I hadn’t planned on attending the Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta this year. My husband had been undergoing medical treatments, my son encountered difficulties through much of eighth grade, and my day job had been overly demanding in the past months. In spite of these obstacles, my husband insisted I go.
I’m so glad I did.
The national conference is about workshops, pitching, and networking. Writers at all different stages of their careers attend and each can tailor her experience to meet specific goals. My first year, I focused on learning all about the craft, attending every possible workshop and pitching my first novel. I socialized very little, still a shy newbie. This year, I balanced the workshops with both pitching, networking, and socializing. Even more, I had fun hanging out with friends, making new friends, and visiting the Georgia Aquarium a few blocks away from where we stayed at the Peachtree Center’s Marriott Marquis.
But very much like my friend, Patty Blount, discovered and shared quite eloquently in her recent blog post for our local writing chapter, I found RWA’s national conference to be much more than all of these wonderful things. Nationals is a place where people of common interests and big dreams come together to support each other and be inspired. We writers all suffer at times from the Doubt Monster. We all go through periods where we believe our writing sucks, that our aspirations are unrealistic, and we wonder if we shouldn’t just quit.
RWA13 reinforced my desire to make my passion a career. To keep working until I succeed. To know I’m not alone. And that I can always, always turn to my RWA colleagues for guidance and a shoulder to lean on.
For those of you who didn’t have the opportunity to attend this year’s conference, and perhaps as a refresher for those of you who did, here are ten of the most memorable bits of advice I took away with me about writing from some of the greatest in the romance writing profession:
1. Writing is a process of controlled chaos.
2. Your goal is to complete one book every nine months. Don’t lollygag.
3. Write through the fear.
4. Be disciplined.
5. Query the NY publishers while building your writer platform. If they don’t buy your story, self-publish, but only after you’ve written and edited a very clean, polished book.
6. If agents or editors like your writing but not your book, focus on creating emotional depth of characters, pacing, and a compelling plot.
7. Regarding plot, be outrageous. Readers don’t read fiction to escape to real life.
8. Outrageous plots must be tied to well-motivated reasons to allow your reader to suspend disbelief.
9. Don’t undervalue yourself or your work.
10. Determine how many pages you can complete in a day, make a reasonable goal each week, and be responsible for achieving that goal, no matter what.
And here’s a bonus, the quote I scribbled on a sticky note and placed on my laptop, courtesy of the inimitable Cherry Adair: Finish the damn book!
What are your favorite quotes from RWA13 or about writing that guide or inspire you?