Friday, December 21, 2012

Countdown to the Conference - Four Months to Go!


By MB Partlow, PPWC Programming Director

Time to make the resolutions!

All the holiday hubbub is nearly over, and then it will be time to look forward to the new year and the upcoming Conference. Sure, you've got plenty of time, but you've also got plenty you could do to make this your best conference ever.

1. I will not pitch an unfinished manuscript. Pitching a manuscript that isn't done wastes your time and that of the agent or editor you're pitching to. What if they ask you to send it, and you have to explain that it's not done? They're excited about it right now. If you have to finish writing, send it through your critique group, proof it and rewrite it, that sense of immediacy is gone.

2. I will make an informed decision about who to pitch to. Go the websites of the agents and editors. Familiarize yourself with their clients, what they like, what they don't like. Search for articles or interviews about them. Find out if they Twitter or blog and follow them.

3. I will learn about the faculty before the Conference. Faculty authors are listed on the website. You don't have to read every single word by every author, but know who writes what. You might even discover a new favorite. I discovered Robert Crais at a PPWC several years ago, and I haven't missed one of his books since.

4. I will start (or continue) hanging out with writers. Wait, what? Writers are the best possible people in the world to hang out with. Pikes Peak Writers offers you lots of chances to get together with writerly folk in a variety of informal settings. PPW Night at Poor Richard's downtown, Open Critiques, monthly Write Brain sessions--all free. Stay tuned to the website for details, and make it a point to meet some new people before the Conference.  

5. I will read my work out loud, even if the thought makes me cringe in horror. Conference has some awesome Read and Critique opportunities, and most of them involve being able to stand up and read your first page out loud. Besides, nothing will find and highlight clunky dialogue faster than hearing it spoken. If the thought of reading to nobody bothers you, read to your cat, your children, your neighbor or the mouse living under your sink. Better to get the nervous cracks and squeaks out in the privacy of your own home than in front of an agent.

6. I will practice my logline until I can say it in my sleep. Ah, the logline. That one sentence that sums up your book. Refer to #5, above. If you write a beautifully crafted, perfectly grammatical sentence of 58 words for a logline, you'll never be able to get it out without stumbling, fumbling or spitting on yourself just a little. If you're having trouble boiling it down to one sentence, see #4, above. Writers would rather work on anyone's logline than their own, and they will often have marvelous insights and stupendous ideas.

7. I will write. All the pretty plots in the world will amount to nothing if you don't write them down. Commit to your writing. Practice it daily. Just as you only have to brush the teeth you want to keep, remember that you only have to practice the writing skills that you wish to keep (or improve). Squeeze in ten minutes here and there. Don't set yourself up to fail--you can scribble a few lines in a small spiral notebook or on the back of a Starbucks napkin. You don't need a luxuriously appointed throne room of an office to create. You can write without your iPod, your iPad, your laptop, your "writing mix" on iTunes and two dozen precisely sharpened #2 pencils lined up at your side. Write outside the box. Write on the box.

8. I will be kind to myself. I can't speak for anyone else, but my inner critic is the size of Godzilla and has a voice like Gilbert Gottfried, only louder. You have to gag your inner critic and tap into your inner Little Engine That Could. When I attended my first conference, I hadn't written a single word of fiction. Ditto the second conference. I just knew that I desperately wanted to, and with every conference I attended, I was more certain that I could. Surrounding yourself with people who speak your language, who share your dreams, is the best thing you can do for yourself as a writer.

9. I will buck the trends. If you're drawn to writing Young Adult fantasy, then by all means, have at it. But if you really want to write a blackly comic science fiction novel, don't force your square self into a round hole. If the thought of making your work over into a different genre makes you want to fall on your own pen knife, then don't do it. You don't have to write about sparkly vampires, angsty teens, domineering lovers or cozy little old postmasters solving mysteries. Your muse is, well, yours.

10. I will watch too much TV, I won't floss enough, I'll lie about my weight, I'll eat too much ice cream, drink too much beer, laugh a little too much and too loud, and make a joke out of virtually anything that bothers me. What, I had to guarantee myself some success, didn't I?


MB Partlow, 2013 Programming Director for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, is hard at work getting fantastic speakers and participants for the conference.  You can reach her at programming@pikespeakwriters.com or find more information on the 2013 Pikes Peak Writers Conference at pikespeakwriters.com.