Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Conference Recap

Last week I attended my favorite place with all my favorite people to learn about my favorite topics and pitch my favorite manuscript. If you guessed I was at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, you'd be right.

I would love to tell you everything I learned if I could. Like how I attended a session on increasing tension in your book by increasing power imbalances between characters. Someone knows more, or has feelings they haven't told others, or is more capable than others. Creating these tensions is what keeps people reading your story.

I learned that one of the keys to good description is avoiding "have" and "was" and using vivid verbs instead. I learned new tricks for editing. I learned the do's and don't's of series. I learned...a lot of things. I won't come near summarizing it all in 1000 words, and you'd probably get bored before I did.

More than telling you my adventures, I want to inspire you go on your own. Writers, go sign up for a writing conference. Today.

Critique group, circa 2014.
Last year I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference for the first time. I didn't know what I was doing or what to expect. It turned out to be far better for me than I could have imagined. I learned all about the craft and got two requests from agents wanting to read my manuscript. But most of all I met the people who became my critique partners. I met writers like me. I realized I wasn't alone, and that was key.

This year for round two, I returned with lots of changes in my life. I brought a new manuscript, edited and completed using many of the tricks I learned at the 2014 conference. I'm also out as a bi woman and practicing being more authentic. That was influenced by a marketing session last year whose best advice was: be yourself. 
(Incidentally, the gal who taught that session is now one of my critique partners and aforementioned favorite people. Go figure.)

There were other changes. I 
found that many of the sessions on craft weren't particularly useful to me. Talking with my friends, we realized that we're slowly outgrowing a lot of the basics: methods for plotting, questions to ask when creating likable protagonists and antagonists, the twelve points of the hero's journey... This is exciting: it means we're growing as writers. And much of that is through attending PPWC and getting involved with other writers.

The biggest difference this year was that I attended the conference with my best friends. Over the last year, the people I met at PPWC 2014 became the closest people in my life. Besides reading and critiquing, they have shaped me and supported me in more ways than I can count.

I spent a lot of this conference talking with people I already know, encouraging each other through critique rounds and pitch sessions, having hilarious games of Cards Against Humanity in a corner of the lobby with one of the keynote speakers who made us all bust a gut laughing. It was the most fun I've had...I hate to say "ever," but it just might be. I have found my people, the place where I belong. There's really nothing quite like it.

If that's not a pitch for attending writing conferences, I don't know what is.

If you're a writer, get thee to a writing conference. You will learn things about writing you never knew and which will be wildly helpful for you as you edit and write future books. You will receive confirmation that yes, you are a writer and you can do this. You will meet agents and editors and discover that they're not quite as terrifyingly lofty as you thought. You will pitch your manuscript and discover that industry professionals see its potential.

Critique group 2015, with bestselling author Seanan McGuire.
(Several not pictured, but no less loved!)
And you will meet your own kind and bask in the glow of finally coming home to a group of people who understand what it's like.

The long hours of hard work bent over a keyboard with eyes streaming but spirit unbowed. The heartbreaking self-criticism and fear of defeat. The inability to give up no matter what you're feeling. The moments of laughable inadequacy to fit the English language together followed by a sentence written so purely it's amazing your human hands could have penned it at all.

You will be drawn out of your shell and discover that the world has a place for you, and that place is not a lonely one. You will find community, and in that community you will be special and unique in the best of ways.

It is the most human and writerly experience you will have. So go sign up for PPWC 2016. You can't complain about travel distances: my friend Helen flew all the way from Ireland.

I'd better see you there.

Word count: 851.