I attended CWC 2015 directly following my resignation from a stressful office position. My prospects were bright, and I left CWC 2015 with nothing but a dazzling future—both as an author, and as an employed person—visualized in my head.
In reality, my job-seeking efforts failed miserably and my self-confidence began to shrivel and die. Hoping to regain the sense of authorial accomplishment and wonder I’d found at CWC, I revisited the conference adages outlined below… and now I’ve come farther as an author than ever before.
Join a Writer’s Group!
Session: How to Find a Writer’s Group
I had always dreamt of trying a writers’ group, and after multiple CWC sessions highlighted their value, I made the decision to try and create one. Four months, one Craigslist ad, and one fizzled member later, I am now the proud founder of a flourishing three-person group!
Unexpected Benefits of Joining
- Dedicated, in-genre readers with differing perspectives. The more knowledgeable and disparate your group members, the farther your work will go.
- Failure excitement. You’re finally seeing issues in your work you could never pin down before. And you get to fix them. The failure becomes an addicting, bizarrely thrilling challenge.
- Pressure and confidence. People value your input. It feels good, and you don’t want to disappoint them; you’ll show up every time, and you’ll become a better writer.
- Enhanced social life. Even extroverts living in the middle of nowhere can make local friends with shared interests in a writer’s group.
Takeaways from a Founder
- Take initiative. If there’s nothing to join, make it happen yourself.
- Do the peer-editing beforehand. We upload our work two full nights before our meeting date into a shared Google folder. Discussing already-made edits at the meeting saves time and cuts back awkwardness.
- Don’t settle for a bad fit. Reasons not to keep a member: constant absence, huge skill or knowledge gaps, uncomplimentary genres, bad juju.
- Three’s the charm. With three members, our meetings run less than two hours—easy to fit into the schedule, but open to a serendipitous fourth.
- Go biweekly or less. You won’t believe how fast even a biweekly deadline comes up.
Get Out There, and Improve Yourself!
Session: YA Structure, Branding Yourself
After CWC, I leapt onto social media, and that involvement illuminated some reasons why I haven’t gotten an agent. I’ve paired those reasons with the simple CWC adages “Write your best book!” and “Don’t write to an audience!” to make my book more representable with each passing day.
Benefits of Social Media Involvement
- Easy, free contests & events. Free Twitter writing events like Pitch Match (#PitMatch) and One-Line Wednesday (#1LineWed) can help anyone get noticed.
- An evolutionary atmosphere. Online authors evolve to be more compatible with today’s marketplace. You’ll find space to learn and grow exponentially!
- Access to professionals and success stories. You can have Twitter conversations with real agents, and inspiring people who write for a living surround you.
Takeaways on Improving Your Work
- Make the first chapters the best you can. If you have trouble getting agented, you likely need to update your submission; joining a writer’s group taught me just how bad my opening chapters were.
- Self- and boutique-publishing is NOT synonymous with failure. If the traditional route isn’t working, try something new. People make livings this way. But always have a good line editor!
- Books that fall outside the lines are the ones that make headlines. Does your work seem placeless? Consider Graceling, a wildly popular YA fantasy that has sex, a pedophile, and a traditionally too-high word count.
- Nothing is lost in making improvements. Getting better—or making your work better—will never be classifiable as a waste of time.
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