One Critical Step to becoming a Better Author … Conferences!
North Carolina Writer’s Network 2018 Spring Conference
Writer’s conferences are a great way to improve the many diverse skills required to become a better author. This is my second year attending the North Carolina Writer’s Network Fall Conference. Like last year, it was held at UNC – Greensboro … and was another great experience.At this year’s conference, I learned a great deal more about becoming better at my chosen craft. These conferences allow the new writers to talk to other beginning writers (often still working on their first, as yet unpublished, work), established authors, publishers, and editors. These conferences allow you to network, build relationships, and glean a great deal of helpful advice from real subject matter experts. Every session I have attended to date has provided me with useful and actionable information, and has help me become a better author. Being self-published, I also need to become better at promoting myself and my book (books … in the future).
Keynote Speaker and the Key Takeaway
Jill McCorkle, the Keynote Speaker, has the distinction of having her first two novels published on the same day in 1984. In addition, Jill McCorkle has received several literary rewards, and has taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, Tufts, and Brandeis. Jill gave a great keynote address which was very interesting to listen to. However, my key takeaway from her keynote presentation was actually nothing new … but now something she greatly reinforced … let the creativity flow and finish that terrible first draft. The real work of writing then begins as you shape and polish that terrible first draft, molding it into the finished work you want it to be.
The Two Sessions I Attended:
Session 1: Basic Law for Writers … with Brandon Huffman
In this session, Brandon Huffman discussed the basics of law for written works. Topics were copyright for writers, copyright infringement, trademark, libel, slander, privacy, fair use, and other content concerns. After the presentation, Brandon opened the floor to questions. Many interesting questions came up as writers shared situations they had encountered or concerns they had. While Brandon did preface his presentation with “I am not your lawyer and I am not giving you legal advice,” this was a great session and perhaps one of the more “practical” sessions I have attended to date.
In addition, I had signed up for a “Lunch with an Author” session with Brandon Huffman. While he is technically not an author, I though it would be interesting. It was. During lunch, we also learned that Brandon is very interested in Norse mythology, which suddenly became clearly evident when learning his Raleigh-based law firm’s name … Odin Law and Media
Session 2: Writing the Character You Know Best … with David Halperin.
David Halperin, author of Journal of a UFO Investigator, A Novel (Viking Press, 2011) also led a very interesting session. According to Halperin, beginning fiction authors will often start with stories that are fictionalized versions of their own experiences. Consequently, a new writer’s work can have compelling solidity, authenticity, and a strong voice. Yet this same strength, according to Halperin, also has pitfalls the new author needs to avoid. I give two examples of pitfalls we discussed below.
- Becoming trapped in the honesty / authenticity of the experience and not letting the creative juices flow.
- Feeling that you have to include every detail that led up to an event to make it authentic or believable to the reader.
Either of these two examples can cause writer’s to get bogged down and into a wrestling match with their work. They can stifle creativity, and can even cause writer’s block. Therefore, learning to get past pitfalls such as these is an important step in becoming a better author. And, like one old adage, getting past them begins with being able to identify them. This was also a very helpful session.
If you want to improve as an writer / author …
Attending writer’s conferences would be a great first step in achieving your goal of becoming a better writer / author. Wander around, listen, check out the vendors, and attend a few sessions / workshops. Just keep your ears and eyes open. It’s okay to be a bit shy and quiet at first. As your confidence grows, you will discover things you want or need to know, and you will begin to ask questions. Who knows, maybe a few years down the road you might be up there leading a session!