This past weekend, I attended my second DFW Writers' Conference. It was better than the last one. Or maybe I was better. I think with a big event like this, you need one run for practice before you get the hang of it.
Here are some things I learned:
Donald Maass (a) is a colossal nerd, and (b) has a name that ends in "SS" not just "S" as I keep wanting to type it.
He's the best kind of colossal nerd - a fantasy fan and gamer who loves that stuff and wants to share his love with other people. He's also an incredibly nice guy who will go out of his way to make you feel welcome and valued in any conversation. And he has a wicked-sharp sense of humor.
Jonathan Maberry (a) is a really awesome guy, and (b) has only one "Y" in his name despite my urge to type in another every damn time I write it. (No H, either.)
He is also a colossal nerd, both in nerdiness and size. Seriously. Jon Maberry will mess you up. He's huge. In a fight of Jon Maberry and a full-grown Kodiak bear... I'd bet on the bear unless the spread was really crazy. But I'd check the odds, just in case. And he's also warm and friendly and loves to share geeky stuff.
Literary Agents are really nice people.
This year, I volunteered to wrangle an agent (i.e. act as a guide, gofer, and chauffeur). I'd imagined the job would be kind of difficult, but that it would be worth it for the networking opportunities.
Instead, it was one of the easiest things I've ever done, and more than worth it for the networking opportunities. Margaret Bail, of the Inklings Literary Agency, is incredibly friendly and easygoing. She was great to work with, and about as low-maintenance as I could have imagined. And she wants to see my book when it's finished, which is awesome.
What I got for my (minuscule) trouble was the chance to hang out with other agents at dinners and lunches, where I learned a lot about the publishing business and made connections.
So if you're with the DFW Writer's Workshop and you're attending next year's Conference, be first in line to offer to wrangle an agent. It's the opposite of traumatic, and it's a great opportunity.
Keep track of your schedule.
Again, this is kind of obvious in retrospect. I did a great job keeping Margaret's schedule straight. I plugged all her events into my Google calendar, which fed me alerts all day. But I forgot to put my OWN events in the calendar, so I missed my Saturday critique session. Oops.
Don't be shy. Les Edgerton says so.
And really, don't be. Talk to people. Almost all writers are wallflowers who are each secretly hoping someone else will initiate conversation, and the agents ACTUALLY CAME TO THE CONFERENCE to talk to you. They did it on their own time, too. They are here for the express purpose of listening to you talk about your book so they can decide if they'd like you to submit it.
Thanks to Kirk von der Heydt and the rest of the Conference Committee for a great conference. Thanks to all the agents, editors, and speakers. Without you, the conference would be a hollow shell of itself. Thanks to everyone who made it a fun, educational weekend full of opportunities. And good luck to everybody. I hope this conference results in some book deals.
I look forward to seeing you all next year. And if you could each bring roughly .3 friends, that'd probably be good.
Well, don't literally bring a fractional person. 1 in 3 of you bring one friend. Or something like that.
-- David Goodner, DFWWW Member since 2012 *(This essay originally appeared in slightly longer form on The Astounding Mr. Goodner's Amazing Electric Widgets blog. Check it out, because it's good fun!)
I also have ideas for a bunch of craft projects, and an urge to redecorate my bedroom. (‘Redecorate’ implies that it was ever decorated in the first place, which might not be altogether accurate.)
Basically, I'm inspired to do just about anything other than figure out the plot snarl in chapter 15 and finish the dang novel.
And that's because inspiration is (to paraphrase Thomas Edison) only one percent of creation. The idea is the easy thing. When it's shiny and new, all made of potential and dream-stuff, it’s fun to hang around with your creative endeavor. But trying to turn that dream into reality is HARD. The words don't come out right. The plot you thought would just flow onto the page instead dribbles out in contradictory fits and starts. The characters you hoped would practically write themselves turn out to be cardboard cutouts with no motivation. And you can't remember how to spell ‘volunteer’, or whichever other word you can never remember how to spell. Bonus points if it's one spell-check doesn't recognize.
Here's the part where you were probably hoping to find a simple, easy solution for this conundrum. But you no doubt realize that if I had one, I wouldn't be writing this essay. I'd be writing my novel, which is what I'm supposed to be doing. Or better yet, I'd have already finished my novel since I have a simple, easy solution for overcoming writer’s block. Then I'd slap together a book on how to write your novel in six easy steps.
All I have is persistence, and I don't always have that. You're never going to get past the block by ignoring it or fleeing from it. I try really hard to write every day, and at least some of that time I try to work on my book. Some days I get a little done. Most days, I get practically nothing done. Every once in a while, my muse graces me with her blessing and I get one of those days where my inspiration overwhelms my keyboard buffer. Those are beautiful days, all the more so because they're so rare.
Most days, it's a hard slog with little reward, just like anything else worthwhile. Writing, if you want to be good at it, is hard work. It's not always fun. It's hardly ever easy. But at the end you get to turn your dreams into reality so other people can experience them.
That's worth a little existential agony.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I should be getting back to my novel. It's not going to write itself.
--David Goodner, DFWWW member since 2012
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