Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk

By Ronda Simmons

Or how to attend a writing conference and not feel like a total newb.

JC Lynne and I were talking about our first writing conferences the other day. She mentioned how intimidated she was when she attended her first conference because, for one thing, she didn’t understand the lingo.

I wouldn’t have even gone to my first conference if other newbies hadn't talked me into it. Even though I was amongst friends, I was out of my element.

For those of you first timers at The NCW Writers Conference, or those of you veterans who've never felt comfortable, this post is a primer. Check yourself in the mirror. Memorize a few simple acronyms, and you’ll be feeling savage. 

Look the look

Business casual is always appropriate at writing conferences, but don’t worry too much about what you’re wearing. You will see writers in suits and writers in blue jeans in sessions, round tables and during ice breakers. Stay away from shorts, beachwear, and t-shirts from your last vacation, and you’ll do just fine. 

The temperature in hotel conference rooms can be dicey. "Too hot" or "freezing cold" are the standard thermostat settings. Dress in layers. Don't make my rookie mistake of wearing a heavy sweater just because it was cold outside. Inside felt like Waikiki Beach. Lesson learned.

Walking the Walk

Writers tend to be more introverted than the general population. It can be hard for us to pluck up the courage to actually, gulp, walk right up and talk to a stranger at a conference. 

What if they think I’m an idiot? 

What if they are famous? 

What if they're published? (You can be published and not famous.)

They very well could be famous, some writers are, but they are NOT going to think you’re an idiot if you follow this piece of advice: if you don't know what else to say, just ask them what they’re working on. You’ll never find a writer that won’t answer that question with enthusiasm.

What if another writer walks up to me and starts talking?

Writers, even famous ones like Todd Mitchell, are just regular people. If you see Todd at the conference and he strikes up a conversation with you, don’t panic. That's how he rolls.

Talking the Talk 

Every profession has its own language. Writing is no exception. If you want to make it in this writing business, you need to understand the buzz words. The list feels unending, and the industry adds new ones often, so don't sweat it. And don't even bother with genres . . . better to look those up or ask.

Here are some of the basics for you to master:

  • ARC - Advanced Reader's Copy: A copy of your finished work that you send out to colleagues in the hopes of getting a 5-star review on Amazon before a release date.

  • Comps - Comparables: A good comp is a published title similar in genre, style, or theme to yours. Agents often ask for comp titles to give them an idea of what your project is.

  • HEA - Happily ever after: The ending that so many readers prefer, especially readers of Rom Coms.

  • Logline - a one-sentence description of a screenplay or manuscript: The hardest sentence you'll ever write.

  • MC - Main Character: You know, who (or what) your work is about. 

  • MS - Manuscript: Ideally your MS is complete so you can send it immediately to all of the agents and publishers you will meet at the conference who are going to want to read it.

  • Pantser - a writer who writes by the seat of their pants. No outline, no preconceived ideas about plot, they just go. Plotters do not understand them.

  • Plotter - a writer who outlines and has a set plan and goal before they begin writing. Pantsers do not understand them.

  • POD - Publish on demand: A kind of self-publishing where the buyer gets their copy made when they want it. 

  • POV - Point of view: The narrator's positon with respect to the story being told. First person (I did that thing), second person (you did that thing), third person (she did that thing).

  • Rom Com - Romantic Comedy: the montage-filled book or perfect date-night movie about two people, or dogs or what have you, who hate each other until they don't. Always with a HEA.

  • WIP - Work in progress: Your current masterpiece, not yet finished. 

If worse comes to worst, find me or JC. Neither of us knows everything either (shocker, I know), but we'll be happy to introduce you around. If you decide to buy us a drink, well bonus.

Here are a couple of links for more information on writing conference survival and writing lingo:


Patricia Stoltey said...

Such good advice. I remember the first time I went to a conference and was sitting in a lounge totally focused on the program, being my usual introverted self. A young woman walked up and started talking to me, asking questions and just being wonderfully friendly. It made the whole weekend better.

Now that I've been to lots of conferences, I've learned to look for that person sitting alone, looking like a newbie and pretending to ignore all those chattering people who seem to know each other. Those are the ones who need the non-newbies to start the conversation.

Ronda Simmons said...

Well put, Patricia! We were all new to the game at one time or another. I have met some of the most fascinating people at writing conferences by putting my introversion on hold.

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