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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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!