Earlier this month I had the incredible opportunity to attend the UW Writer’s Institute in Madison, WI. Thanks to the invitation from my writing/critique partner Marci, I was able to spend three full days immersed in words and wisdom. (An invitation is not required to attend, but going with a friend is always more fun!) There is nothing quite like being surrounded by people who love the same thing you do. If you ever get the change to attend such a conference, trust me when I say, GO!
Below is a list of ten pieces of advice given by rockstar instructors and presenters at the Writer’s Institute. It is by no means and exhaustive list of all I learned, but it will give you a flavor of the quality and scope of the event. Happy reading and writing!
“Forgive yourself. You can’t do it all, and that’s okay.” – Dan Blank
It is appropriate that this piece of advice comes first. Dan was our keynote speaker on day one and his message was an important one to consider. Being a writer is a multifaceted monster of a career to tackle. Social media posts, querying agents and publishers, maintaining a blog, doing public appearances and oh yeah, writing a book. Dan let us know that it is impossible for anyone person to do it all, and that you shouldn’t beat yourself up about your inability to be and do all things. I know this is a struggle many writer’s face and it was nice to hear I was not only not alone, but that I also could give myself permission to focus on just a few tasks and do them well.
“Nothing in this world takes the place of persistence.” – Hank Phillippi Ryan
“If writing is not hard for you, you are probably doing it wrong.” – Hank Phillippi Ryan
Yes, Hank gets two quotes. She was that good. Anyone who wants to succeed in this business has got to be willing to work hard. There is no way around it. This no-nonsense lady proved her point in both words and actions, as she could be seen speaking at the podium, chatting with conference attendees and attending classes lead by other instructors.
“Make friends with book stores/sellers and librarians. Go to events. Buy books there instead of having Amazon deliver them to your house. Build relationships long before your book is for sale.” – Mare Swallow
So often we are only focused on what others can do for us and our success… especially when we are trying to sell a book… especially when we are trying to sell our own book. Mare makes a good point. Build the relationship first. Do it before you even have a book written and ready for sale! Then, many months down the road when you are looking for venues for a book launch party or a book club to introduce your book too, you have friends to ask.
“Have friends in every city across the US ask their library for your book. Librarians buy requested books and then, read them and the best part, tell others about them!” – Bibi Belford
Simply brilliant. Everyone has friends far away. High school friends who moved away. College friends who spread their wings to new destinations. Distant family you only see once every other year at reunions. They all have hometown libraries. It costs them nothing to request your book… even if they have their very own autographed copy at home. A few additional sales and potential new fans nationwide, what could be better? Feel free to return the favor for other author friends!
“In a series, be careful not to change your main character too much. They can grow, but don’t lose the character your reades fell in love with.” – Bradley Beaulieu
This is an interesting point I hadn’t considered before… which probably means I hadn’t been giving it adequate thought or attention. Make a list of your main character’s endearing qualities and then stick to them. While a character can adapt, don’t lose those essential characteristics that make them uniquely yours. Food for thought as you write your series!
“Don’t treat your writing with intention, give it attention.” – Laurie Buchanan
Writing is tough work. It takes mental stamina. Giving it any less than 100% of your focus and attention will result in poor quality work. Giving your work attention means also scheduling your writing time and sticking to it. Intending to write each night for two hours and actually giving your undivided attention to a manuscript, a blog post or rewrite for two full hours are entirely different things. Make sure you are the writer that pays attention to your work, instead of only intending to get tasks done.
“Make your readers angry with you because they can’t put the book down. Do this by building empathy for your character by creating compelling circumstances with perfect timing.” – Kristen Oakley
“There are three ingredients to a thickly plotted, richly layered store: outstanding concept, true to life characters and a tight, cohesive, engaging plot.” – Josie Brown
Do you know what are my favorite types of sessions at writing conferences? The sessions where authors sharing their secrets to writing incredible stories. I love to listen to their tips and figure out how to make them work in my own work… with my own twist of course. I habitually do this while I am reading novels in my writing genre, but to have someone do all the decoding work ahead of time and just tell you what works??? Now that is the best! Thanks Kristen and Josie for these writing gems!
“There is nothing like sharing time and space with people who go all geeky and gaga for the same thing as you. Time at a conference is invaluable, rejuvenating, and wondrous!! Not to mention, you deserve it!” – Amanda Zieba
This last quote comes to you from yours truly. If you have been contemplating attending a conference, go for it! You will not regret the time or money you spend on this career enhancing event. This can be true for writing or any other field of interest be it writing, reading, dirt bike racing, gardening, star gazing, or coin collecting. Tell me in the comments below… what has been your favorite conference (writing or otherwise) you have attended, or what conference is on your bucket list?