After the Show…

So, you packed and prepared and practiced you book pitch, and you lived la vida loca at the writing conference to end all writing conferences, and you enjoyed a few blissful moments of supreme success that were THE BEST MOMENTS EVER of your writing life… But now that you’re back home staring at the piles of luggage and laundry (not just yours, but your family’s that accumulated from the second you left) and the same manuscript you were working on before you left, at the same place of incompleteness that you left it, regardless of whether you told the editor or agent you pitched to that it was finished, and your muse exhausted and unresponsive (basically, DOA), after you’ve spent the better part of five days exhausting yourself with hundreds (maybe thousands) of other freaks of nature (writers) like yourself… Now what?

Truth be told, as the song says, it ain’t pretty after the show. Ever.Well, if you’ve won the big prize (the RITA or the Golden Heart or the book contract–which, BTW, happens about as often as, say, you being struck by lightening on a bright, sunny, cloudless summer day), you might still be floating on Cloud 9 when you get home. Although, I was exhausted from being around a hotel full of folks, lovely that they all were, even though I was wearing my heart of gold when I landed back at Casa DeStefano in 2003.

golden heart

So rest assured that, no matter how fabulous a time you had, post-conference re-entry is pretty much gruesome for all of us, published and unpublished and best seller and goddess (Susan Elizabeth Phillips) and all ;o)

Feel better about however unproductive you’re feeling this week (post RWA Nationals 2010, the first Nationals I was unable to attend since like 2002, whine, whimper…)? Good. But that still doesn’t answer the question.

Now what?

Let me start with where I’m sure you began, back when you decided to plunk down something close to, conservatively $1k (by the time you register, pay to get there, and then pay for a room in a conference hotel) to mosey down to Orlando during Florida’s hottest month of the year. Let’s start, and end, actually with your business. Writing.

Socializing at a conference of writers is some of the best times you’re ever going to have as an author (beyond finishing a manuscript orseeing a book you’ve written on the shelves, actually being thumbed through and maybe even read by total strangers). But the point of all this conference going should begin and end (now that you’re home) with your business. That’s what.

Writing. Improving the writing. Rewriting. Pitching. Selling. More rewriting. Marketing. Promoting. Networking. Then writing some more… Doing these things, or learning everything you can about doing these things, is what your conference week was all about. So, now that you’re too exhausted to keep your eyes open long enough to make your kids breakfast, get them to wherever they need to be, clean your filthy house and do laundry, here are some things that you should do as soon as possible to make sure you continue to get the most out of every dollar you spent to allow your fabulous week with Mickey Mouse to keep paying forward…

1) Write the very first day you’re home. Yeah, I’m serious. And write every day after that. Even if it’s just a page or two at first, get back on the horse and keep charging ahead with that story that you wanted to tell so badly, so well, that it’s worth $1k to travel somewhere far, far away to get better at your craft.

2) Follow up with everyone you took a business card from during your week of meeting and greeting and socializing like you’re not an introvert who lives to hide away in her office all day and spin tales about make believe people who have real lives out there in the real world that’s kind of scary when you’re not surrounded with a thousand or so other writers who or just as neurotic as you (or is that just me???). Even if it’s just adding each and every email address you’ve collected to your address book or newsletter mailing list, that at least carries that contact forward (possibly, unless they unsubscribe to your newsletter the first time you mail to them, but in that case no harm no foul, rigght?). Better yet, shoot a quick reminder email to each new professional contact, reminding him/her and yourself how you met and what common interest struck enough of a cord for you to exchange business cards and email addresses (because you did take business cards, right?) Or you could invite a published author to guest blog on your site, or you could review a favorite book of theirs and shoot them a quick email to let them know you have. Or you could even visit your new contact’s blog and comment on something they’ve posted recently.

Basically, carry the socializing you indulged in in person forward, now that social media and the Internet help us stay in touch from anywhere. That way, the next time you see this person or run across them online, you have an ongoing relationship to work from. Not just a memory of maybe seeing that person once somewhere that neither of you really remember.

