I spent the weekend at the DFW Writer's Conference, and it was a good one. I can say that because, except for teaching classes and lending my shining, celebrity presence, I didn't have anything to do with organizing the thing. The conference committee worked extremely hard to pull off an excellent conference. Multiple tracks of programing from a wide range of authors and other professionals, six agents taking one-on-one pitches, two lunches with entertaining speakers, a wealth of information, smoothly run, despite inevitable hiccups... Kudos to those guys.
The next conference, by the way, is set for April 9-11, 2010. Mark your calendars.
I spoke on Writing for Teens (Even if you Aren't One). I joked on Twitter that this meant I had to pretend I know what I'm doing. As people have asked me to speak on this subject, I've had to retroactively figure out what it is that makes Prom Dates From Hell (et al.) a good *YA* book. Because I just wrote a book *I* wanted to read. So it's only the 'writing for teens' part that I feel like a bit of a fraud. But not really, beause I *have* done a lot of research into it. Just after the fact. I *do* know what I'm doing as far as writing a good book is concerned.
I hope Mom doesn't read that. There's a Dutch word for the curse you give yourself when you say that you're good at something. I really did grow up being told by my mother that I was brilliant and could do anything, but I should never compliment myself, or I would curse myself and lose whatever I'd just been bragging about. No wonder I'm so neurotic. Which is why I joke about these things. Because promotion is all about telling people how great you/your books are, and I guess I'm trying to dodge the curse by equaling things out!
Yes, promotion is hell for me. Though I'm not special. The keynote speaker at the conference was Bob Mayer, who mentioned in his speech that on the Myers-Briggs Personality test the "writer" type is the polar opposite from the "marketer" type. One more reason why writing is something of a masochistic profession.
Seriously. The other irony is that a lot of writers tend to be Type A control freaks. We like to write because on the page we have complete and utter control of the universe. It's like being God and Dungeon Master combined. But if course where the *business* is concerned, once you have turned in the best book possible... you really have zero control. You can do promo, and Twitter, and do blog tours and build buzz--which, don't get me wrong, does help--but ultimately, you have no control over whether Meg Cabot or Stephanie Meyer (or both) are going to release a book with your *same title* the week after your book comes out. :-)
Writers have to LOVE to write. Otherwise, it's not worth it. Very few of us get paid enough to make it worth all the stress, angst and hassle. But most of us would do it for our own pleasure even if we weren't getting paid. (Which is why I respect writers who write only for themselves or their friends.)
But of course, if you do want to be published professionally, there's a whole other level of stuff you've got to do. Join a critique and/or professional education group. Go to workshops and conferences. Read books about writing and selling your book. Pay attention to what's on the market, and how books are selling.
Though ultimately, it comes down to the craft. What you write. DO you write? Or do you just talk about writing and go to workshops and read books about writing.
Writers love to write. I guess that what *I* got out of the conference this weekend, being around such good energy from other writers is just that reminder. It's not just about being hungry to sell. It's about loving what we do.
So answer in the comments: What are YOU good at? It can be some part of the writing craft you do well, or some other hobby or sport. Go on. If someone asks, it's a curse loophole. I checked. Tell me something YOU do well.
I'll draw a name from the comments to win a copy of the latest book I loved: Going Too Far, by Jennifer Echols.