An Introvert’s Guide to Writers Conferences

by Connilyn Cossette,@ConniCossette 

Last week was the annual ACFW conference, which, for many writers, is one of the highlights of the year. Let me tell you, stepping out of my comfort zone to pursue a writing career was scary enough, but going to that first conference to mingle with hundreds of people I didn’t know was terrifying. If you are an introvert like me, then the prospect of small talk with strangers is a little like nails on the chalkboard, but if you have a plan you can face any writers conference with confidence.

The best way I’ve found to push past my natural bent to clam up during writers conferences is to brainstorm conversation starters in advance. Open-ended questions are best, so try to avoid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type questions if possible. Here are some great ones to get you started:

  • How long have you been writing?
  • Which genre do you write?
  • Which sessions are you attending?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish this week?
  • Tell me about your work in progress.
  • Who are your favorite authors?
  • What got you started writing?
  • What great tips have you learned so far this week?
  • What’s your elevator pitch? (This has the benefit of helping people practice!)
  • Which agents/editors are you meeting with?
  • How are your appointments going so far?
  • Which critique group are you a part of?

The possibilities are endless! Write a few of them down if you are nervous and scan over them before you head to a meal or a class to keep them fresh in your mind. And don’t forget to bring your business cards wherever you go, exchanging cards is a great way to break the ice.

Also, keep in mind that the writing industry is full of introverts. We are, in general, a very introspective sort, which is a great strength for a writer. Start out by assuming that most of the people in the room are probably feeling a lot like you, a little out of sorts, a little insecure, and more interested in making strong connections than meaningless small-talk. At my first conference, I was at a table all by myself, feeling like a fish out of water, when two gals purposefully sat down on either side of me and engaged me in conversation. That breakfast was the beginning of two very precious friendships and writing partnerships for me. So make an effort to search out someone looks a little uncomfortable or is standing alone, you never know if that person is a future writing partner, a future best friend, or just someone who will help you practice your pitch or pray with you before an appointment.

So relax fellow introvert, plan ahead, keep yourself open to divine appointments, and keep in mind that all of us writers are just a wee bit different than the “normals,” anyhow.

Tweet: An Introvert’s Guide to Writers Conferences by @connicossette via @Novel.Academy #writing https://ctt.ec/c09bu+

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Connilyn Cossette is the CBA Best-Selling author of the Out from Egypt Series with Bethany House Publishing. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for both an INSPY Award and a Christian Retailing’s Best Award. There’s not much she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible, uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus, and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives in a little town near Dallas, Texas with her husband of twenty years and two awesome kids, who fill her days with laughter, joy, and inspiration. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

Your Spiritual Packing List

by Angela Arndt, @aearndt

The 2017 ACFW Conference starts in the next week or so and the tension is already in the air. (My air, at least.) Will I get the appointments I want? Will I talk to the editors who publish the type of book I write?

Worry hangs like a backpack for weeks before the conference. Will I come home with a request for a query? A proposal? A full? Or, empty-handed?

I worry about my professional presence:

  • Does my One Sheet reflect my book well enough?
  • Is my elevator speech interesting?
  • And those pesky business cards: can I find them, should I update them, do I even need them?

I worry about getting there:

  • The TSA regulations, what should I carry on and what should I pack?
  • Which shoes are the easiest to get on and off?
  • Will I be able to get to the correct gate and make my connecting flight in time?

Sound familiar? I would do better to focus on this list, too:

  • Prepare to do the best I can.
  • Make a list of things to do and take.
  • Check off the items as I go.
  • Then forget it.

By that I mean stop worrying. (Yes, I’m talking to myself as I write this.)

  • Stop worrying about how people look at you.
  • Stop worrying if you’ll get an agent, an editor, or a contract.
  • Stop worrying if you’ll get a request for a query, proposal, partial or full.

Some of you may think this is your last conference, your last chance to accomplish your dream. I’ve been there, too, but you never know what God has in mind. Open your heart and mind to His leading. In order to do that, you (and I) need to make one more checklist.

Here’s your Spiritual Packing List.

  • Focus on how the conference will bless you. Remember, you’ll be with thousands who have a common goal of glorifying Christ with their story. When we sing, it’ll be like a tiny slice of heaven.
  • Okay, that’s a given but if I were to post all the things we could pray about, the list would be a whole post by itself. Thankfully, the ACFW staff and volunteers have prepared a 40 Days of Prayer for the ACFW Conference in the ACFW loop emails.
  • Bless others. How? Listen with your heart and watch for those who need encouragement. Find someone who is more nervous than you. Invite a lone passenger into the elevator, even if you have to crowd to get him or her in. If someone’s standing alone in the dining room, call them over your table. Pray with someone who is visibly upset.

After the conference is over when you’re tired and ready to go home, remember the ways you blessed someone and you’ll never remember being nervous.

Click to Tweet: Attending an upcoming #writers conference? @aearndt shares your spiritual packing list #writing https://ctt.ec/0xUHa+

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Angela Arndt writes women’s fiction with a thread of romance. Stories of strong, independent women in difficult situations set in small Southern towns are her favorite. She and her husband live outside one in the middle of a big wood with thousands and thousands of honeybees. Visit her at www.angelaarndt.com

 

Honing Your Craft Through Reading

by Alena Tauriainen, writing as @AlenaWendall

When I started this writing journey, I believed I could set my schedule and everything would line up so I could write. Can you hear God laughing? Really, I’m sure you’re snorting. I know I am.

