I would have lost several days to project switching, and there were no guarantees that I wouldn’t have run into issues with the last part of the draft and still would have ended up at PPWC with an unusable manuscript.
  3. Stay with the rewrite.

Which is what I did, because basically I’m not going to be ready no matter what. And here we go, come hell or high water.

I have been thrown into a bit of a panic re: Carol Berg. My first thought was “Oh God that is a lot more major of an author than I expected to be participating in this” and my second was “Oh God my first chapter should be burnt in a fire.” Having thought about it rationally-ish for a few days now, this could be a really good opportunity to get some help on something that has been giving me a lot of trouble. But it could also be an opportunity for me to make a giant fool of myself. Time will tell, I suppose!

Anyway. I’m going to keep the rest of the consistency topics for the book, so it’s time to figure out what we should move onto there.

As such, here is our favorite poll, yet again:

The weather’s been lovely here lately, squiders. I hope you have good plans for the weekend and that things are going well for you.

An Alternative to Writers Conferences

meant to tell you guys that if getting to a writers conference isn’t doable, either from a money standpoint or because of a scheduling issue, or if you’d like to get an idea of what a writing panel might be like to see if they’re useful or not, you should check out your local nerd convention.

Scifi/fantasy and comic conventions often have some writing panels, since several have authors as guests. The guests tend to skew toward science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors, but it depends on the convention and the year.

These can be very hit or miss. I have gone to some truly terrible and useless panels on things that sounded interesting, like publishing or networking. I have been to some that gave me a lot of good information. Some of these panels are aimed at local resources, which can be good for helping you find writing groups and other help in your general area. Others are more industry-based or genre-based than craft-based, which can be good for beginning writers or people interested in seeing where the market seems to be going.

Author and writing panels at comic/scifi cons are generally culled from the authors and publishers attending the conference, so bigger conventions are probably going to have bigger/more experienced people than smaller ones. It does depend, though. Kevin J. Anderson is a local author, and he tends to hit all our cons, even though I would consider him a “bigger” speculative fiction author. You may have big name authors near you that like to do the same. You can check your con’s website and schedule to see who’s coming. Look at both the guest list and the vendors.

Some places specifically have scifi/fantasy literary conventions. These are, of course, a little more specialized, so in theory the panels might be more relevant. But it still depends on who’s going to be there. And that’s not to say that a smaller name author can’t have a ton of useful information to share, or that a big name author won’t be completely useless. As you become aware of your local author community, you’ll learn who’s a good bet.

It also somewhat depends on how the convention is run. In some cases, panelists submit their own panels to con staff. The panelists typically prepare for these, so you get more coherent information. At other cons, guests or vendors may show up to discover they have been assigned to panels they were previously unaware of. At least one con I know of, you just tell the panel person you’re interested in doing panels, but you don’t know which ones (or when) until you arrive.

So if writers conferences aren’t going to work for you for whatever reason, give your local cons a look too. They’re cheaper, you might learn something, and, if nothing else, you can network with local authors.

Are Writing Conferences Worth It?

It seems like a lot of people have been living somewhat vicariously through my writing conference experience. I am one of only a few of my writing friends who have ever been to one.

That part’s not rocket science. Writing conferences are expensive. It’s hard to justify spending so much money all at once. Well, maybe not if you’re a millionaire. And if you are, we should be friends. Yeeees.

(For those of you who are wondering how much writing conferences cost, well, it’s in the multiple hundreds of dollars, not including hotel or airfare if it’s not in your home town.)

So, are they worth your time and money? The answer is: maybe.

1. Beginners
If you’re a beginner writer, I would tell you to save your money for later. The conference may have panels aimed at beginners, with explanations of how plot or characterization work, but I’ve found that until you’ve got at least a completed first draft under your belt, a lot of it goes over your head. Writing is the best teacher at this point, figuring out how your personal writing style works and where your problem spots are. Wait.

2. Intermediate
These are people who have a few books under their belts, perhaps have sold a short story or two. If this is you, you will probably find a conference helpful. You know where your weak spots are, so you can attend workshops aimed at helping those areas. Plus, if you’re getting ready to start submitting, you can learn how to write or have your queries and synopses critiqued.

3. Those Who Are Submitting
The single most-useful thing about a conference is it allows you to interact with agents, editors, and published authors, all of whom are willing to give you a hand. And, in the cases of editors and agents, listen to your pitches. It gives you the opportunity to either bypass the query process or, when you do query, maybe have made an impression before hand so the agent/editor kind of remembers who you are.

4. Published Authors
I am not traditionally published, so I cannot tell you if attending a writers’ conference (as an attendee, not a workshop-leader) is useful or not. I’m going to lean towards no – you already have an agent and/or editor, and they probably tell you where your weak spots are.

5. Indie Authors
I’m going to go on “depends” for this section. Self-publishing and indie publishing is generally becoming more accepted, so whether or not you run into militant traditional people varies. It is a good way to network, but it might be easier (and cheaper) to find a critique or writing group in your area. But if you’re looking to improve your writing craft, it’s probably worth it.

Your mileage may, of course, vary.

PPWC and Genre Panels

I seem to be having a bit of an issue getting back into the swing of things post-conference. Brain overload, perhaps? Anyway, my apologies for this entry being so late. Hopefully everything returns to normal tomorrow.

PPWC was a good time again. Learned a lot. As always, a lot of the things are things I already know, subconsciously, but it’s nice to have them pointed out on a level where I can realize what exactly I’m doing and why. And, of course, it’s always nice to spend time talking to everyone.

