Category Archives: writer’s conference

Writing Career Reboot

Determined to fulfill my dreams of being a published author, I realized I’d have to write full-time. Given my aversion to risk-taking that meant I would have to be financially independent, with a little help from Social Security. Toward that end, I developed a list of must-dos:

  • wait a few years until eligible for Social Security benefits, including Medicare
  • no big purchases I couldn’t justify and pay off quickly
  • pay off car loan early
  • pay off house mortgage early
  • save as much money as possible
  • depart from my job in an orderly fashion by giving plenty of notice, documenting job descriptions and procedures, organizing files and archives, and locating and training my replacement.

There were a few bumps along the way, but by March 2014 everything fell into place. In May, my replacement fortuitously transferred from a sister store and required very little time to train. I stuck around until early July to fill in for an office vacationer and to tie up some loose ends.

Through the end of 2014 my primary goal was to put my house and yard in order—cleaning, culling, organizing, and fixing things that had been ignored for a decade or more.

But I also began the reboot on my writing career. All I had to do was finish the second book (ultimately titled Connections) of my mystery series and maybe polish the first one along the way, then sell them both to a publisher. Piece of cake, right?

The first draft of Connections was completed in September of 2015. It would be another eleven months before reviewing, reworking, and revising were “completed.”

Nevertheless, from October 2015 through March 2016 I submitted numerous queries via email and made many pitches at writers’ conferences for both Mistaken Identity and Connections. Two regional publishers expressed interest and I signed a contract with one of them in April 2016 for the publication of Mistaken Identity. The publisher hoped the book would be in print by October 2017.

My experience working with an editor over the next several months was illuminating and beneficial. My editor’s suggestions gave me a new perspective. It turns out that the best advice writers are given is to engage a professional editor to objectively review your work and make suggestions.

Bad news first: Due to unforeseen circumstances with the publishing company work on Mistaken Identity stopped in January 2017. I did not become aware of the situation until May and did not realize until August that it was unlikely work would resume.

Good news: It’s easier to “re-reboot” one’s career when you’ve done it a few times. And so I have begun anew making pitches and submitting queries. And I am working on the third novel in the series.

There’s always hope!!

Writer’s Feedback Groups

Writing is a solitary endeavor often taking place in a workspace carved out in a bedroom, the den, or perhaps the basement (or attic) of the writer’s home. The more co-occupants in the residence, the smaller and more remote the area set aside for her creative sessions.

An author can spend hundreds of hours alone crafting each sentence, paragraph, and chapter, lost in a world inhabited by characters of her own imagination. Subsequent periods of editing and rewriting, including restructuring and major plot deviations, add to the total time the novelist, poet, journalist, or playwright spends to complete her masterpiece.

But all the time spent in solitude is not enough to achieve a truly polished product ready for publication. It is crucial for the author to receive impartial analysis of the work.

Such independent review can come from a friend or relative—an interesting and helpful, but not always effective, first step. A more expensive option is to engage the services of a professional editor. Between these two extremes is one of the most useful tools for any author, regardless of the stage of her writing career: the writer’s feedback group.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my personal experience with feedback groups.

  1. Group “meetings” can be in-person, via email, in an online chat-room, through private website exchanges, or even via snail mail. Personally I think the group dynamic is more active and, therefore, more helpful when the meeting is a face-to-face encounter. This is not always practical or possible, but this century’s internet options are almost as good.
  2. Group members are typically “selected” by fate and opportunity. This is not a bad way to pick a group or a new member. The important thing is for all members to respect one another’s opinions and to agree on the format, such as that described in item 3.
  3. Group members should establish a time limit for each reviewed item. Author of work being reviewed should specify what and why work is being presented and, in particular, what assistance Author needs. Another member of the group—not the Author—should read aloud the piece being considered. Members should offer only positive comments, suggestions, and questions, keeping negative criticism to themselves (remember what Mom said—“If you can’t say …”). Reviewers should be brief and to the point to allow everyone to speak. Author should accept comments graciously, avoid rebuttals, and ask for clarification if a comment is unclear. Additional discussion should be taken offline from the group.
  4. Leaving the group is okay. A day may come when you are not getting everything you need from the group. Perhaps the membership dynamics have become uncomfortable for you or are no longer helpful. There are many reasons to leave and you will know when it’s time. Be courteous, give some notice, suggest a new member to replace you, and be on your way to your next writer’s feedback group.

Writer’s Conferences: Ten Reasons to Attend

Hundreds of conferences for writers are held each year in the United States. If you aspire to a career in writing or simply want to expand your expertise in the field, you must consider attending.

Expending the funds—including conference fees and travel—to go to any conference must be weighed against what will be gained.

Here are ten potential benefits to evaluate, in no particular order.

  1. Learning new skills/techniques for writing
  2. Learning about publishing processes—traditional, small press, and self-publishing
  3. Selling your writing products
  4. Pitching your products to a publisher/editor/agent
  5. Speaking to other writers—sharing experiences, difficulties, successes, & questions
  6. Making professional contacts
  7. Participating as a speaker—discussing your products or writing/publishing experiences
  8. Entering your unpublished products in contests
  9. Taking a break from your normal life-activities
  10. Visiting cities/states away from your home