There are times when I come home after working a 50-hour work week, the house is dirty, dinner still needs to be cooked, the dogs have torn up the garage and the laundry is flowing outside of the laundry room. I have no mental energy to write.

I stare at my TBR pile longingly. You know that pile of books sitting on your night stand? The books that you don’t have time to read. Yep, that pile. 

I can’t possibly take the time to read, I mean, look at the state of my house. I should be cleaning not reading! Then I make an executive decision, I pull leftovers from the freezer, send another teenager to clean up the mess in the garage, throw a load or two of laundry in the washer. (My husband is forever complaining about over stuffing the washing machine – hey, it’s why I bought the heavy duty one.)

Then I notify any person that wants to continue living—Mom has had a rough week and she is going to indulge. Those who want to meet Jesus can interrupt her with trivial things. I know I just earned the bad Mom award, but, y’all, my kids are 15, 17, 20 and 22. They will survive.

I select one of my favorite authors from my TBR pile and pull out some highlighters from the overstock of school supplies that are always in our house. I prepare to work on my craft.

How? 

I read to learn.

I may not have the mental energy to write but I can learn from the best. As I read, I look for elements that make a great story or techniques I struggle with. I usually take note of:

  • The inciting incident, the noble quest, the disasters, the disappointments, the happily ever after.
  • The laying in of a spiritual thread. How the author plants the bread crumbs. 
  • Metaphors
  • Settings
  • Emotions

I use a different color for each item. It might look like this:

  • Spiritual Thread – Red
  • Metaphors – Yellow
  • Settings – Blue
  • Emotions – Purple

I also create a legend in front of the book with a Post-it note so I can remember what each color represents. 

So the next time, you are totally drained, it’s not all lost. You can pick up that book from your TBR pile—Guilt free. You are working!

Click to Tweet: Honing Your Career Through #Reading by @alenawendall via @NovelAcademy #writing https://buff.ly/2iIqtoo

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Writing as Alena Wendall, Alena Tauriainen pens contemporary Christian romance novels that always end with a happily ever after. By day, she partners with her lifelong mate Clyde, to run the family HVAC business. She manages both business and family life with four lovable but crazy kids. She is the Retreats Coordinator for My Book Therapy. She is represented by Rachelle Gardner with Books & Such Literary Management. Visit her at alenawendall.com.  

Five Ways to Avoid Writer’s Slump

By Nick K., @Nickesque

Most days I love to write. Then there are those days, weeks and sometimes, I’m sorry to admit, months, where I’ve been in a writing slump. Whether it’s writer’s block or just plain procrastination, writer’s slump can be disastrous, especially on a deadline. I’ve learned that the sooner I realize I’m in a slump, the easier it is to get back on track.

So, look around your writing space. Is it too neat? Have you alphabetized your craft books, bookshelf, and to-read pile? Are there more than three empty Caffe Bene, or Starbucks cups in your trash can? Have you organized your photos, color-coded your file folders and renamed every document on your laptop? You may be in a slump.

While these may be symptoms of a slump, the true test is to see how long it’s been since you wrote more than 300 words. More than a week and you aren’t plotting, editing or on vacation? You may be in a slump. If dust has taken up residence on your laptop, there is no way you’ve been writing.  If so, wipe off the dust, power on the laptop and get to writing.

Better yet, don’t let it get that far. There are many things you can do to avoid a writer’s slump. Some of my favorites include:

1. Keep a Word Count Chart: When on a deadline, a word count chart with daily and weekly goals is a must have. There’s nothing technical about this.  No need to order a fancy one online. Just write it on a notepad, calendar (only if it’s visible when you sit at your writing space) or Post-it notes.

My chair faces two monthly chalkboard-style calendar whiteboards leaning against my wall. They are the first things I see before I turn my laptop on. That’s where I write freelance deadlines, goals and word counts. Because I like color, different whiteboard markers indicate each project’s deadlines and word counts. Post-it notes also work with the added satisfaction in pulling each one off when the goal is met, which is the next tip.

2. Set Goals: Make them small – at least at first. Break them into achievable portions. This is especially true if you’ve been in a slump, but equally applicable when starting a project. A goal of 10,000 words per day for 30 days sets you up to fail.

10,000 words is a roll, not a goal. When achieved, celebrate it but don’t demand it. Increase your goal to a reasonable number (there is no magic number) and then think of it like interval training and change the goal up some days so you get mini breaks.

3. Overachieve:  The good thing about setting smaller goals is surpassing them. Overachieving creates a feeling of success, which, in turn, empowers you to keep writing. Overachieving isn’t limited to word counts but includes everything from plotting to editing.

4. Write what you like: It is much easier to stay motivated if you love what you are writing about. Plot twists, characters, and narrative come much easier when you are excited about them.

If your friends buy you biscuit tins and oversized hats for every occasion, you might want to set your story in England, which leads to the next tip.

5. Engage: Writers need writers. We are the only ones who understand why we talk to ourselves and write snippets of conversations or descriptions of people on napkins. Writing friends encourage each other, hold each other accountable, help each other and, celebrate and cry with each other.

And, of course, don’t give up because someone out there needs to hear your story, even if that someone is just you.

(Click to Tweet): 5 Ways to Avoid Writer’s Slump by @Nickesque via @NovelAcademy #writing https://ctt.ec/7492K+

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A Frasier Bronze Medalist, Rattler finalist and Splickety Love finalist, Nick writes contemporary, speculative and modern-day adaptations of Biblical stories with a touch of romance, as well as Christian living, Bible studies, and devotionals. You can find her on Twitter & Instagram and at nickesque.com.