Tag Archives: Backspace Writer’s Conference

On Writing: What Stymies You?

nowritingI’m doing manuscript critiques for the Backspace Writer’s Conference, which I’ll be at tomorrow and Friday. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love going to writing conferences. I love having the opportunity to interact with writers, giving them feedback that I just don’t have time to give  when answering queries. I also get very inspired to write. I am, after all, first and formost (at least in my own mind, if not in actuality) a writer. I had lunch the other day with my client Joe McGee, who is not only a very fine writer himself but also teaches writing to others.  Joe and I were discussing writing, inspiration, and how difficult it is can be to get out of our own way.

As an agent I’m constantly reading other people’s work and assessing their writing and ideas to see if they have legs for publication. I see many of the same mistakes or weaknesses in writing over and over and over and over again. Information dumping. Descriptions of things/events/thoughts/etc… that do nothing to move the plot forward or illuminate a character. Lots of throat clearing. Lots and lots and lots of telling (versus showing) of a story. Tons of wiggling eyebrows, noticing of something suddenly, and thoughts conveniently crossing a main character’s mind. And let’s not forget dream sequences, staring into mirrors, and remembering one’s childhood or dead mother/father/grandparent/sibling/best friend/boy or girlfriend.

So as I critique these pages for the conference, I’m mostly saying the same things to these authors. Does this make them bad writers? No, not really. Actually, some of them are darn good writers. But the repetitiveness of my critiques points to how difficult it is to overcome these pitfalls, regardless of one’s skill level or innate talent.

So how does doing this affect me as a writer? Well, it actually stymies me. I find it excruciatingly difficult to get out of my own way. Joe’s (excellent) advice, and the advice of so many who have commented on the blog, is to just write the goddam first draft. Write it without revising. Write it because it wants to be written. Write it without thinking too much. Write it for yourself, not for anyone else’s eyes. Just write it.

Although I know many of you are eager to give me your advice, honestly I don’t really need more advice. As my kids say to me, “I’m good.” I mean, we all know what to do about it: Just write anyway. What I’d love to know though is what stops you. What stymies you when you’re writing and why do you think it does that? 


Filed under Uncategorized

Writing Conferences: What’s in it for an Agent?

urlGoing to writing conferences and teaching workshops is something that many agents do. I like doing conferences for a few reasons. Of course, I’m always looking to find my next amazing client, another writer who will knock my socks off. That goes without saying. But for me, I also like doing conferences because it keeps me on my toes. The more I talk to people about what it is that I’m looking for, what makes a good query, what makes a good pitch or hook, how to improve your craft, the more clear that becomes for me. And my “what I’m looking for” keeps changing, too. Not the part about the excellent writing, of course, but what I’m currently interested in reading and what the market can bear. Putting myself in a situation where I have to speak (repeatedly) about that is a good way to keep it all fresh in my own mind.

There’s also the networking aspect of conferences. An important part of being a literary agent is forging connections with editors. Getting to know editors a little bit more personally allows me to really focus on which editors will like the work that my clients are writing. There’s nothing worse than pitching my client’s work to the wrong people (well, there’s plenty worse, but you know what I mean). I love when I am reading client work and I start building a submission list in my head, knowing exactly which editors will love it.

Then, for me there’s also the “wanting to make a difference” piece of going to conferences and teaching workshops. Just as a human being on this planet, I like to know that I’m making a difference for other people. It gives me great pleasure if I can say even one thing that will help an author with their manuscript, with their query letter, with their elevator pitch. Sometimes it’s just a kind word of encouragement. Other times it’s a harsher word of critique that (hopefully) will help kick a manuscript up to the next level or re-focus an author on a more productive track toward publication. This is extremely satisfying.

So, here are 6 places you’ll be able to find me this year. This list is not complete, because I’m still being offered conference opportunities for fall and winter 2013. I’m also putting together a writing retreat/workshops with a colleague of mine, that will run either this summer or in the fall (we’re still working out the venue details). For more information about that, click here.

1. “Writing a Top Notch Query” workshop at Hofstra University this Wednesday, March 13 at 6:30pm in Hempstead (Long Island), NY

2. “Query Roulette” through the Women’s National Book Association, like speed dating with agents, next Thursday, March 21 at 6:30pm in New York City

3. Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, Saturday, April 6 in New York City

4. “The Art of Craft,” New England SCBWI Conference, Friday & Saturday, May 3 & 4 in Springfield, Massachusetts

5. Backspace Writer’s Conference, May 23, 24, 25 in New York City

6. Willamette Writer’s Conference, August 2, 3, 4 in Portland, Oregon

If your writing group or association is interested in having me attend a conference or give a workshop, please email me and we’ll work something out. I haven’t done Skype visits yet, but I’m open to that, too!


Filed under Uncategorized