Last weekend, like about 500 other published and aspiring authors, I attended a marvelous writing conference sponsored by the LDStorymakers. Packed with high-profile agents, authors and publishers, this event revs the brain, bursts mental blocks, humbles, and kicks desire into high gear.
Here are some of my personal highlights of the 2011 LDStorymakers' Conference wisdom.
1. If you want to be successful, treat your writing like a business--show up for work everyday, give it your best, come to the computer prepared to work. (I get too easily distracted by the Internet. . . and I don't dedicate time just for writing.
2. Know yourself--Write what you know, what you love, what fascinates you. Don't chase every trend. (I have to say I wished I could insert a vampire or two into my books...)
3. Take care of your instruments of writing--your mind, your body, your health. It's all connected. (I know my mood, my well-being and my attitude affect my writing. If I'm having a down day, so will my characters, and that has caused the need for a lot of rewriting. . .)
4. Keep your eyes open. Some of your greatest moments spent with people may have nothing to do with writing.
5. Be nice to everyone and be open to learning everywhere. I met such talented new writers, particularly during bootcamp. Some amazing books are being written and I'm sure you'll hear tremendous buzz about them soon.)
6. Don't gush over people. Elena Johnson, a Simon and Schuster author whose debut novel, Possession, launches this week, reminded us that gushing makes us all uneasy. (I'm prone to gushing . . . but I also know how awkward it is to be on the receiving end.)
7. Be humble and develop grace. (I was reminded of the power of this trait on Saturday. I sat at a table with some ladies I didn't know. Soon a woman and her daughter came and asked if they too could sit. Something came up and they had to leave for a moment. When they returned they were overwhelmingly appreciative that their seats had been saved. After listening to a presentation, she turned and saw my name tag and made a comment about enjoying my books. Not recognizing her name, I assumed she was a new writer. "Do you like historical fiction," I asked? "Oh, yes," she replied. "Are you working on a project now?" I continued. She spent a moment explaining that she had a current WIP, finishing with, "Good luck tonight at the Whitneys . . . I know you're a finalist. I'm in your category." "You are?" I racked my brain trying to figure this out. "Yes," she answered, "I'm Sandra Grey."
"Sandra Grey? Sandra Grey? You're a past winner of a Whitney! Oh my gosh!"
There she sat, quietly attending conference wearing a badge with her real name on it, without any hoopla or recognition, as if she were a new aspiring writer instead of using the successful, award-winning pseudonym she is known by. She was perfect grace. And by the way, she won the Whitney again. It was well-deserved.
8. Never stop learning and honing your craft. Dave Wolverton, forty-plus-book author, educator, and screen writer admits that he still sits in on classes at the conferences at which he speaks, still keeps learning. When you think you know it all, you're bound to get stale, which is professional death.
9. Master the basics. I sat in on a variety of classes, and through them all, this truth emerged. Learn the steps to good story-telling: strong conflict, satisfying resolution, great characters, clear expression of tightly-written sentences, proper pacing, and a host of others. But creating great characters your readers will invest in is the key that will buy you some forgiveness in other areas.
10. Work hard to give your "baby" some legs. No author loves marketing. In fact, it's the face-front aspect of writing most authors dislike because it can feel awkward and be painful. But in order to give your project the best chance at a strong launch, know the current market and marketing tools, and work hard.
11. Develop thick skin. You will have rejection. If you're writing something groundbreaking, you might face a lot of it before someone catches your vision, but hang in there, don't make it personal no matter how personal it feels, and remember the Godfather theory--"It's only business."
12. Prepare to be awed by the talent and abilities of others. Don't let it make you feel small. Learn from it and grow.
13. Remember to be grateful. No one gets published without help. Everyone owes thanks to someone, and probably many someones--their parents for that education that boosted their skills; the spouse and children who sacrifice lots of time so books can be written, the friends who critique, cheer and dry tears; the editors and publishers who give life to your words and dreams; the readers who place their hard-earned money and trust in your novel; and God who gave your talents in the first place.
Yeah, it's more than eleven. I just keep thinking of great lessons brought to my memory this past weekend. Enjoy!