The authors and subject matter experts chosen to present at the conference did a fantastic job. Friday evening, Jess Walter was the keynote speaker. I was immediately captivated by his wit, but I appreciated his honesty as an author. A lot of writers shy away from baldly stating how difficult it is to write a story that is marketable, let alone captivating to a broad audience of readers. Jess Walter managed to do that magnificently with Beautiful Ruins, but it took him 15 years. Part of me sat there thinking, "Thank God," while the other part thought, "Oh s@#$." While it's a bit of a relief to hear that everyone can struggle (and this is a man who produced best sellers in the interim), it made me realize that it's time to put a couple of my concepts in a drawer for safe keeping and walk away for a while. Maybe a year. Maybe eight. As my grandmother would say, straining is a great way to get hemorrhoids - might as well not force it.
The honesty continued with Larry Brooks. He had some fantastic guidance around fiction writing. I wasn't able to stay for his presentation on Sunday, and I was extremely sad after sitting in his classes on Saturday. I was so impressed that I purchased one of his books, Story Engineering, and plan on devouring it, taking notes, and immediately applying the logic to a few of my active projects. His no nonsense approach could be heavy handed for some, but I personally value a straight shooter. Critique is an integral part of improving my craft: it's the only way to know what's broken.
Write On The River also offered the opportunity to meet with an editor and an agent. I originally signed up a couple months ago thinking, "We'll see." I decided to go through with pitching on Monday and threw myself into researching what is expected of the author. This research opened up a world I wasn't expecting and wish I had the foresight to delve into sooner. But more on that later.
My only critique is of the brown bag on Social Media. While the gentlemen presenting had some really valid points around branding and Social Media, I wish they had emphasized the importance of establishing an online presence and brand prior to submitting for publication.
My key takeaways from Write On The River:
- Start branding and establishing a social media presence ASAP
- Enter writing competitions - it builds the resume!
- Know your genre
- Larry Brooks is wicked smart
- Preparation is key for a successful meeting with an agent