Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day, most of which I spent inside at the Southern California Writers’ Conference — and it was well worth it.
Actually, I spent more of my day teaching sessions than attending sessions — but it was great to see the energy of all the writers, to hear all their thoughtful questions, and to read a few samples of their work. I was particularly happy to see such a nice crowd at my afternoon revision session — revision being such a necessary part of the writing process, yet often one of the least fun for many writers.
And later, in their afternoon panel, several agents and editors confirmed the importance of having polished work. The panel featured agent (and former editor) Claire Gerus; agent Natanya Wheeler of Lowenstein-Yost; Jeff Moores of Dunow, Carlson & Lerner; and editor Lynn Price of Behler Publications.
When asked about the biggest mistakes writers make when submitting to an agent or a small press, the answers were issues that can all be resolved with careful revision: grammatical errors, point-of-view switches, having too much backstory too early on (a structural issue), as well as an overall “lack of preparedness” on the part of the writer.
The panel also talked about the difficulties for writers in the current economy (writers can expect lower advances); the fact that writers need to be their own publicists, or hire one; and the advantages of using Internet to promote one’s book. It was nice to hear them emphasize that it’s the quality of writing that gets their attention, not a trendy topic; they’re looking for timeless books rather than a hot topic.
I also spoke to a couple people who did the Rogue Workshops (these are the ones that begin at 9 p.m. and last indefinitely), some of which finished shortly after midnight and others that lasted past 3 a.m. They sounded like so much fun that I’m (almost ) sorry to have been sleeping through them.