Five months out from the 2015 Chicago Writers Conference, we turned to first-time attendee Mica Scotti Kole for some words of wisdom on what she learned. Her commitment to moving her writing career forward is sure to motivate you – even if the zeal of New Year’s resolutions has worn off!
Anti-Introverted Self-Improvement: The Five-Month Effect of CWC
I attended CWC 2015 directly following my resignation from a stressful office position. My prospects were bright, and I left CWC 2015 visualizing a dazzling future – both as an author and as an employed person.
In reality, my job-seeking efforts failed miserably and my self-confidence began to shrivel and die. Hoping to regain the sense of authorial accomplishment and wonder I’d found at CWC, I revisited the conference adages outlined below. Now I’ve come further as an author than ever before.
Join a Writers Group!
Session: How Do I Find a Writing Group?
I had always dreamt of trying a writers’ group, and after multiple CWC 2015 sessions highlighted their value, I made the decision to create one. Four months, one Craigslist ad, and one fizzled member later, I am now the proud founder of a flourishing three-person group!
Benefits of Joining:
- Dedicated, in-genre readers with differing perspectives. The more knowledgeable and disparate your group members, the farther your work will go.
- Failure excitement. You’re finally seeing issues in your work you could never pin down before. And you get to fix them. The failure becomes an addictive, bizarrely thrilling challenge.
- Pressure and confidence. People value your input. It feels good, and you don’t want to disappoint them; you’ll show up every time, and you’ll become a better writer.
- Enhanced social life. Even introverts living in the middle of nowhere can make local friends with shared interests in a writers’ group.
Takeaways from a Founder
- Take initiative. If there isn’t one to join, make it happen yourself.
- Do the peer-editing beforehand. We upload our work two full nights before our meeting date into a shared Google folder. Discussing already-made edits at the meeting saves time and cuts back awkwardness.
- Don’t settle for a bad fit. Reasons not to keep a member: constant absence, huge skill or knowledge gaps, uncomplementary genres, bad juju.
- Three’s the charm. With three members, our meetings run less than two hours – easy to fit into the schedule, but open to a serendipitous fourth.
- Go biweekly or less. You won’t believe how fast even a biweekly deadline comes up.
Get Out There, and Improve Yourself!
Session: YA Structure, Branding Yourself
After CWC, I leapt onto social media, and that involvement illuminated some reasons why I haven’t yet found an agent. I’ve paired those reasons with the simple CWC adages: “Write your best book” and “Don’t write to an audience.”
Benefits of Social Media Involvement:
- Easy, free contests & events. Twitter events like Pitch Match (#PitMatch) and One-Line Wednesday (#1LineWed) can help anyone get noticed.
- An evolutionary atmosphere. Online authors evolve to be more compatible with today’s marketplace. You’ll find space to learn and grow exponentially!
- Access to professionals and success stories. You can have Twitter conversations with real agents, and you’re surround by people who write for a living.
Takeaways on Improving Your Work
- Make the first chapters the best you can. If you have trouble getting agented, you likely need to update your submission; joining a writers’ group taught me just how bad my opening chapters were.
- Self- and boutique-publishing is NOT synonymous with failure. If the traditional route isn’t working, try something new. People make livings this way. But always have a good line editor!
- Books that fall outside the lines are the ones that make headlines. Does your work seem placeless? Consider Graceling, a wildly popular YA fantasy that has sex, a pedophile, and a traditionally too-high word count.
- Nothing is lost in making improvements. Getting better – or making your work better – will never be a waste of time.