Saturday I went to my first writing conference: Life, the Universe and Everything. It's a speculative fiction conference and since the book I am currently working on is technically "paranormal romance" (although I like to think my book is more sophisticated than that label suggests) I thought I should go. I've heard good things about the conference and with my SLCC student ID I could go for free. I thought going to a conference with tons of other people who want to achieve the same thing as me would make me feel like my dreams were impossible, that the odds were stacked against me. But the opposite happened. I walked away from the conference feeling like my dreams are possible, l just have to keep working hard. Life, the Universe and Everything was a super awesome experience! Here's what I took away from the conference in no particular order (except I do save the best for last).
1. Almost every published author on every panel I attended said they wrote for years and got hundreds of rejection letters before they sold their first book. One of the authors (I really wish I wrote down her name) said that the people who don't get published are the ones who give up. If you keep writing and keep working you will get published.
2. Throw away your first book, even if you love it and its awesome. You have not yet written your best work. (I do agree with this and I think after this rewrite on my current novel I'm going to call it done and move on to another project. Maybe I'll try writing something I won't mind my parents reading.)
3. Read anything and every thing. Read outside of your genre. The more knowledge you have to pull from, the better your stories will be.
4. Subplots are to help build and round out your characters. Characters should have interests and passions outside of what is directly happening in your story and subplots should be used to develop these passions.
5. Ebooks are the future. Getting a print book deal is not what it once was. There are many more opportunities out there to successfully self-publish.
But the real thrill for me has nothing to do with the panels I attended or what I learned about writing and publishing. I met one of my favorite authors!
Let me set the scene: My friend Julie and I were waiting for a panel to start. I am a people watcher and an ease-dropper by nature. I was looking around the room to see if anything interesting was going on. I glanced behind me and there sat Emily Wing Smith (author of The Way He Lived and Back When You Were Easier to Love. If you know what's good for you, read The Way He Lived.). She doesn't write sci-fi or fantasy so I didn't expected to see her there. She smiled at me and I smiled back. After the panel ended I wanted to meet her but I'm really shy. I don't know what to say to normal strangers, let alone strangers I know in a peripheral way that I deeply admire.
Emily Wing Smith crossed to the other side of the room. I said something to Julie about wanting to meet. Julie told me I should go introduce myself because it would make her feel good that someone in this room recognized her and read her books. So I got up from my chair and accosted Emily Wing Smith and blurted, "I love your books!" Not, "Hi, I'm Sarah. I read your books and really enjoyed them." But I seriously practically yelled, "I love your books!" And I was shaking and red-faced and smiling way too big. Emily Wing Smith smiled back and read my name tag and said that It's Nice To Meet You Sarah. And I told her again that I love her books. She asked me about my writing and I gave her a very lame one sentence plot synopsis. Then someone bumped into her or me and so I told her it was nice to meet her and that I love her books.
I don't want to be a stalker but she's doing Writing for Charity next month and I might try to get into her workshop.
In a recent critique session with a long-time friend we both lamented that the revision process seemed never ending for our respective novels. I jokingly suggested we should just give up. She then replied, “I wish I could. But I can't imagine doing anything else with my life.” So there we are, each of us on that long, sour path, to writing novels and hopefully get published.
I've been thinking a lot about why I want to publish and I don't really have any extremely good reasons. It's not to make lots of money or to become famous (those two things rarely happen). I do have a number of rather sad reasons. One reason, an embarrassingly powerful reason, is so I can justify being such a dripping nerd in high school. At least those years of studying too much and reading too many books and being too shy and self-conscious will pay off. I'll show those people (who were never ever mean to me) that while I might have been very quiet, I had a lot going on upstairs and, well, here it is: I've written a book.
But the reason I am more inclined to share with others is that I have stories I think are worth telling and I want a lot of people to hear them.
Hi, I'm Sarah! I write young adult fiction and LDS romance. I live in Salt Lake City, UT with my skinny husband and tiny son. I also am very small.