By Susan May Warren
Are you home from the ACFW conference? Finally unpacked? I hope you came home filled with encouragement and new ideas on how to make your writing breathtaking.
Conferences can be overwhelming, between the requests for proposals or full manuscripts, new story ideas, craft lessons, marketing epiphanies and loads of new friends. Where and how do you start to process all this information?
1. Organize your contacts: Sit down a make a list of everyone you met, from editors to fellow authors, to newbies. I always have a bazillion biz cards, and I just take a moment to input those into my outlook contacts.
2. Reach out. If there are editors or agents who gave you their time, even in an elevator to listen to your proposal, thank them. If they asked you for a submission, thank them and tell them that you’ll be sending it. Thank the new authors you met who spent time with you. If you’ve met someone just beginning their journey, reaching out to encourage them is a way to remind yourself of where you’ve been. This is how you build connections.
3. Start a “Huddle” or Craft Group. This is not a critique group, but a group of writers committed to learning together. One of the best things that Rachel Hauck and I do is compare notes on similar books. We’ll both read a book and then talk about the craft we learned in it. Or she reads a book and tells me what she learned, and I read a book and mention what I learned. Working together you can start to apply what you learned at conference.
4. Organize your plan of action. No doubt you’ll have come home with something you’d like to work on in your story. If it is something you are going to weave into the plot or the first three chapters, knuckle down and do this immediately before you send in your proposal. If you have a list of new teaching tips to add into your ms, then make a list, and apply these, step by step in to your story. Don’t try and tackle it all at once – get one element down, then move to the next.
5. Respond to those requests for proposals. If you’ve received a request to send in a proposal, or a full, then, Yay! and Oh Boy, because now you have an open door that you want to use wisely.
Now that you’ve attended the conference, you may want to hold off submitting until you have applied changes to your MS. If you have quick revisions, go ahead and apply them, easiest to hardest, to the synopsis and first three chapters. Your can fix the rest of the book while the agent/editor is reading over my proposal.
However: if it is a full book rewrite, write to them and tell them you’ll contact them when it is finished. You don’t want an agent to read your proposal, be excited about it, only to have you say…sorry, it’ll be six months before I get the rest to you.
The key is to keep communicating. If it takes you until mid-November to rewrite, then simply send your agent/editor a Christmas note giving them an update on the story. I promise they’re not waiting by the computer for your submission, but it’s courtesy to let them know what’s going on.
My advice: Follow up on every proposal request with the appropriate information:
1. A Thank you and your ready proposal
2. A Thank you, and an update on when you’ll send it.
3. A Thank you and an “I’m not ready yet, but can I contact you later when I am” request.
Conferences are a great boost to your writing journey – but the key is to beat the Post-Conference Blues and get to work!
Susan May Warren is the Christy, RITA and Carol award-winning author of over forty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press. Two time Christy winner, RITA winner, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the book, Conversations with a Writing Coach.
She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a craft and coaching community for novelists. For more help on your writing journey, visit www.mybooktherapy.com (or www.learnhowtowriteanovel.com).