So last month I hopped a five hour flight to San Francisco to attend the 2013 San Francisco Writers Conference. It was my second time attending the conference and I must say that the experience was well worth the time and money.
The conference had great seminars, inspirational speakers, fantastic networking opportunities and, for those seeking publication, lots of access to agents and editors.
One of the best features of the conference is that each attendee is allowed two short consultations with an independent editor as part of the conference fee. You could use that time to get feedback on your book pitch or a critique of the first few pages of your novel. You could even ask about the market for your book.
I found the independent editor consultations at the San Francisco Writers Conference to be an invaluable resource. I asked one editor to read the first few pages of my suspense novel and provide me with feedback. She loved how I began the book and the storyline. She also let me know that there was definitely a market for the book and a real possibility that it would be made be made into a movie. Needless to say, I was on top of the world after that consultation and oh so inspired.
My consultation with the second editor was not so positive or inspiring. I asked her to look at the first few pages of my legal thriller and she told me the same thing the agents who've been sending me rejection letters said: the book starts off too slow, in the wrong place and my opening scene tells the reader very little about the heroine (i.e. inadequate character development).
At first she said that I need to rework the first chapter, but when I told her about the comments I've been receiving from agents, she said that I probably needed to rework the entire book to make it more character driven. That was the last thing I wanted to hear since I had already revised the book and thought I was done with it.
The independent editor's advice to rework my legal thriller was reinforced by a seminar on characterization that I took the next morning. During the seminar, Ellen Sussman, the author of French Lessons, told us about how she once drafted an entire novel that was plot-driven instead of character-driven, and that her character development suffered as a result. I asked her what she did to fix the book. She said that she re-wrote the entire book from scratch and it came out ten times better than it was before.
I was horrified. The idea of rewriting my 330 page suspense novel made me want to run out of the room screaming. I now understood why some writers prefer to scrap whole projects and start new ones rather than do extensive revisions. The lawyer in me kept looking for a shortcut or a loophole – anything to avoid completely rewriting the book. To tell the truth, I'm still looking for an easier way to fix the character development issue without having to rewrite the entire book. The task is so daunting to me that I haven't begun the rewrite. In fact, I've done no writing at all since the conference. But I will. I want to get this bad boy published and I want it to sell, so I will do whatever I have to do to get the job done right.
The rest of the conference was both fruitful and fun. I read a couple of poems aloud at the open-mic session. I consulted with editors of large publishing houses regarding my suspense novel during the Ask-A-Pro session. They liked both my pitch and my story idea. One editor even agreed to review a portion of the manuscript and consider it for publication. I attended some great seminars about self-publishing and am seriously considering it for my Brooks Sisters' series.
All in all, I'm glad that I attended the conference. I learned a great deal, re-connected with old friends, recharged my batteries and came back with some great marketing ideas.
Maybe I'll see you at the conference next year.