Tips for a first writer's conference?
August 27, 2004 3:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to my first writer's conference tomorrow! Does anyone have any tips on what I should do, particularly in tke Ask-A-Pro part, where I get 5 minutes one-on-one with an agent or publisher?

More details:
I am still in the midst of the 2nd draft of my 170,000 word
science fiction novel, but I expect to finish in a month or so. There will be one science fiction-centric agent there and one publisher of SF there.
posted by badstone to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"my 170,000 word science fiction novel"

You may want to ask what they consider the maximum length of first novels from unpublished authors.
posted by mischief at 3:56 PM on August 27, 2004

Response by poster: that's my biggest fear. i cannot shorten this thing in a significant way for the life of me...
posted by badstone at 4:12 PM on August 27, 2004

badstone. Editing is easy. Pick one storyline, cut out everything else. See? Edited.

*yes, yes, sacrificing your children and all that.
posted by filmgeek at 4:33 PM on August 27, 2004

Or you could try to untangle the storylines in such a way that it becomes two books. No idea if that'd actually work, but, you know, less sacrificing that way.
posted by reklaw at 5:23 PM on August 27, 2004

I think Reklaw is on the right track given the SF book market these days. Having a second book that can come out on the legs of the first would probably be a big positive if you can restructure it into that split. Good luck. What's it about?
posted by billsaysthis at 7:30 PM on August 27, 2004

Any tips?
Yup---Don't sign any contracts and don't pay any more money until you've gone over to SFWA (Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America's advice for writers page and have read "Writer Beware!" (the link in upper right hand corner).
The rest of the SFWA page is a wonderful FREE course on the writing of sf/f, much of which transfers easily over to any other kind of fiction.
FIVE MINUTES with an agent or publisher? Jeebus, go to any sf con in your area (google Locus Magazine for a list of upcoming conventions) and you can hang out with dozens of editors and agents for the entire weekend. Many sf cons have writing workshops and panel discussions by sf editors that you'll find very helpful as well.
Don't worry about editing your novel down. You're in first draft. Write until you get to the end---I mean, what YOU see as the proper ending. Everything else is in the rewrite.
Good luck and keep going!
posted by realjanetkagan at 10:55 PM on August 27, 2004

badstone: Whoops, I apologize. Late night here and my eyes are going out on me. I see now you said you're on your second draft. Still, don't worry about the length. Editors and agents want to see your first three chapters before they'll ask to see the entire ms. A good editor can help you whip any length into a publishable length, whether by breaking it into (say) three books, each of which will please a reader, or by paring it down to one biiiig book that's still less than 170K.

filmgeek: Editing is NOT easy. G'wan tell me you've never seen a badly edited film!

A good editor is my safety net when I write and a good editor makes sure the books I read are the best the writer can rewrite. Note: the editor is paid by the publisher, not by the writer.
posted by realjanetkagan at 11:28 PM on August 27, 2004

Here's my tip: don't go.

To elaborate: don't go to find out how to sell the book, don't go to find out how to be a great writer, don't go to find out how to be a millionaire.

Go to have fun, to share war stories with other writers, to see and meet your writing heros, to make friends, to get out of the house, to have it sink in that you're not the only one plugging away on a dream.

But the five minutes with an agent or publisher? They're not going to say, "Holy shit, kid! Where've you been hiding! This is brilliant! Here's a big check!" And they're not going to say, "I'm not supposed to tell you this, but the secret to writing a successful novel is..."

Good luck, otherwise. I mean it. Writing is hard, getting it published is harder, getting readers to buy it is even harder, and writing the next one is even harder still.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2004

I have observed writers up-close at the Iowa Writiers' Workshop, Breadloaf and Indiana. My advice is don't be in a hurry, don't worry about what to say. You need to experience one of these things before you can really get a lot out of the experience.

When people have a bad experience, it is because they have embarrassed themselves by talking too much, or they listen too much to the advice of others and work their way into a corner.

Go, listen, laugh, but do not bend, fold or mutilate your novel in progress until you have thought about what you are doing. There are no hard fast rules to writing.

If you are working on a second draft and still thinking about your novel, you probably have more disipline than your average beginning writer.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2004

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