San Francisco Writers Conference. There are three words that come to mind:
Educational. Humbling. Inspiring.
Can I just say how well I slept each night? Probably doesn’t help that I commuted almost every day (about 2.5-3 hours each way with bumper to bumper traffic, yikes!)
Four days of back to back learning. Every hour, you rotate between classes. At the SF conference this year, there were about 4-5 different classes to choose from, ranging from self to traditional publishing, all genres, marketing, pitch sessions, critique sessions, and so much more.
You leave every night feeling full, often overflowing with information. And guess what else?
You bond. You bond with other writers. You build a network of like-minded and equally passionate people.
And one thing that stood out to me: we were all working toward the same goal. We have grown up in a very competitive world. And competition is good. It drives us to work harder. But do not let that competition warp your perspective that these people are your “enemies”.
Your fellow writer is not competition. They, more than most, can empathize the wonderful sometimes heartbreaking journey you’re on.
So when you come to these conferences, come with an open mind. Leave your ego at home, or better yet, eat a humongous slice of humble pie (I mean this literally. Bake a pie. Call it humble. And eat it. It is delicious and provides a better mindset). And be prepared to nourish your brain with information about this amazing industry.
While some writers attend conferences primarily to learn, others—and I would say majority—come to hopefully find their PIC (agent). I was part of the latter group.
And after my first page critique, boy was my confidence (though not cockiness, mind you) knocked down quite a few pegs. But know this, you must, must, must perceive this as helpful, and helpful only.
These agents want to love your work. And by recognizing that, when you hear your work being ripped apart, try to not let your heart break too much (maybe just a little bit because your art is so much a part of you). Try to suppress the heartbreak (or anger/irritation if you are prone to the other end of the spectrum) and really listen. Listen to the advice given about your work. Listen to the advice given about other’s work. This provides one very powerful moment:
An opportunity to learn.
Do not waste it. Do not let your ego overshadow a chance to grow.
And you know what? These critiques are opinions—completely subjective. But remember this: this advice is from people who understand and know the industry. Give their advice a little more weight than what a family member or friend has said.
So return to your manuscript with all your new information and perfect your art. There is no rush. We get it in our mind that we must rush to get it out there. But this is your craft. Hone it. Improve. Take another six months or ten years to really make it just the best it can be. Yes, I said ten. There were authors who sold bestsellers that took them 10+ years to perfect. So do not be disheartened. Push forward and polish that manuscript.
Because really, would we want anything less than our best being read?
And finally, I will leave you with one last note. My husband text me while I was at the conference that:
“It only takes one agent to fall in love with your story.”
Your story will not be every agent’s cup of tea, just like not every reader will enjoy your story. Count how many stories you’ve read and haven’t connected with. And it was fine. The story wasn’t meant for you, but it’s meant for other people.
So fellow writers, do not give up. Persevere. Improve.
Be your worst critic so you may improve but do not forget to also be your biggest supporter.
Use everything you’ve learned and use that as your primary motivation. Can’t quite find a happy or motivated emotion and are feeling sad? Angry?
Prove them wrong. Polish that manuscript of yours and show those who said nay that they should have said heck, yes, gimme gimme gimme.
Happy writing, fellow authors.
And keep on keepin’ on.
**if you found this particularly helpful and/or inspiring, please share 🙂