Tag Archives: networking

Why having friends who write is awesome

Community.I’ve mentioned before how nice it is to have people I can talk shop with, but Midwest Writers Workshop really drove that home for me last weekend. As much as I love my family and friends who don’t write, none of them will truly understand what it’s like to be in the query trenches or on submission or pitching to an agent. R&R is just more likely to mean “rest and relaxation” than “revise and resubmit” to them. It’s hard for them to grasp both how exciting signing with an agent is and how signing with an agent doesn’t mean your book will be on shelves next week.

If you’re a writer who sees writing as your career, I highly recommend you have at least one friend who also considers writing a career. Have someone who gets what you’re going through, someone you can celebrate and commiserate with, someone who’ll swap queries with you and provide honest feedback on what isn’t working. Find your people, and cheer each other on. Celebrate their successes. Be there for them when things aren’t going well.

We all need someone who will pick us up when we’re down, and encourage us to keep going when we’re in a rut. And there’s no greater feeling than celebrating with a friend who’s just signed with an agent or gotten her first ARC or has her first book out in the world.

How did you find your writing community?

Why I entered Pitch Wars

Pitch Wars. For those not familiar with Pitch Wars, it’s a contest hosted by Brenda Drake in which published or agented writers volunteer to mentor an unagented writer, helping her polish her manuscript and pitch in preparation for the agent round when literary agents will view the pitches and request material that interests them. Chosen mentees must be prepared to edit their entire manuscript, and be willing to accept ruthless — but helpful! — critique.

While I would love to be chosen as one of the mentees or alternates, the chance to get my work in front of agents is only part of the reason I entered Pitch Wars. Contests like this are great ways to connect with other writers, even if your work isn’t chosen. Simply preparing to enter has already expanded my virtual network of writers — I’ve commented on multiple blogs, tweeted at a few mentors and fellow entrants, and added many forthcoming books to my to-read list that I might not have come across had I not been researching the various mentors to decide whom to apply to. I’m a chronic lurker on blogs and Twitter hashtags, and Pitch Wars has given me something to talk about and contribute to conversations.

You may have heard this before, but I think the biggest, most lasting benefits to contests like Pitch Wars are the connections you make with other writers. I’ve already made a few, and I’m still waiting to hear if I’ve been chosen as a mentee or alternate. Even if your manuscript isn’t ready for Pitch Wars, I encourage you to check out the mentors’ blogs and follow them on Twitter — you’ll probably find some people who write your genre or have the same favorite books (and maybe one of their books will become your new favorite!).

For those who don’t make it into Pitch Wars, Miss Snark will be holding a Baker’s Dozen contest soon. Check out her blog for more details!

Have any of you entered Pitch Wars? Are there other contests you’re planning to enter? Please share in the comments!

MWW Takeaways

Our extended writing family at MWW.

Our extended writing family at MWW

I just got back from Midwest Writers Workshop, where I learned a lot and spent time with some truly amazing people. The biggest takeaway for me this year was networking — lots of writers I know mostly on Twitter or only see a few times a year were there, plus I got to meet some new writers who weren’t previously on my radar. Gushing about the great times we had talking writing and life in general won’t help you any, so I’ll only say this about networking: I’m proud to be a contributing part of this creative, supportive community.

If you’re still writing in a bubble, I strongly encourage you to reach out to other writers. Whether you meet them at a conference or through contests or Twitter, having a supportive network is one of the best things you can do for your writing career. For contests, a great place to start is Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars if you have a completed manuscript. Even if you’re not ready to enter contests, just looking at others’ entries can help you meet people who write what you write. I know several people who met critique partners through comments on a blog contest — they had similar tastes and writing styles and decided to trade pages.

Besides networking, another thing that was mentioned a lot at the conference was the importance of knowing what publishing route you want to take before you start submitting. I already know I want to sign with an agent and publish traditionally, but that’s just one of many paths to publication. Writers can also submit their work directly to small presses, or they can choose to self-publish. I think different routes work better for different writers; ultimately, you have to decide what’s best for you and your book. However, both agents and authors at MWW agreed that you should know what that is before you start querying.

