Romance Writers of America’s Annual Conference 2011

Most people who take a vacation head to the beach or go on a cruise or attend theme parks with their children or go to visit their families.  I headed off to attend two writers conferences in New York City and killed two birds with one stone by spending time with my family over the Fourth of July holiday.  The first conference I attended was Romance Writers of America's (RWA) 31st Annual Conference which was held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square.  First, let me say that it was a fabulous location – right in the midst of the madness as I like to say.  I love New York for many reasons not the least of which is that you could get all kinds of food there – whether you go out to a restaurant to eat with friends or order it delivered to your  hotel room while you feverishly work on your pitch for your novel.  But I digress.

This was the second RWA annual conference I've attended.  The first time was last year in Orlando, Florida.  At that time, I was amazed at the quality and proficiency of the seminar programming, the networking and the inspiration I received from the speakers which included one of my personal idols – Nora Roberts. This time, I was equally impressed.  The speakers at the conference included best-selling novelists such as Madeline Hunter, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Steve Berry and Tess Gerritsen – the author of the novels that inspired one of my favorite television shows – Rizzoli  & Isles.

The first thing I did when I got to the hotel was drop my bags in my room, register and race into the keynote luncheon where I caught some of Madeline Hunter's keynote address.  She talked about her journey to publication, trends in the industry and what it takes to be a writer.  Her speech was very inspirational to say the least.  Fired up, I next headed to the PRO Retreat.  You see, once you've submitted your manuscript to an agent or editor and are rejected, you qualify to advance to the level of PRO membership in the RWA.  I am now a card-carrying member of that club.

The PRO retreat is a series of workshops designed to get RWA members who are serious about and ready to get published over the hurdles they face on their way.  Once a member gets published, they rise to the level of PAN (Published Author Network) membership in the RWA.  The PRO retreat offered a wealth of information, great opportunities for networking with other writers at the same stage as me and great raffle prizes.  I won a free critique of the first 25 pages of my novel by a published author.  That will prove invaluable to me since most agents and editors decide, based on the first few chapters, whether they're interested in reviewing the rest of a manuscript.

The next day I pitched my romance novel to an agent and an editor.  The editor wasn't all that interested because my book is a romantic suspense/legal thriller she thought would be best suited for another division of her publishing company headed by another editor.  However, the agent – a well-known and highly respected player in the industry – seemed excited about the storyline and requested to see a portion of the manuscript and a synopsis.

While at the conference, I attended a series of well-designed and informative seminars on everything from the writers craft to the writers market to the writers life, including, but not limited to, seminars on how to write better sex scenes, advice from the pros on the romantic suspense market, how to turn rejection (of your manuscript) into an advantage, how to write better dialogue, etc.  One of the best seminars I attended, however, was given by Candace Havens – a bestselling author and writing guru – called “Fast Draft: How to Write Your First Draft in Two Weeks.”  If you thought National November Writing Month a/k/a Nanowrimo (where you draft a 50,000 word novel in 30 days during the month of November) was a whirlwind experience, Fast Draft is like a hurricane by comparison.

In Fast Draft, you create a first draft of a 280 page novel  (70,000) words in 14 days (20 pages a day).  She says it takes about three hours a day to do.  After you finish your first draft, you take a break (usually two weeks) and then edit the novel into something that is publishable.  You can do this any time of year with the help of a few fellow authors to provide support either online or in person if they live in your area.  Candace Havens used the Fast Draft technique as a way to be more prolific as an author at a time when she had a very demanding 60 hour per week day job.  I plan to give Fast Draft a try.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Since there were more seminars I wanted to take but couldn't get to, I ordered the conference CD's which will have mp3 files of all the seminars,  panels and speeches presented at the conference for $99.00.  I am sure that will prove to be invaluable.

Did you attend the RWA annual conference this year?  If so, how was your experience?  Have any questions about the conference?  Ask them and I will be sure to answer.


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