Sunday, April 20, 2008

Conference Season

It's conference season. They're everywhere.

When you’re a new writer, you attend conferences and soak up information like it’s the word of God. You read “how-to” writing books and take online courses, all with the hope that some bit of information will make you a saleable writer.

I did that until finally the workshops all started to sound the same and I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t up to someone else to make me a better writer. I needed to make me a better writer. To do that, I had to plant my ass in the chair and write.

So for the last several years, I’ve avoided conferences and focused on writing and getting my stuff out there.

Recently, feeling a little burnt out and not sure I could put another story together, I signed up for a Writer’s Retreat (through the Maui Writer’s Conference).

My initial expectation was long, languid hours lying on the beach (did I mention the retreat was in Fiji?) working on my book. After reviewing the literature, I discovered it was much more structured than that. There were classroom sessions and instructors. We had to submit material to our instructors ahead of time for their review.

Now, not even dealing with the minor terror I felt by sending a male-male seduction scene to an unknown male instructor, it’s been years since anyone besides my editor has commented on my writing. And she likes the way I write.

Based on my past experiences with conferences, I wasn’t really sure what my instructor (thriller author James Rollins) could tell me that I hadn’t heard at half a dozen other conferences.

Turns out Jim had a lot to say that I hadn’t heard before and those subjects I was familiar with, he explained in a different way.

I don’t know if it was the way he presented the material or where I am with my writing but I found myself taking notes, mentally applying it to my own writing and eager to get back to my computer to see if could put his information into practice.

And I didn’t have stress about Jim's critique of my stuff. He had great input and encouragement on my writing (though he did say I made him blush with my love scene) and he helped focus the new story I’m working on. It will be a little different than my previous books but I think I need the challenge of something new.

I came back from Fiji totally jazzed about writing, reenergized and ready to work.

If you've been writing for a few years, maybe it's time to consider going to a conference and see if you hear things a little different now.

I met some great people at this conference and several asked if I was going to the Maui Writer’s Conference in September. I haven’t decided yet but I think my brain’s pretty full and maybe I need to keep my butt in the chair and work.


Titania Ladley said...

Wonderful topic, Tielle! Yes, sometimes I think we all need to break out of our routine, maybe take a chance we normally wouldn't take, or write something totally different. Just like in sports, we can get in slumps where we might need a change or some inspiration to help us get through it, and it sounds like that's exactly what you got in Fiji. Woohoo! Looking forward to reading the many books born out of your Fiji trip. Thanks for sharing---sounds like it was a fabulous retreat! :)


Shelley Munro said...

Great post, Tielle. I definitely agree that we as writers need to recharge our batteries and look at things from a different point of view. Fiji sounds wonderful.
I'm coming over to the US to the National conference at the end of July. That will be great, but somehow I don't think I'm going to get much writing done!

N.J.Walters said...

Great post, Tielle.

I'm the exact opposite. I've never been to a writer's conference anywhere. LOL

I've never talked to another romance author in person. I just write in my "office" in the corner of my living room.

That's partially why I'm planning to go to RT next year. I've never been to one, and if I have to spend big bucks to go to a conference, I'm going to the biggest one under the sunny sun. *g*

Titania Ladley said...

Darn, I can't make RWA. :( Have fun Shelley, and thanks for stopping by!

N.J., can't wait to meet you---I'll be attending RT in Orlando next year. I was so jealous hearing about everyone's good time at RT this year, now I'm revved to go! Thanks for coming by!


Rowan West said...

My favorite conference is like a week long writer retreat with workshops - it's called REMEMBER THE MAGIC from The International Women's Writer's Guild ( Published and unpublished writers alike, ages 18 - 85 years old (no fooling!). A week at Skidmore College and I come back so refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to write more.

Also, at least once and usually twice a year, the writers group I meet with on Thursdays (support not critique), schedules a weekend retreat in the mountains of NH (we live in MA). Being around their energy, the flow of writing all around us is truly inspiring.

Thanks for the topic and the chance to share, Tielle. We all need and deserve that time to connect deeply with our passion!

Hugs, Rowan

Lynn LaFleur said...

I always come home from a writers' conference eager to get back to writing. I do take my laptop with me, but who has time to write when there are parties to attend?

I think all writers need that little bit of inspiration now and then. We live in our own world with our characters. That can sometimes stifle our writing. Talking to other writers, who understand what we go through, really helps me get the creative juices flowing again.


Mrs. B said...

Great topic! You can't always wait for inspiration from your desk or computer. Don't get stale - get advice, but make sure it's good advice. And definitely follow up by attending the Maui conference. Then stick your hiney back in your chair and get to work. You have readers waiting for your next great story!