“The Importance of Being Earnest”

Posted: June 10, 2011 in Uncategorized
Bouchercon 36 Chicago

Is this me at Bouchercon 36 in Chicago? I met International Guest of Honor Author, Jonathon Gash, & he critiqued my first book.

I made a conscious decision to start networking more as a way of being prepared when I sell my first book.  What I didn’t realize is how much time it takes from your writing schedule.

My schedule isn’t that consistent anyway, so any deviation can cause anxiety. And now with August looming  I am on the fast track to finish my revisions so I can pitch my novel at the Willamette Writer’s Convention.

So I started networking again by getting back on Oregon Writer’s Colony’s Conference and Workshop Committee. I’d done it before and I liked it and the people are nice. Next I volunteered to chair a Larry Brooks Workshop in late October for them, figuring that would give me plenty of time.

So there I was, revising my novel and it occurred to me I should go to The WW Convention. Of course money is tight, so I offered to volunteer. A few days go by and I get an email asking if I would be interested in coordinating the volunteers for the consult side of the convention.

I waited a few days and made a conscious decision to do it because it will be a good networking opportunity. Well, it turns out to be a lot of work, and I knew it would be. So I’ve scheduled about 40 volunteers to work three days in –I don’t know– 15-20 different positions in two shifts a day.

Oh, did I mention I had also been in charge of another volunteer workshop for another organization, which ended three weeks ago? Did I mention my day job?

So you can see where this is going. Where do I find time to write?

Well, I give myself deadlines. I might only write once or twice a week, but if that’s the case, I write for long stretches–four to six hours.

I’m not complaining, because I truly think my current book will sell this time and I want to gain any advantage I can. I’ve written over the 250,000 word mark that legal thriller author Phillip Margolin told me it takes to get published. (Yes I met him by networking). As a result, I figured out a system that works for me. I’ve also decided not to rush this effort to agents. I actually finished the first draft last August and pitched it to about four agents/editors.

After a no go, I pulled it and started revising it again. A new critique group has helped immensely. My fellow writers pointed out a few fatal flaws that I missed entirely and now are helping my heroine, Billie Bly, strike a more feminine pose. One of the agents last year told me it was hard to write from a women’s point of view and he may have been right. But thanks to networking, now I have three women, in my critique group, helping me.

So even though I will be coordinating volunteers during the WW Conference instead of pitching, I know I will have my opportunities. I will be closer to the agents and authors and will either learn from that experience, or who knows, maybe even get an agent.

I’ve developed sharp looking business cards with a woman P.I. and the name of my book, my webpage, email address, and phone number. I just ordered two T-shirts with the same image and a pitch line on it, and I plan to wear them during the WW Conference.

And I will make this manuscript as perfect as I can before letting a single person–other than a reader–look at it.  After trying to take short cuts and rush my work to print, I can now see my best chance is to make my book the best it can be before submitting it.

I learned that by networking.

  1. Sher Davidson says:

    Good advice, Don. Thanks for sharing that with me, also. I’ll be rooting for you at the conference as well as working as a volunteer. Hopefully, we will both still have time to network and get agents.

  2. Maureen Kay says:

    Don, thanks for all the volunteer work you’re doing that benefits the community of writers, whether or not you have an ulterior motive!

    A friend who has been submitting her novel to agents said she has nearly exhausted the agents in her genre, because she learned that once she pitched her novel to an agent that the whole agency was then not to be contacted about her book. Have others heard this? If so, that really does make the possibilities for each of us more limited than she or I had thought. She was thinking she could revise the manuscript and resubmit it, but now she’s realizing she should have waited to submit it until she had cut its length, because now she feels she doesn’t have a second chance with any of these agencies (since they haven’t invited her to revise and resubmit).

    • Don Weston says:

      I guess I should have said, I also enjoy my volunteering.

      Regarding your friend. If it were me and I had done a significant revision, I wouldn’t hesitate to query again, explaining such, and asking if she could send it again. I would also mention in the letter if one of them made suggestions, and she followed them, she should mention this too.

      Is she sure she’s hit everyone in her genre? There must be a couple hundred agents out there in a given genre.
      Have her try http://agentquery.com/ It is the largest listing of agents I’ve found and you can search my genre, email submissions and more.

  3. Helen Wand says:

    Isn’t that the truth! You can get wrapped up in blogs and other social media. It’s importance is not in question, but it’s a terrible distraction to your writing schedule. I am impressed with your plan and am excited that you will be pitching Billie Bly in August. I can’t wait to read the finished product, as I feel as though I have watched it grow through the last couple of years and loved it. I’ll see you at the WW conference if not before.

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