Week 12: The Writing Conference

Hey everyone!  I know I’m still behind, so let’s get right into it.  Week 12 was very exciting for me because I got to attend my first writing conference, California Dreamin’.  California Dreamin’ is a small conference for romance writers held in Southern California every other year.  To be honest, I didn’t realize it was for romance writers when I first signed up, I only figured that out afterwards upon researching the agents and editors I wanted to pitch my manuscript to.  Well, the manuscript is still far from finished, but considering it was a murder mystery and not a romance, it probably wouldn’t be right for the agents or editors attending anyway.

Despite not having a completed manuscript, and not really being a romance writer, the conference was an amazing experience.  I attended so many educational workshops, got a bunch of free books, and best of all got to talk to dozens of other people who love writing.  The people attending varied from the unpublished, aspiring writers like me, all the way to the successful authors who make a living with their writing.  It was so cool to actually get to talk to so many people about writing.  I was surprised to see that the people who presented at the workshops also attended them alongside people like me.  It might seem silly, but being about to sit and talk with everyone made me realize that writers really are people just like me.  Whether they had published books or not, everyone was there to learn from and interact with each other.  It made me realize that becoming an author really is a process not a destination.  That’s one of those words of wisdom that I have heard often in regards to writing (and life in general) but the conference helped me understand it in a different way.

My focus at the conference was forcing myself to talk to people and attending workshops.  Many of the workshops I went to focused on self-publishing, and the marketing involved.  Holy Geeze!  I knew marketing books was hard work, but hearing real world examples of what authors have to do in order to achieve any amount of publishing success in the form of sales is daunting to say the least.  I hear about websites, and social media presence, newsletters, blogging, blog tours, book signings, having extra content you can give away as incentive for buying your book, and more.  It sounded insane, and very scary.  However, at the same time, it helped to have it all laid out in front of me; especially when book sales were presented in graph form and the presenter could tell me what the author did at each point in time that resulted in an increase in book sales.  Those workshops helped give me a more realistic vision of how long it takes to for an author achieve sales success.  Obviously, this is all hypothetical, I have to finish a book, have it edited, and decide if I even want to self-publish before I think too hard on all of this, but still, it’s nice to be aware.  By knowing what is required, I can better prepare for it once I get closer to finishing my book.

I also attended workshops on editing, the Hero’s Journey (that was probably my favorite because I loved learning about it so much in school), what agents look for in manuscripts, and more.  The hardest part was deciding which workshops to go to because there were so many offered, and it was impossible to go to all of them (literally impossible since they held multiple workshops at the same time all three days of the conference).  I liked some better than others, I definitely preferred the ones where the speakers maintained control and didn’t let the audience take over by asking story specific questions.  I also loved the ones where we did writing exercises.  When I have a story idea, sometimes I waste so much time trying to find the perfect way to start it, or to say something that I never actually get the story out.  When you’re doing an exercise with a defined time limit, you can’t think, you just have to write.  I think I am going to force myself to begin my regular writing sessions like that, or with some type of exercise to loosen up the writing muscles and just get the fingers typing.  I’ll let you know how that goes once I try it.

In all those workshops I heard mountains of advice, but one specific piece of advice several people gave me is that I should join my local chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA).  They said it would be invaluable even though romance is not my primary genre.  Now, I have often thought about joining a writer’s group.  I’ve wanted to join one as a way to make friends, network, learn and practice writing.  In the past, something has always stopped me, either I’m working when the meetings take place, or they take place early in the morning before I want to be awake, they’re too far away, etc., excuse after excuse.  But after hearing the same suggestion from so many people, I looked up the local chapter info for RWA; they meet once a month for half a day pretty close to where I live.  They have speakers who come to present, author meet-and-greets, and quite a few people I spoke with are members, which gave me hope that I could go and make some friends who share a love of writing.  That will be another new thing that I’m already looking forward to trying.

I am so happy that I had such a positive experience at the conference.  Being around and speaking with so many people who all share a love of writing and a desire to share with each other was so inspiring.  It renewed by desire to make my publishing dreams a reality, which is perhaps the best takeaway of all. Have a good one and keep trying something new!

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