I will almost always choose to go to a craft workshop over a genre one, but I did manage three genre panels this weekend: a fantasy/paranormal one, a mystery one, and a science fiction one. Part of it is because I like to think I’m fairly well-versed in my genres of choice (see last year’s Subgenre Study series), and part of it is because a lot of the craft panels are applicable to a wider variety of stories. Adding conflict or emotion is just as important in a thriller as a romance as a fantasy.

I hate to say it, but I found the fantasy/paranormal one to be mostly useless. Part of the issue of being on top of things, I guess. But I did learn two things: 1) It is hard to sell a YA paranormal (or dystopia) currently, and 2) Epic/High fantasy is on the way back up. I followed up on the YA paranormal note with an agent later in the day, and she said that the issue is that publishers snatched a whole bunch up all at once and just don’t have any room in their lists for the genre for a few years. On the other hand, let me tell you how excited I am about epic fantasy making a come back. I’m sure we can thank George RR Martin for that fact, but GLEE.

The mystery one was lovely. I do not write mysteries (well, except that one time. We don’t talk about that time.) but I love reading them, especially cozies. (A cozy is where the “detective” is an other-wise normal person who, for whatever reason, finds themselves in the strange position of solving a crime.) But they were lovely, and the notes they gave about red herrings and misdirection will be useful for any genre, as long as you want a little bit of confusion. (And, you know, maybe I’ll give it another go sometime.)

The science fiction one was good, as well. Not just because the panelists got into a fight over the political structure of the Federation (“It’s a communist meritocracy!”), though I admit that sweetened the deal. It was nice and intimate, since 95% of the people at the conference were at Donald Maass’s world-building workshop. And I am not as up on science fiction as I am fantasy. It confirmed some things that I had suspected – such as the near impossibility of selling space-based science fiction (especially space opera) at the moment. The current scifi climate is focused on environmental thrillers and dystopias. Also, a publisher on the panel noted that it was a hard sell for any adult science fiction at the moment; almost everything coming out is YA or children’s.

So I guess I should hold off on that science fiction series I’ve been planning for a while longer.

Last year I came out of PPWC feeling energized and motivated – this year I feel mostly tired and a little discouraged. Not really sure why.

Pikes Peak Writers Conference This Weekend

Last year, I went to my first writers’ conference – Pike’s Peak, down in Colorado Springs, CO. To summarize, I was terrified that I was either unprepared or would come out of feeling dejected, but I had a lovely time, learned a lot, and promised to go again.

So we are.

I made a list of things to do different this year, last year:

  • Register early so I can get pitch appointments with people who represent my genre
  • Try to get the panel critique instead of the individual critique
  • Bring earplugs and shoes that are not boots
  • Get business cards earlier than the day before (where Ian and I were, literally, at Kinko’s at 10 PM)

For the most part, I have done all of the above. I got the pitch appointment I wanted and the panel critique (though, alas, at 8:30 am Friday morning – very first thing). There is a circumstance I am not talking about here on ye olde blog that means I am staying at my sister-in-law’s instead of stuffing in a hotel with three of my friends, so the earplugs and not-boots are less necessary. And I ordered my business cards last week. They are supposed to get here today. Not the best, but still earlier than last year.

On the other hand, I still feel unprepared. The book that I’m pitching this year is not as ready to go as the one I pitched last year (that one’s in ABNA at the moment). I hoped to be further through my edit than I am, but alas, I am not. I’m far enough for pitching and first-page critiques, but if I do get partial requests, well, there is yet more polishing to be done.

I don’t know what workshops I want to go to, and I need to figure out when I’m heading down. I need to pack. I need to print out all sorts of things and wonder why UPS has yet to bring me my business cards. Instead I will probably run around for a bit, flailing wildly and babbling incoherently. Somewhere out there, there are writers who have been ready for weeks.

I dislike those people.

Wish me luck, Squiders. Oh, and by the by, no Friday update here as I’ll be busy learning (and possibly panicking). But except fairly regular tweets from the conference itself, assuming there’s decent wifi.

Tales of a Writers’ Conference Newbie – Aftermath

So.  PPWC WAS AWESOME.  I will try not to randomly glee all over the place but believe me, it is hard.

I kind of want to sign up for EVERY WRITERS’ CONFERENCE EVER now but I shall try to refrain.

First of all, everyone at PPWC was nice, friendly, and encouraging, from the people running the conference to the guest authors to the agents and the editors.  The other attendees were easy to talk to and most of the workshops I attended I thought were useful (though I did learn that no one really understands what the cut-off between YA and MG is).

Things that were awesome:

1. Going with friends.
I am a shy cookie, and so it was nice to have friends with me.  Sure, maybe if I had gone alone I would have made more new friends or been a little braver in general, but I have no guarantees.  But the best part?  Divide and conquer on the workshops.  Then we could go over notes later and get information that it would have been impossible to gather on our own.

2. Interacting with Agents/Editors Face to Face
This is probably the best thing about the conference – being able to talk to agents/editors, some of whom represented my genres,  talk to them about my novel, and get direct feedback from them.  And the fact that they were all lovely, encouraging people helped.   I feel more at ease with submitting in general now.  Plus the feedback is invaluable and will help me in the future.

3. Workshops
Most – though not all – of the workshops I attended I found extremely helpful, and I’m looking forward to implementing what I learned in my projects.  There were a few that were too basic that I would have avoided had I known, but overall I came out of things with a ridiculous amount of notes and a slightly heady feeling.

I will do some things different in the future.  I will register earlier so I can get the pitch appointments I want.  I will try to get the panel critique instead of the individual critique.  I will remember earplugs and to bring shoes that are not boots in case I need to wander the halls in the middle of the night.  I will remember to get business cards earlier than the day before.

Overall, PPWC was completely worth my time and money.  I would do it again.  I will do it again.  I will probably talk annoyingly about it for months to come.

But, for now, I’ve got a couple of chapters to make sure are ready to go.