The Writing Conference!

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I took a big step in an overwhelmingly positive direction today: I just registered for the Writer’s Digest West Conference. It takes place in Los Angeles October 19-21. I am so deeply excited about this, I can’t stop smiling!

Interesting — yesterday morning, I was writing in my journal about how bored and uninterested in anything I have been feeling, and then one day later it’s a whole different story. I’m so glad I went on the Writer’s Digest site yesterday to read a little about a new contest they’re doing… and saw the ad for the conference… and clicked… and then I knew, instantly, this was something I simply had to try to go to.

The cost is prohibitive, and I spent the afternoon trying to think of ways I could come up with the money in time. Maybe I could sell some stuff? Like a kidney? (only half-kidding…) But then I remembered a very fortuitous thing coming up: At my company, when you’ve been here for 5 years, they give you a bonus check at the end of the fiscal year. I don’t know how much it’s going to be, but at least a couple hundred dollars or so. I should be getting this bonus in the next few weeks.

The only problem with that: the early bird registration, which is $70 less than the regular registration, closes on August 17. I won’t be getting any bonus until at least the following week. So, after talking with my Mom about it, she offered and then, actually insisted, that I let her lend me the money so I can register now. I hate borrowing money from her so much, but I decided this was as good a reason as ever. And she will have that money back by the end of this month, as long as all goes well and they don’t decide, suddenly, to stop doing the 5-year bonus checks for some reason! (That would be just my luck.)

ANYWAY! This is a big deal because I need to do this to kick my writing career into drive, already. It’s been sitting here, getting all dusty in my mind’s garage, for way too many years now. I have always known that writing books is ALL I want to do with my life. Well, that and rescue animals. But for a career? This is it. I have been telling stories since I was a little kid. I love making up stories so much. I love living in my imagination, letting go, encouraging my mind to surprise, amuse and scare me. I am proud of my weird brain. It’s what makes me Me.

FIGHTING MY WORST CRITIC:

I’m not sure why I have pushed it all to the back burner for so much of my life, though. It’s like I am afraid of trying. Why? I mean, I can handle rejection. At least, I think I can. (I haven’t submitted enough to have mountains of rejection letters yet, although I SHOULD.)

I want as many rejection letters as Neil McCormick, in this awesome shot from Killing Bono… enough to spell out “wankers”! (This is a cheap way for me to get a sort-of picture of Ben Barnes into this post… yes, I still adore that man, I can’t help it… and Killing Bono is on Netflix now, you should watch it, amen.)

Getting back on track: I can handle criticism and feedback, and in fact, I love it. It’s fascinating to see what other readers think, notice or want when they read my stuff. I’m always surprised and anxious to change my stuff to make it better. The thing is, I am already my own worst critic, so anything anyone else says is going to be insignificant in scale to the things I already think about my writing.

That right there is my biggest problem: I am too critical of myself. WAY too critical. I get bogged down in trying to analyze everything I’ve written, trying to read it the way an outside reader would, trying to identify plot holes, places where the story drags, worrying that my characters aren’t well-rounded or even likeable, and then I freeze up when it comes to time to do a transition… it’s stupid, that’s what all of this is. I know I need to learn this, but I don’t ever do it, it seems: JUST WRITE. Edit later. Get the story out. Have fun! It’s a waste of time and energy to let myself spin off into this negative territory at the writing stage. Let that come later, when I am revising and trying to make an editor happy. But this part needs to be fun again. I know it can be. I did some writing this week that was fun. So that’s something.

What can I do to keep myself on track? How can I pump myself up and believe I am capable and worthy of putting this time and attention into my stories? Because it’s becoming a do or die situation here. Do I want to go another year feeling like a loser who doesn’t finish her stories? No, I really don’t want to do that. Not anymore. All I feel these days is a crippling sense of regret, for all the lost, wasted years I have had since I moved to AZ. I didn’t accomplish much of anything here. Number one: I didn’t finish my book. But also, I didn’t find the love of my life. I didn’t push myself, challenge myself, professionally. I languished. I have wasted time on things like the houses where I live, worrying about things I can’t control, awful relationships, and just general time-wasting stuff like playing on the internet when I could be writing, or watching TV mindlessly.

All of it has been a distraction. Each of those things was a reason why I couldn’t write, not right now. I’ll do it later. Even this whole new obsession with moving back to NJ is a distraction from my real calling.

It doesn’t matter where I move to. If I don’t act like a writer and do the work of a writer, I am NOT a writer. I’m just someone who says in that vague, non-committal way, “I want to be a fiction writer…someday…” and that’s no longer acceptable. I realize now how life is short and how easily time can be frittered away on useless activities and harmful self-opinions.

I have a few ideas to make actual changes and get things accomplished leading up to this conference.

