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Writing Tips for Fiction Writers!


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  Writers' Conferences
(Getting your money's worth)
by Tina Morgan

How often have you read interviews with published authors who've said that their novels were published because a well-known editor or agent liked their work? How do you think they attracted the attention of the publisher/editor in the first place?

Most of the time it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. If you're like me, I know what you're thinking. You don’t live in New York City so how are you supposed to be in the right place?

Attend a Writers' Conference

Recently, my co-author and I attended our first writers' conference in Columbus Ohio. Being in the mid-west, the conference isn't the largest available and there was a shortage of science fiction/fantasy agents and editors. However, don't discount a conference because it doesn't specialize in your preferred genre. Take time to research the speakers and you might find a few gems attending a conference near your home. The speakers at the Columbus Conference were highly informative and experienced.

Brenda Copeland, an editor with Simon and Schuster opened the conference with a very instructive and entertaining talk about what to expect from a writers' conference and the publishing industry. Agent Jennifer DeChiara delivered an insightful session over writing query letters and gave writers an opportunity to try out their pitch lines. Frederick Levy's talks over script writing and query letters for scripts were educational sessions that have Ciara and I excited about trying our hand at screenplays. He included a brief workshop over query letter writing that helped me pinpoint several weak spots in my own letter.

There were too many highly informative speakers to cover in this article, but these three give you an example of what you might find at your local conference. However…

Attending isn't enough.

Once you get to the conference you need to do more than just sit in the sessions and listen. If you're seeking publication, a conference is the place to meet potential agents and editors in person. Before we went, Ciara and I had scheduled a consultation with Paul Stevens of Tor. My knees were knocking so hard it's a wonder we were able to hold the consult over the noise but he soon put me at ease. I came to realize that agents and editors really are people and some of them are as nervous about meeting the writers face to face as I was about meeting them.

These in-person meetings also gave me the opportunity to decide if I wanted to pursue querying a particular agent or not. Let's face it. Working with an agent isn't automatically sunshine and roses. You're allowing this person control of your dreams and if you don't like the person, odds are you won't be happy with the way they handle your novels. You need to feel comfortable talking to your agent and they need to feel comfortable talking to you.

A few don’ts I observed being broken:

1) Don’t grovel. It's not becoming and it's won't convince an agent to represent you. There's a fine line between schmoozing and begging. If you're not sure if you're overstepping it, have a friend pretend to be the agent you most want to impress and ask them to rate your conversation. Confidence really pays off.

2) Do NOT tell an agent your life story. Not even if you're pitching your autobiography. Certain subjects are going to make some people uncomfortable and even if an agent finds your book very compelling, it's a different matter to hear all the atrocities in person than to read it on paper. Remember, agents/editors are people and they each have their own personal boundaries/comfort level.

3) Don't tell an agent about losing your life savings to a disreputable agent. This tells the agent that you're probably so bitter that they may have a difficult time working with you. It also lets the agent know that you didn't do your homework before signing with the questionable agent. Unfortunately many writers have lost money to bad agents, it happens, but you're at the conference to make the best first impression you can make. Save confessions of poor business decisions for much later in your relationship... if ever.

4) Don't argue with the editor or agent. Whether you schedule a consult or just pitch your work to an agent/editor between sessions, don't argue with him/her if you're told that your work isn't for them or when they make suggestions on how to improve your work. While rejection and criticism hurts, now is not the time to become defensive. Thank the person for their time and move on. You'll make a far better impression and who knows? Maybe if you follow the suggestions you're given and you resubmit your work, it might be accepted. If you become defensive and antagonistic, the editor/agent is going to remember and reject your work because they don't want to deal with an inflexible writer.

DO go to have fun. Meet other writers, talk about your publishing hopes and dreams and share your thoughts with others who understand your passion for putting words to paper.

Copyright 2003 Tina Morgan. All rights reserved


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