Why? Agents like to control where they send their clients’ manuscripts. If a small press offers to publish your manuscript at the same time an agent is reading it, you may be forced to make some tough decisions. Telling the agent about the offer might make her more inclined to read your work quickly, or it might make her more inclined to pass on the project. You don’t want to hurt your chances at getting an agent (if you decide that’s what you want) because you’ve submitted to small presses, too.

So, know which path you want to take from the start.

Those are my two big business-end takeaways from MWW. I’ve already got next year’s conference marked on my calendar!

The Benefits of Writing Conferences

Midwest Writers Workshop. In two days I’ll be headed to Midwest Writers Workshop, and I’m really excited to attend craft sessions, network, and pitch my book to a couple agents! Last year, I attended MWW — my first ever writing conference — and it really jump-started my career. The other writers I met at MWW became some of my best critique partners — and best friends — and I’m looking forward to a reunion this year!

For writers who are on the fence about attending a conference, I highly recommend finding one in your area. Here are my top reasons why:

1. Opportunities to pitch to agents and/or get agents’ feedback on your pitch, query, or sample pages. This varies from conference to conference, but even just attending a panel where agents talk about the submission process and what they’re looking for can be a huge help. For those who are just getting started, or are just starting to query, conferences can teach you a lot about the business side of writing.

2. Craft sessions. I do a fair amount of reading about craft, but that can’t substitute for live sessions where you can ask questions and get feedback from both instructors and other writers. Last year, my favorite MWW session was a look at first lines taught be John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary. This year, I’m looking forward to Daniel Jose Older’s sessions on writing the other, since one of my protagonists in my current project (not the one I’m pitching) is very different from myself.

3. Opportunities to network with other writers. So much of writing is a solitary activity. MWW was my first exposure to a living, breathing writing community. From the first minute — walking in from the parking lot, actually — I was talking with other writers, practicing pitches, critiquing and getting critiqued. It was so refreshing to talk with and learn from other writers, and I wound up meeting several of my current critique partners that weekend.

4. Opportunities to meet other writers. I’m listing this as a separate item, because not only did I leave MWW with new critique partners, I also left it with new friends. The people I met there have become some of my best friends. These are the people I will celebrate, commiserate, vent, laugh, and even cry with. People who know and understand what it’s like to be a writer, whether that means working through writer’s block or wading through the slush pile or being a member of the infamous “sub club.” Or, you know, people to talk about normal stuff like moving and kids and new jobs with. (Surprise literary baby shower, anyone?)

So, if you’re trying to decide whether to hit the conference scene or not, I say, do it! It is absolutely worth it. I can’t wait to meet up with the writers I met at last year’s MWW, and am looking forward to meeting new friends and CPs.

I’ll check in next week with a review of this year’s MWW. Until then, happy writing!

And if any of you are going to MWW, be sure to say hi!

MWW Review

I sat down to write this review and realized I’m incapable of expressing how incredible Midwest Writer’s Workshop was without sounding like a squealing pre-teen who just shook hands with Justin Bieber.  In all seriousness, though, this conference makes the top five best experiences of my life.  Here are just a few reasons why.

For starters, the conference had something for everyone.  Whether you were looking to improve your writing, get feedback on your work, pitch to agents, or just network with other writers, there was a place for you at MWW.  Personally, I was most interested in the craft workshops and meeting local writers.  A recent transplant to central Indiana, I knew there had to be other writers in the area, but I didn’t know how to find them.  What I encountered at MWW was a much larger community than I’d anticipated who live within an hour of my home.  More than meeting a community, though, I met people who I hope will become good friends as well as critique partners.

Outside of networking, the craft sessions taught me not only about style but also about the business side of writing.  Shout-out to Hank Phillippi Ryan, whose sessions helped me think about my book in a new way, and helped me nail down that one-sentence log line.  Thanks also to John Cusick, whose presentation on first lines was my favorite of the conference.  The examples came from some of my favorite books, and I loved getting an agent’s feedback on the first line of my novel.

Finally, many thanks to the scores of other writers who let me practice my pitch on them, offered feedback, and shared their pitches with me.  It was so neat hearing about everyone else’s projects!

Okay, this is starting to sound too fan-girly for me, so I’m going to end here.  Great job, MWW committee, faculty, and attendees!  I can’t wait to see you again next year.