1)  Join the gym. I know I need to exercise for so many reasons. To lose weight. To look better, to be healthier. But in this case, it’s really to get my blood flowing and endorphins pumping so I can have more energy and motivation to write. I always liked making a playlist for one of my books (always Zachary at this point—I almost can’t remember a time when I didn’t work out to music and think of him) and zone out as I worked out, getting ideas and letting my mind wander. I know I have the treadmill, yes. But I need to do some weight training, too. And I want to try rowing, to get my upper body in shape.

2)  Make my own motivational signs/posters for my house. Put one on the fridge, another in the living room and another in my room. All the places where they will have the most impact; all the places where I am most likely to fall into old, energy and time-wasting habits. I’m tempted to eat mindlessly—so, put a corresponding sign on the fridge. I tend to sit around in my living room and mindlessly watch TV or use the internet—so, a sign needs to go in there, too. Probably right over my TV, in fact. And finally, I want the first thing I see in the morning to be a motivation to get up, and make my day the best, most productive day possible. Maybe I’ll write it on the mirror itself. I don’t know yet.

I love that now I have a goal. A date on the calendar that’s like a deadline. I want to have Zachary’s story finished by the time I go to the conference. It’s not so I can hand it to an agent or anything right then and there. It’s more to know, for myself, that I FINISHED one of my books and it’s ready to go if anyone wants to read it. It’ll make me feel like a real novelist. No, wait. It will make me a real novelist. Unpublished, but still a novelist. And that’s what I want for myself. Regardless of what happens/doesn’t happen at the conference, I want this accomplishment very, very much.

AGENTS:

What’s my main goal for the conference? Landing an agent. Definitely, that. To that end, I am also developing my other two novels so they can be pitched as well, if it comes up. I will write two more chapters of each one of those books. It won’t be that hard, really… the first several chapters of a book are always easier for some reason.

I already know which agents will be there at the conference, and what they are looking for–what genres, what kinds of writers, etc. Sweet. Then, there is a pitch slam on the second day, where for 90 minutes, writers get to visit with as many agents as they can, and share 90-second pitches for their novel(s). Fortunately, the night before, there is a “pitchcraft” session that will help eveyone polish up their pitches and get all geared up to pitch like crazy the next day. I’m ridiculously excited to learn how to pitch these books to get the agents’ attention.

My tendency is to downplay my stuff; to be all modest to a point of it being counterproductive. But now’s the time to stop doing all of that. Now’s the time to SELL IT. Play myself up! Be excited about my unique books! All three of my books are very different from one another, and that’s awesome, I think. I can write so many varied ways. I can write for business magazines, and I can write marketing copy. And my fiction writing covers the following three genres:

* Speculative fiction/ contemporary science fiction

* Paranormal romance

* Fantasy satire/ humor

It’s OK to be proud of this range. I have got to make myself believe that and stop being all humble and crap. Not every writer has this range. This is a very, very good thing and bodes well for my chances at landing an agent.

And I am well-versed in rewriting and revising my writing. That’s what I do, most of the time, in my job. Sure, it’s for the business articles I write and coordinate, but it’s still a skill I am good at after all these years of paid, daily practice. I’m not a total newb at this. I can say I have had 14 years of experience as a professional writer and editor when I speak to an agent. I have to believe that’s a selling point. Sure, it was all non-fiction stuff, but still. It has to count for something.

INVESTMENT:

I’ve never spent this much money on one thing that’s just for me… not since I paid off my college loans, that is. But yeah, spending hard-earned cash on something that’s not flat-out practical and responsible is very hard for me to do. (I don’t mean buying small stuff, like books and clothes. I’ve got no problem there, sadly!) If it’s over $100, it has to be for a VERY GOOD REASON. Like a vet bill, or getting some work done on my house. Or paying down a credit card.

Spending hundreds of dollars on something like this, though? A totally new thing. I’ll admit that my first thought when I saw the cost to do this was “I can’t throw that kind of money away; I’m not that good of a writer yet, anyway.” But for whatever reason, a light went on. A much-needed light. I realized no… this is exactly what I need to spend money on. Screw the house. I’ve sunk enough money into that thing as it is. The pets have the CareCredit card so if I need to take them, I can use that account. It doesn’t need to be cash. And finally, those pesky credit cards: Let’s face it, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Even if I threw $1,000 at my largest balance, it’s not making the kind of dent I wish it would. It’s plenty adequate that I pay every month, on-time and well over the minimum due.

Spending money on this conference is the responsible thing for me to do right now!

Once I got my head around that viewpoint, suddenly it made all the sense in the world to do this. Not doing it would be a big mistake.

So, that’s what’s going on! The biggest thing in my life right now. I’m so happy about it. I feel almost bipolar, given how I felt earlier this week. I was so “mehhh” and lackluster in general. Now, there’s a little surge of bright, shiny happiness that’s woken up my mind and, it also seems, my body. I feel like I’m carrying myself different today. I feel like I can more easily smile and look people in the eye. It’s very cool.

I must make this all last until the conference. And then, I really believe I’ll get a brand-new surge of energy and inspiration to carry me further into whatever the future holds for me and my writing. Either way, this is the start of something BIG.

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