This past weekend I attended the DFW Writer’s Conference (Dallas/Fort Worth, for those of us not from the South). Let me just say, this conference rocked more than Jon Bon Jovi, and I even stood behind him in concert once on National TV! That’s another tale.
I truly do recommend attending this conference, or one closer to you if cost is a concern, because the information and MOTIVATION that come out of these sessions is priceless. Plus, here’s a bunch of the writers/bloggers I met there: Kait Nolan, Julie Glover, Tiffany A. White, Jenny Hansen, Kristen Lamb, Donna Newton, Piper Bayard, Nigel Blackwell, Jillian Dodd, Roni Loren, Melinda VanLone, Ingrid Schaffenburg, Candace Havens, Kendra Highley, Joann Mannix, fellow Life List Club blogger David N. Walker, and New York Times Bestselling Author James Rollins!
Don’t believe me? I’ve got proof!
Now, why exactly are we celebrating my writing slump?
The DFW Con is my second writing conference. Last year I attended the Madison, Wisconsin Annual Writer’s Institute. You can check out my conference posts if you like: The Do Re Mi of Conference Attending, Creativity? How to Force More of It and Have Fun Too, and City Slickers and Social Media.
Here’s a little bit of backstory of what happened between that conference and this one:
1. I met a group of people at the conference who I totally connected with, who were all writing in the same genre as me (paranormal/fantasy) and who had blogs! Squeee! We swapped contact info and started our own online critique group, rotating weeks and sending in 10 pages.
- Oh yah, it totally bombed. About 3 months in, people were no longer sticking to the schedule, everyone was at such different pacing, many weren’t even blogging regularly (not moi!), and some took on different projects altogether.
2. So, I had an opportunity to join another writing group. The Warrior Writer’s Boot Camp! We focused on making the synopsis clear and the key characters strong. This was so helpful! But it also showed me more holes in my story, and I had to make so many changes I no longer knew what story I was writing.
- What I learned here was invaluable. It was great to have a group fully dive in with feedback and meaningful questions. I also realized this was no longer a story I knew how to write because it had entirely changed.
3. Then NaNoWriMo happened! Ok, here it is! All or nothing, I’m cracking this baby out in one month! Not sure where I’m going, doesn’t matter! I’m writing this bad
- Um, hello, I work in retail! What was I thinking trying to whip out 50K on a book I hadn’t plotted or outlined well during the peak month of Christmas shopping?! Stupid, stupid, stupid!
I’m celebrating my writing slump because I learned some hard lessons along the way. It was irrevocably and irretrievably pounded into my brain this weekend that I had not planned well. I half-a**ed my book outline and pantsed the rest expecting word nirvana to appear for me with little effort. I wasted time. Plain and simple. I wasted time, and I let myself down.
A few things have changed for me between that last conference and this one. For one, while I was one of the few people at the previous conference who had started blogging, now everybody has a blog, and they also have a twitter handle, a facebook page, they’re on Pinterest, and they’re launching their own website. Second, the whole market has changed. Where self-publishing was represented by a panel here and there, in the course of one year, at least one session each hour covered a panel or speaker discussing and promoting self-publishing options and how to hybrid with traditional publishing.
There were things that remained the same too. We know that we’re living in the Wild Wild West of Publishing now. Things are changing rapidly and every day we don’t actively write or market our book is a day wasted in this fast-paced technology driven world. There are more options than ever, but it’s important to research them and plan your platform and marketing pitch just as much as it’s important to edit and revise your work until it’s the best possible writing.
Traditional publishers are looking for the goose that lays the golden egg. If the goose stops laying golden eggs, then the publishers are going to kill the goose and roast him for dinner. So, what that means for us as writers, is we always have to keep writing. We’ve got to have a plan for what that next project is going to be. And if we don’t, expect to get fried by your agent.
Sound harsh? Think of it this way: Don’t you want people to demand more books from you? If you’re like me, working on that first novel, what’s your plan for the next one? If you haven’t thought about it, you’re in danger of becoming a one hit wonder. And that’s only IF you get the first one published.
Here’s a success story of epic proportions. James Rollins, remember me mentioning him, the NYT Bestselling Author? Yah, that one! During his keynote speech, he shared with us while he was still a veterinarian starting out writing, he wrote several different books, some in the thriller genre and some in the fantasy genre. He also received about 50 rejections letters, including one particularly personal handwritten note that read, “This is unpublishable.” But, he kept writing.
He happened to meet, at a conference no less, an agent who was interested in his fantasy series, a storyline previously unsupported by his other agent. Now, he was in the midst of two agents wanting to help publish his work, but only because he continued to write books even when it seemed no one wanted to read them.
Still not sold on the planning and preparedness of this process as a business strategy? Well, how many of you are hoping for the proverbial writer’s dream of quitting your day job, telling your boss to suck it, and moving into the castle across the moat from J.K. Rowling? Then you better plan to make some money on your books.
Bestselling author Lori Wilde was another speaker at the conference and she broke it down like this:
- On average, most writers will make about $15,000/year on their book.
- Subtract the 15% share the agent takes of that.
- Subtract the ___% share the publisher takes off of that.
- And now you’re left with your shiny new book in print that your boss at Starbucks won’t let you put next to the Pike’s Place roast on Buy One Get One Tuesdays!
So what you need to do is determine how much money you want to make a year, and based on the above numbers, calculate how many books you’d need to write and publish each year.
I’m not sharing this information to depress you into taking your crinkled pages of manuscript as scratch paper for next month’s grocery list. Well, maybe I am, it betters my chances of success. I’m sharing this information because I think it’s so crucial to know about your business if you want to be a writer. A writer with more than one book out there and who doesn’t have to also work the drive thru window her entire career.
A few of my favorite de-slumping activities (I’m an expert at slumping, so I get to make up words about it) are:
- Experience the world with all 5 senses (Blindfold yourself if you have to!)
- Listen to the sound of silence. When you hear noise/nature again, it will all be amplified.
- “Even if it’s a negative thing, stop and appreciate it because it’s teaching you something.” – Lori Wilde
- Get back to the basics.
- Write something totally different.
- Don’t whine! Breathe and then get it over with.
All of us have slumps, when do you hit yours? What advice got you out of it? What tricks or tips help you move past it?
What do you think of the ever-changing nature of our business? Are you excited about this Wild Wild West of publishing? Do you know another writer success story?