3) Finish whatever work you told the editor or agent was already finished and get the requested material in. That’s right, we all fib from time to time when we say we’re ready to submit something, once a professional who’s in a position to represent or buy it has shown an interest. No big deal–unless you make the serious error of not finishing said work as soon as possible once you’re home and then SENDING IT IN. If you mess up this key dynamic that you’ve worked so hard and spent so much money and pushed yourself out of your introverted comfort zone to make happen, I’m going to hunt you down and give you the stink eye in person.

We’re all terrified of putting our work out there to be judged, and we’re none of us EVER finished enough with anything to actually want to submit it for publication. But you’re never going to actually GET published unless you send in the work. Send it in. Send it in. Repeat after me–”This is the reason I went to the conference…” Send. The. Requested. Work. In.

4) Go back over your notes from the craft/industry/inspiration workshops you attended (and the handouts and audio recordings and whatever else you brought back), and make a list of the new techniques and ideas you want to incorporate into your writing and career plan.Make a list of them, and a timeline for when you want to begin working with each new concept or idea. Better yet, make a plan for how you’re going to work with each, and where you want to be with each by the time you attend your next national conference. Put a copy of the plan in a sealed envelope and put it aside to be opened the night before you leave next year. This is your goal. Your way to keep yourself honest. Your reminder before you pay for the next trip of just how much return on your investment you’re going to make sure you get when you make it back home again.

In short, hold yourself accountable to wring as much craft knowledge and improved writing as possible from the amazing opportunity you give yourself every time to take the leap and attend the circus (movable feast???) that is a writing conference.

5) And finally, make your way back to your very next critique group meeting and local writing chapter meeting. The very next one. Don’t let yourself off the hook or mess with your real-world writing routine. This is the backbone of your writing life (You are involved regularly with other writers, right? Even though you hide in your office just like me, you network and socialize locally with other wackos who hide in their offices, too, and share your knowledge and experiences while you’re leaning on theirs, so you can all get better faster at the amazing things your doing with your writing gives. Right? Right?).

This is what sustains your muse. These people are your creative lifesblood, as much as your dreams and your drive and your hard work at your conference. Don’t mess with that.Don’t use exhaustion as an excuse to get off the wagon of staying an active presence in your local writing community. Take your conference knowledge with you and share your experiences. Write an article for your local chapter newsletter about what you learned or something fabulous that inspired you while you were away. Recommend some of those new authors or blogs or social media contacts to those who weren’t lucky enough to be able to go. Share your notes and new techniques. In short, continue the conference experience in your small groups. Get better with your groups. Grow as a group, as each of you grow individually, which, not so surprisingly, is the writing conference model in a nutshell…

6) Oh, and I guess you should rest up, too. Get some sleep so you can stay healthy. Recover. And all that nurturing stuff. Guess I could have started with that, but this is a blog post about inspiring writers. Do any of you guys actually sleep? Anyone? Anyone?

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3 Responses to “After the Show…”

  1. Too bad I didn’t recognize you were at RWA10! But it was mine and my sister’s first ever conference for anything so we were a bit overwhelmed by it all! Not to mention we were running over to DisneyWorld every night after dinner, lol! I must say that the conference really does inspire one to get creative and motivated to work! Hopefully I’ll get to talk with you in Anaheim & San Diego!

  2. Oops! Meant to delete “were”! Please excuse the typo, just flew in last night, lol!

  3. Elaine says:

    Perfect timing with your blog, Anna! Thanks!

    I did just go this year, and there were some amazing workshops but I did come home wiped out (with all the laundry – funny comment by the way!)

    You make some excellent points here. I have already submitted all requested material and some I wanted to submit based on seeing an agent speak (he did invite us to submit, which of course meant I leapt up to grab his business card afterward). But I do want to follow up with people I’ve met and continue writing. I’m in the prep stage before starting the next book, so that’s hard to come back and get into – but I will.

    Missed you this year, it’s my hope to go to NYC next year though!


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