I’ve posted several times about the role our regional SCBWI conference has played in my development as a writer. I can’t recommend it enough for improving your craft, networking with other writers, and expanding your knowledge of the industry. Laura posted about missing the conference last week, but being invigorated by the knowledge that two of our group won awards. Well, guess what? I won an award!
As soon as I sat back down with that beautiful piece of paper in my hands, my mind was racing through all the steps to my novel’s publication, ending with rave reviews and a long and successful career. I do realize that I have a lot of work to do between now and then, but that’s the power of a little bit of encouragement. A publishing professional said, “Hey, good job. I like that story,” and suddenly I have the renewed passion and energy to press on through the long, slow journey ahead.
To be honest, I’d been in kind of a slump lately. Schedule changes within my family meant that I was having trouble scraping together regular writing time, and I just couldn’t see to the end of this draft, much less to a published novel. I usually do tons of research on conference faculty in the months leading up to our annual conference, but this year, I just showed up. Honestly, I couldn’t even remember if I’d submitted my manuscript for the contest like I’d meant to.
As a result, I drove to the conference wondering if I should even have signed up to go this year. I was looking forward to seeing my writing friends, and I knew in my head that I always learned a lot from the conference, but I just wasn’t feeling it.
By the end of the first morning, I felt that spark of excitement rekindling. I heard Newberry Honor winner Kimberly Brubaker Bradley talk about her journey as a writer and how she learned to churn out novels with a baby sitting on her lap. She did this, I thought. If she found the time to write, surely I can, too.
Then Allison Moore from Little, Brown Books talked about finding big story ideas that grab readers’ attention, and I thought, “I have a big story idea already.” Pat my back. Then Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency taught a fantastic session on how to write a killer query letter, and suddenly, I was ready to sit down and start querying agents. “Slow down,” I reminded myself. “Finish the book first.”
After a happy lunch with friends, I practically floated into the awards announcement. I was already encouraged, but when they called my name for the manuscript contest, a whole new world opened up. I have been working diligently to improve my craft for years now, and I know in my head that I have gotten better. But how much better? It’s still subjective, but now there’s an editor who has said that she wants to see my manuscript. Which means that I have to get it ready for her.
In the week since the conference, my approach to my writing has changed dramatically. I’ve always been a deadline-oriented person, but the problem with a first novel is that no one is waiting to see it. Now, however, someone is waiting, and I’ve drawn up an editorial calendar that will have this draft finished by Thanksgiving. I’m finding time in my schedule that I can use for writing, and I’m getting it done. I can’t just work on that scene tomorrow. I have to finish it today because there’s another one scheduled for tomorrow, and suddenly I have a deadline.
I could go on about my excitement, but I’ve checked my schedule, and there’s another scene that needs writing. I bet you have one waiting, too. Let’s go write.