The Method, The Market & The Muse - a catchy slogan and one that encompasses the focus of the South Carolina Writers' Workshop's 20th Annual Writers' Conference. For some reason my mind wants to add 'The Madness' in the line-up as well . . .which would probably cover both the excitement in the industry and the frenzy in organizing this large event! But for my series of posts I'll stick to the official three: The Method, The Market & The Muse.
I admit I'm a sucker for surprises, spontaneity and serendipity, and I'll look for those moments at the conference - but those will be moments, not my approach to the weekend as a whole. Attending any conference without some kind of game plan can lead to disappointment and a sense the event was both a waste of time and a waste of money. That's not the feeling we want you to leave with in October. Even if you're the kind of person who 'goes with the flow,' do come with some idea of what you want to get out of the conference.
What do you want to get out of the conference? Here are some responses we've heard. I want to learn more about writing. I want to improve my writing. I want to meet Agent, Editor or Author X. I want to meet other writers. I want someone to notice my manuscript and sign me! These are good places to start, but digging a little deeper will put you in the right frame of mind for a successful workshop experience.
As you think about what you're looking for, make a list. This list will determine which sessions might be the most helpful for you at the moment. These suggestions aren't to stress you out but to help you form your own plan of action.
I want to learn more about writing. Do you mean the process or the business, or both? Do you want to know about some of the elements that go into a manuscript - the openings that grab readers, point of view, character voice, what makes a compelling story? Are you curious about the steps toward publishing - queries, pitches, submission guidelines?
I want to improve my writing. That's definitely a focus on process, so what needs improving? Do all your characters walk and talk alike? Do you need to know how to weave in backstory? Is your imaginary world too imaginary to believe?
I want to meet Agent, Editor or Author X. If you've selected a specific faculty member for a pitch or query, or one you just hope to meet during dinner, it must be because you're familiar with that person's work. Picking up on Kia's recent post, have you checked out faculty blogs and websites? Have you read first chapters of some of the books your selection has represented or written? This research not only gives you a leg up when discussing their business, it also helps you analyze and promote your own work.
I want someone to notice my manuscript and sign me! If you've signed up for pitches, are you practicing? Even if you didn't sign up for one and you happen to sit next to an agent during dinner and he asks, "What are you writing?" can you answer? If an agent or editor requests additional pages, could you have them ready and available within a short time, maybe as little as a week?
Now that you have your list, write a corresponding question or two. Faculty members do a great job of covering their topic, having your question in the forefront of your brain will help you catch the answer. If it's not answered, presenters usually leave time at the end of their session for questions - have one ready. Most agents, editors and authors will be around all weekend and want to talk with you. Have your questions ready if the opportunity presents itself.
The South Carolina Writers' Workshop 20th Annual Writers' Conference is only a few weeks away. The Board of Directors and conference volunteers are busy assembling attendee notebooks, stuffing conference bags and putting final touches on the event. Agents, editors and authors are reading and critiquing your manuscripts so they'll be ready to discuss your work. How are you approaching the conference?