Rediscovering My Tribe - Writing Conferences & Plotting Weekends
It was something I'd forgotten: sometimes you just need to hang with your tribe.
In this case, it wasn't just readers and other folks who love books, though that's one of my major "tribes." My preferred community. No, the last 2 weeks have been about rediscovering and hanging with my writer peeps, about rediscovering my writer self.
I can't say this enough -- sometimes we writers need to get out of our comfortable, private offices, and get out there around other writers! I know I don't do it nearly enough.
It's awesome to be around other people who understand why you ask them to repeat a certain thing they said...and then scribble it down somewhere. To be around other folks who "hear voices in their heads" and it's okay. They know you're talking about the characters in your head, and don't recommend you seek mental health help.
We write about life. And it's harder to do that if we don't get enough exposure to it outside our writing caves. I was able to hear all sorts of stories from people that sparked my imagination.
If you're a writer, and you've never been to a writing conference, I strongly urge you to attend one. There's something magical about the swirling creativity that's in the air. If you're one of us introverted writers, choose something on the smaller side. I was at the New Jersey Romance Writers conference last weekend. It's small enough to have an intimate feel to it, but large enough that they offer multiple tracks of workshops, including for those who are already published. It's close to New York City, so they do get industry guests.
I attended incredibly helpful workshops on things like cover design, author branding and effective social media, and a piece of software I've been toying around: Scrivener.
The trade-off with this trip was that I wasn't able to attend a local conference (Erie, PA) that I generally attend, and I highly recommend to writers, A Writer's Road Trip, put on my local Pennwriters group. I think Holly and I will be at the local one next year, likely offering workshops, so if you're not too far from Erie, PA, consider that one. Especially if you're looking for something more cozy, less overwhelming. (That one is multi-genre, for all types of writing.)
The weekend before that conference I'd been able to combine a day-job trip to Austin, Texas, with the chance to get together with my critique partner, Jennifer August. We worked on plotting Jen's first cozy mystery, and that was a lot of fun -- something new for both of us. I'm a visual person, so I started us with a graphic organizer, also known as a web. I wrote "Dead Guy" in the middle, in a circle, and we worked our way out from there. I can't wait to see how this ends up.
If you look at the picture here, you'll also see what's still one of my favorite plotting tools -- index cards. Especially colored index cards. You can do all sorts of things with colored index cards. Make one color represent scenes with one character, give another character a difference color. Make one color represent characters, another scene ideas. Your own imagination is your only limit.
While I'm talking about this, let me share something VERY important -- there is no one right way to do this! Hell, there's no ten right ways to do this. If someone tells you otherwise, don't listen to them. Every writer has their own process. That process isn't even the same for different books written by one writer. It changes. So while I highly recommend that you learn things about the craft, like POV and show vs tell, and that you learn things about the business, like the very important difference between indie pubbing and vanity pubbing (there is a difference these days!) and which publishers will accept anything as long as the writer can write...a check...I want you to know that you have to pick and choose who and what you listen to. In the end, this is your book. Your writing. Your process.
Holly and I have VERY different processes, which is why it's great when we talk and give workshops together. We approach things very differently.
So hey...don't forget to take the time to hang out with your tribe! Soak up some creativity from other creative folks, whether you're into writing or knitting or carving or sculpting, painting, photography...well...you get the idea.
You just may rediscover your own passion as well.