Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

The Romance Writers of Australia national conference is over for 2012. All who attended agree it was, like the Olympics, the “best games ever”. That is until Fremantle 2013 comes along and blows our minds. Judging by the trailer screened at this year’s close, exciting times lie ahead.

But what about the year in between?

How will the post-conference buzz benefit your writing?

First, accept that a writers’ conference is not a social event. Sure, we had fun, we met friends, we talked, laughed, ate, drank and loved the party atmosphere. But you don’t go there TO party. You go to learn from the best, meet publishers, editors, agents and expand professional horizons. Apart from the typo in the caption, the LOLcat here has the right idea.

I came home with at least one publisher keen to read a book I haven’t written yet.  Two others want to talk to my agent. How about you? If you pitched a book (met an agent or editor to discuss what you want to send them), how soon will that work be on their desk? Marked “requested material” so you bypass the slush pile. One editor says that of ten writers she invites to submit to her, perhaps three follow through.

Make sure you’re one of those three.

Second, apply what you learned. Another statistic says that only one in ten conference attendees ever look at their handout notes again.

Be the one in ten.

As soon as you can, go through the mountain of paper. Put the useful stuff into a folder for quick reference. Type up hand-written notes and add them. Sort business cards. If you want to keep in touch, email within a couple of days about how you enjoyed their workshop/meeting them/your coffee chat and you’d like to be on their mailing list. Be brief, friendly and businesslike. If necessary, remind them of what you discussed. “Thank you for asking to see my paranormal romance about the blue aliens  who turn orange after sex. I will send you the requested material by X date.”

Then deliver on your self-imposed deadline.

Keynote speaker, Eloisa James, said that editors and agents are business associates even if they become friends over time. She also said that men don’t talk about being “lucky” to get a job, any more than we’re lucky when a publisher buys our work. They do it for their business, as should we. “Books of the heart” are luxuries, according to Eloisa. We need to write books of the heart for our READERS to fill their keeper shelves and have them talking up our books into best-sellers. Even in the digital age, word-of-mouth is still your best sales tool.

Enjoy your post-conference buzz. I am. Then use it as designed, to progress your writing career. What’s your next move?


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Comments on: "Make the post-conference buzz work for your writing" (16)

  1. Excellent post, Valerie. I’m taking it to heart!

  2. Fabulous advice, Valerie. And I will be taking it. Thank you.

  3. Brooke Dell-Sewell said:

    Was one of those to be written novels “Two for the wasteland”. :p
    Excellent advice. This was my forst conference, but next conference – I’m hoping to have some more work tucked under my belt and then pitch for the first time. I’ll be bookmarking this advice.
    Oh, and blue aliens who turn orange after sex? I smell a best seller there 🙂

    • Sorry Brooke, Two was written purely for the workshop. I was trying hard to write it really badly as a workshop exercise, so I don’t think it has any hope of going further. Probably just as well. The blue aliens who turn orange, well you never know LOL Good luck with your future work.

  4. Brookke Dell-Sewell said:

    I was being facetious re two for the wasteland, but you know – after that workshop I kind of really do want to read all about two for the wastleland now lol 🙂
    And now I NEED to know all about blue aliens who turn orange lol :p
    Thank you for you the advice.

  5. All good points. Almost too many ideas to deal with so getting them sorted and under control is a good idea. Am certainly going to take up pitch offers. These are books i wrote because I love the story idea so I hope they like them but I’m not going to stress about it. They aren’t exactly the normal thing they are publishing but that could either be a plus or a minus. We shall just wait and see. Both books I pitched have been described as ‘might be too dark’ or ‘unnecessarily dark.’ Anyone would think I wrote in a cave.

    • ROFL about writing in a cave. Maybe by “unnecessarily dark” the editors could mean lacking in a sense of hope? Even the darkest worlds need that IMO. Real life is dark enough, we all want to see light at the end of the cave…er…tunnel.

  6. Anita Joy said:

    I am so definitely following through with my pitch requests (tick box).
    I have before, and will again, use my conference notes (tick box).
    Deadlines… hmmm… well, usually I have them (plotter!), but this year we have to pack and move 1,200km in the next month or so (buy/sell houses, find schools etc) so this time my deadlines are *fluid* – but I am prioritising, so when I can, they will happen.

    Conference, as you say, VP, was so inspirational. I’ve come home with that annual injection of determination. I can’t wait to get into it, and just wish the house would pack itself, lol.

    • Good for you putting the writing as a priority on your list. It’s so easy to let it slip, isn’t it? I moved 18 months ago, I feel for you, and I didn’t have schools etc to resolve. If you find that self-packing house, patent it.

  7. Hi Valerie
    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this post. I’m ashamed to say I’m one of those 7 out of 10 people who haven’t followed through post pitch. But I’ve already drafted out my email to Joanne Grant and have given myself a self-imposed deadline of 03 September to send the 3 chapters she asked for. Seeing as I’m pressure prompted this commitment to her and deadline will whip my perfectionist saboteur into shape! Will also follow up on notes. I’ve also been inspired by my friend and critique partner Bronwyn McEvoy’s win of the Valerie Parv award this year…lucky, lucky her to have you as her mentor as a year!

    • Yay on following through, Cassandra. Let me know how you get on. I’ll be cheering for you.

      • thanks so much Valerie. Always motivating to have a cheerleader. Thought I could reward myself for following through by coming to your workshop in Fiji. Do you know if there are still places?

      • I think there are still places, we’d get to work together for a week as it’s designed to be a small group. Like your idea of a reward too, my thoughts usually don’t go past chocolate LOL

  8. Michelle de Rooy said:

    Valerie, I am being the one in ten!! I bought a huge whiteboard on casters and am diligently applying ‘aha’ moments learned in Alexandra S’s workshops.

    Yep. I’m plotting, Valerie!! Who’d a thunk it?!? 🙂

    (but I did nana-nap for two days after conference!)

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