Monday, October 8, 2012

The Writer's Roller Coaster

Coney Island Cyclone
I'm fresh off the roller coaster that was the SCBWI Carolinas conference. I have a few things to say.

1) Go to a conference near you and make some good friends.

2) Participate, even when it hurts.

3) Listen to what the experts are really saying.

4) Don't drink the coffee.

So, here's the correlating WHY:

1) A writer needs friends in this process. Online friends are good. Real live, huggable, hand-holding ones are better. I can't imagine how I did without the support before. And each time I attend a conference, the bonds get stronger.
  • After you get a critique - good or bad - you need to share. Immediately.
  • When you have one great AND one not so great review, then you need help to focus on the good again. Immediately.
  • Friends are great for reminding (gently, and much later) that you should not forget the bad either, because that is how you get better. You know what I mean?
2) Participation is hard. It's easier to just sit and absorb. If you want to get the most out of the conference, even at the risk of melting away in your seat under the laser beam eyes of the expert, do it.
  •  After you recover from the meltdown, you end up asking yourself the hard questions.
  •  Hard questions make your writing more focused - as in, the very next day epiphany focused. (This was a plot workshop. My plot was fine, but leaning toward average at the end. Now it will be awesome.)
  • Friends are very helpful with the meltdown situation. (ref: point 1, above)
3) If you are lucky enough to have your work reviewed (in front of hundreds of people), your ears will ring. Between thudding heart beats, you will try to listen very carefully, but you will only hear half of what the experts say.

It's good to have friends listening to the criticism at the same time. You can always review the feedback with them later. (ref: point 1, above)

A couple of my friends got picked. One of them focused on the negative comments. Weeding out the harsh to find the seed of goodness is hard. I haven't spoken much to the other yet, but she's stronger than me, so I'm not worried.

Then mine was read.

Gasp! The last few pieces scored editor comments like: "Annoying." or  "Irritating." or "Too many like this." My sample was from the second round of revisions from my NaNoWriMo project. There was no way to magically remove my submission.

"There's nothing wrong with the writing," says one editor. "Want something more special to start."
I'm thinking: That's a Meh! response, but I'll take it after the comments the last few people got. It is, after all, only an early attempt at the beginning for this manuscript.

"I'm intrigued. Want more details on the setting," says the second.
I'm thinking: Another Meh!, but I'll take it. This guy is HARD to impress. Besides, I cut so much to keep inside the 200 word limit, and you all know my setting details can be too detailed sometimes.

"Swearing is a cheat. Find another way to show emotions," says the third. "Also, damn sounds out of context with the world."
I'm thinking: 1) No swearing is a good rule to remember. 2) Maybe I should make a list of world specific words for each character - one more problem a sci-fi/fantasy writer needs to deal with!

4) The coffee is mediocre at best. Also, when your heart feels like it might burst out of your chest, caffeine is probably a bad idea.

And finally, as SCBWI President, Stephen Mooser reminded: A writer's career is like a roller coaster. You can't keep your eyes closed the whole time. You have to put your hands up and scream if you want to enjoy the ride.


Anonymous said...

You survived! :) Furthermore, it seems you thrived! It sounds like you got a lot out of the conference--no matter what--and that can be incredibly difficult. You have to be a brave and strong soul yourself to take it ALL in and process it and use it to make your work even stronger. I've read some of your pages and KNOW you are a writer. I can't wait to see what comes next. Welcome home! And get back to work. :)

LTM said...

You are SO RIGHT. You know how much our friendship has meant to me. Getting your feedback and encouraging each other. I can't say going to my local conference helped me, but having writer friends (like you!) definitely has!

Great tips, and yes, conference coffee is... bleah! :p <3

Southpaw said...

That would be so scary. It is awesome you went through it.

The coffee rule is both sad but important to know. ;) said...

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