I spent last Monday through Saturday in Orlando at RWA's 30th Annual National Conference rubbing elbows and sharing air with some amazing authors. (Commence namedropping.) A few highlights:
- Suzanne Brockmann (one of my all time faves) gave a great workshop on “Theme” and humbled me with her 80-page outlines and 7-book story arcs.
- Cindy Gerard assured us that self-doubt never goes away, no matter how successful you are. Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips concurred. I sat next to Cindy on a tour bus before I realized who she was, and she was very nice. Happily, I had just read one of her books (SHOW NO MERCY) and loved it, and could honestly say so.
- Laura Griffin sat with me at lunch and on the tour bus, introduced me to her agent, and offered to critique my next query letter. She was super-friendly and supportive. (Even after I initially got her books confused with another author I've also read. *red face* I knew I was a fan, but I've read too much in the last year to keep it all straight sometimes. *sigh*)
- Über-agent and author Donald Maass got me thinking in a new way about my story and characters, and just generally got us pumped to write.
- Nora Roberts reminded us that it's always been hard to get published and that we should quit whining and get to work!
- And the agent I pitched to gave me good feedback on my pitch and storyline, and requested a partial of Slow Burn. *happy dance*
A few things really stuck with me from the conference:
- No matter how successful the author, they still have doubts about their next book. For better or worse, that never seems to go away. So while it sucks that I'll probably always be plagued with fear that my writing isn't good enough, it also means that I'm not alone!
- Every author has his/her own process, and there's no right way. Suzanne Brockmann is a heavy plotter. Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes into the mist. Both are tops in their subgenres. Experiment until you find what works for you, and then quit worrying about it.
- Most published authors are fairly ordinary. Based on my experiences at conference and in chapter meetings, they are friendly and helpful people with the same joys, sorrows, needs, and frustrations we all share. Everyone that I met was incredibly generous with advice and encouragement. The only thing different about them was the paycheck.
Bottom line: we're all people, and we all have to start somewhere. I imagine everyone at the conference as somewhere on a timeline to publication. Some of us will move up the line faster than others, and some will never reach the published mark, but we all have to follow the same basic steps to get there.
Read, improve our craft, and most important of all: write!
Like Nora Roberts says, “You don't find time to write. You make time. It's my job.” Exactly.
For another take on the conference from my roommate, Christine, check out this post.
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