Journal, Writing Discussion

Writers Conference Recap

I needed a little time to recover from the conference. My brain’s still trying to process all the information I just took in.

My goal for the conference was to add a few new implements to my writing toolkit, instead, I ended up with an garage full. It was a high intensity, three day crash course in everything fiction. The biggest problem I had was trying to decide between all the interesting workshops taking place simultaneously.

Day 1

I started early and took a class on revising the novel on Thursday evening. It was hands on, and nerve wracking. We went through exercises that helped focus on what our completed novels were actually about, how to dig into scenes from multiple points of view, and how to get to the core of our characters, how to free up the brain from the dreaded internal editor.

We had to read out loud as well. Writing skill ran the spectrum. One thing I learned here is that you have to be brave and willing to talk about your story, no matter what. No one judged you on your writing skill. The goal was to get to the next level no matter what level you were starting from.

Day 2

This was the day I had been dreading. I couldn’t sleep because I was going over my pitch over and over as I lay in bed. I had to duck out of a couple of workshops to get to my pitch session and editing session.

I almost decided to cancel the pitch. I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? I should just do it and let you all know what not to do in a pitch session. So, a bit trembly, I sat down at the table and introduced myself, then babbled a bit about my story.

Guess what? She LOVED the idea! I ended up with a request for a partial, and that’s the only thing you can hope for in these pitch sessions. Actually, I still can’t believe that happened…

Um, so I guess here are my newbie’s pitch tips:

  1. Do your research! Go to the agent’s website and their agency’s website to see what kinds of books they represent. If you’re lucky you’ll find interviews they’ve answered online and you’ll know what types of stories they’re excited about and looking for right now. I was lucky enough to stumble across an interview where this particular agent answered explicitly what she wanted to hear in a pitch. I followed that format exactly.
  2. Don’t worry too much. Remember that the pitch is just supposed to answer two things: what is the book about? what makes your novel special? If you babble a bit, it’s not the end of the world as long as you can get those two things across.

Other than the pitch session, I also had a blue pencil/editing session. I took the first 3 pages of my novel and had them looked over by one of the presenting authors. He was super nice. I came out of the session with a new idea for where to start the first chapter and easing in the fantasy elements.

I also went to some excellent sessions that provided me with new perspective on how to make the story stronger, how to find the hook in each scene, how to add in back story, what should be in the first pages, techniques for creating memorable characters.

Day 3

I was starting to feel the burn. I was tired, but I could finally relax and enjoy the workshops. Went to sessions on how to ramp up the tension in scenes, how to make dialogue more interesting, and another session on getting your manuscript polished and ready to send off.

Day 4

This was a half day, but still packed with sessions. I went to one on fantasy, and one on writing queries/synopsis. The final keynote ended with a standing ovation. I think we all wanted to go home and start writing at that very minute.

Overall

The presenters were excellent, and all the conference goers were super friendly. I’m a bit of a shy person, but it was never hard striking up a conversation with other writers. You don’t need to do a pitch. You can choose what workshops to drop in and out of. It’s very flexible. If you ever have a chance to go to SIWC, I’d highly recommend it!

20 Comments

  1. “The final keynote ended with a standing ovation. I think we all wanted to go home and start writing at that very minute.”

    Haha, I love that feeling.

    Sounds like an EXCELLENT experience! Thanks for sharing, and congrats on the partial request!! Things are looking good for you, Miss Bazelli. ;D

    1. Thank you Kristan! It was very timely. I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the whole novel process. It was good to take a step back, reassess it, and re-energize! There’s a lot more writing to go yet.

  2. TS, massive congratulations on the request for that partial! This could be huge for you. Easily worth the whole trip, even though it sounds like every day taught you something. I was pleasantly surprised to read you describe the community as supportive rather than judgmental.

    I’m curious what the keynote was about if it received a standing ovation, unless it only received that because the conference had been so exciting.

    1. I was surprised at how supportive everyone was as well. Perhaps that’s because there was a wide variety of genres represented (including poets and screenwriters). Some people were in it to sell a novel, but others were just there to learn.

      Actually the end of the speech was supremely geeky… pulled straight out of LOTR, where Aragon speaks to the riders of Rohan at the gates of Mordor, but with writers subbed in to do battle with agents and publishers. LOL Somehow he made it work.

      Thanks John 🙂 Does this mean you’re already back from vacation?

      1. I’m not quite back and not quite gone. I’m leaving town tomorrow, actually. The writing break needs to go a while longer, I think, before it’s healthy to hit all that prose again.

  3. This sounds like you got a lot of value out of this conference. Congratulations on the partial-request; that is great news. I think your point to not worry too much is good. It’s really difficult to take that advice but in hindsight you realize that the things you worried about weren’t as important as other things (i.e. content in this case). I’ve too frequently pulled that stay-up-all-night thing myself.

    I appreciate you posting the summary because it sounds like they covered a lot of interesting things and maybe this will convince my sometimes oddly shy self to attend a writers conference.

    1. T.S. Bazelli Author

      Not worrying is easier said than done. I was still trying to hide the shaking and my nerves while I was sitting down at that table.

      I was worried about being shy too, but there was just so much going on that you can participate if you want or hang back if you prefer. There were a few times I had to take a few minutes to sit quietly by myself between sessions and regroup.

      But writers are fun 🙂 We can talk writing or books all day and never get tired of it, so there’s never a lack of things to say.

      Thanks Aidan.

      1. Not worrying is probably easier for me who has been interviewed probably a hundred times, performed on stage for years, and taught hundreds of classes. I’ve had many things go wrong and that helps make me more relaxed.

        Shy… much more difficult to conquer. But as you say if the environment is right it helps.

  4. NOW that sounds like heaven for me. I’m positive that you learned the second thing after your turn was up. *grins* 🙂 Didn’t you make any pictures to go with the post?

    I am very happy you attended, because you needed your batteries recharged.

  5. That sounds brilliant! I’ve been hesitant about going to anything like that or even joining a writers group, mostly for fear of being found out as A Pretend Author or realising just how terrible my output is and never lifting a pen again. But what you described sounds like a genuinely enjoyable and worthwhile experience. I’m off to find what we’ve got available in Scotland!

Comments are closed.