It’s baaa-aack, the first Monday of every month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere) when I invite you to post your writing-related questions and I’ll answer them here. Lots of talented writers read and comment on this blog and you’re also welcome to contribute a question or your thoughts on an answer, or a writing experience that might help others.
Feel free to post writing concerns and questions, and share experiences. Questions can be posted ahead of time if you like and I will answer during Monday June 4. I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day.
To kick things off, here are a couple of questions I was asked during the last week.
Is it worthwhile for a writer to attend conferences?
Mostly the answer is yes, no matter where you are in your writing journey. New writers can meet like-minded people, and make the vital discovery that you’re not alone in your struggles. A writing conference is also the best place to meet editors and agents on an informal basis, or you can sign up through the conference to pitch an idea to them. If they like the sound of your idea, they’ll ask you to send it to their publishing house or agency, and you get to put the magic words “requested material” on the package, dodging the towering slush piles.
How do you know when it’s time to give up on a particular book?
This is tough. If J K Rowling had given up after the many rejections she received, the Harry Potter books wouldn’t be household names. Rejections are part of writing life. If you receive only a form letter, it could be the publisher had no room for further books in the schedule; or they may have something similar to yours in production. If you receive specific suggestions, take that as definite encouragement. Editors don’t waste time commenting on work that’s going nowhere. If there’s something in the suggestions you can use, by all means do, but be wary of extensive rewrites unless the editor has asked to see it again. Another editor may love it as it is, or have different ideas again. Only when you receive repeated comments along similar lines – your book lacks pace; the characters aren’t believeable, or whatever, might you consider taking another look.
You can also treat the book as part of your learning curve.
Set it aside. Start something new. Later when you’re published, you may see how to rework the previous book, or use the ideas in another book. I’ve heard many writers say they’re glad their first efforts didn’t see the light of day because they’ve grown so much as they’ve kept writing.
Got a question? Advanced or basic, I’ll do my best to answer.
Proud friend of the National Year of Reading 2012
Established Writer in Residence 2012, Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth WA
On Twitter @valerieparv