A Post by Barbara Scott
Many of you have attended—or will attend—a writer’s conference. Hundreds of authors will attend the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference this week in St. Louis, searching for someone who will publish their manuscript. Some will feel encouraged… but many of you may go through a phase of feeling overwhelmed or even discouraged. You’ll get so much advice… hear so many success stories… and you may begin to think it will never happen for you. It’s just too hard. Don’t worry, this is normal!
I know of one author who wrote five or six manuscripts before she was offered a contract. She attended workshops at writers’ conferences and had appointments with agents and editors. She took their advice and applied it to her manuscripts. She persevered. She worked at her craft until someone recognized her talent. She is now the author of several published Christian historical romances.
Diamonds are rough, dirty rocks before a master jeweler makes the first cut. In a skilled hand, a gem finally emerges. You may be that polished stone ready to be set, or you may be someone who’s rushing the process. It takes time to develop your voice. Attend those workshops, learn as much as you can, and take it home to begin processing and applying the information.
At the conference, you may have appointments with agents and editors. Do you want to succeed? Keep the appointment! Seems like a simple concept, and yet you can’t imagine how many people blow off their appointments. They start to feel unworthy, or not ready, or someone tells them they can’t pitch an agent if their manuscript isn’t finished. Listen, if you have an appointment, keep it. Use it to make a connection and get feedback.
And make those workshops “work” for you! If you’re sitting in a workshop that isn’t resonating, slip out the back and into another class. You plan and prepare for this once-a-year conference, marking the workshops you need to attend, but your plans should be flexible. You might have a chance meeting with one of your favorite authors in Starbucks.
During mealtimes sit at different tables and network with the people you meet. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but at every conference I’ve found that people of like interests will be drawn to sit together for a meal and conversation.
Join a group for coffee or sit in the lobby with a new friend. We always assume we’ve attended a conference for our own benefit, but wouldn’t it be great if you could encourage another writer who’s ready to give up the dream?
Year after year I hear the most amazing stories about how someone first came to be published. It might have been because they met an agent, editor, or another author in the hallway and struck up a conversation. I often ask experienced authors for recommendations of an up-and-coming writer.
One night at dinner an author told me his inspiring story about attending his first writers’ conference where he received a harsh critique of his work. Convinced that his desire to write boys’ books was nothing more than a pipedream, he left the critique room and strode down an empty hallway toward the outside door.
All that stood between him and the door to giving up his dream was one small woman—an agent who just happened to block his way. She encouraged him to continue writing, and he has now published several devotionals for boys, who are often neglected in the publishing world.
When you feel discouraged or depressed about whether you’ll ever be published and don’t know why you even went to the conference, remember these stories, and those of a thousand other authors. And please, don’t forget to keep your appointments.