Don’t Panic

janav Writing Leave a Comment

These words, famously, were written on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, from the novel by Douglas Adams, but they are equally applicable to someone about to attend a writer’s conference.

This week, I’m frantically trying to prepare for the Big Sur on Cape Cod Writer’s Conference. This is very different from the Grub Street Muse & the Marketplace conference I attended a couple weeks ago. BSCC includes intensive workshops with faculty (authors, agents, editors), pitch time, revision time, panels… so it’s more of a “writing” conference than an “inspirational” conference.

To prepare, I’m working on a new logline, revised query letter, and two first chapter revisions (my story is told by alternate narrators). So, there’s a lot of pre-conference work involved if I’m to get the most out of it. Like everyone who attends a workshop like this, I want everything to be perfect.

Except it won’t.

I keep telling myself this, to avoid the panic that would otherwise set in at how much I still have to do.

Anyone attending any workshop where there will be critique involved, from fellow writers and publishing professionals, has to take a deep breath and realize: It’s all right. I’m here to learn how I can make my work better, not how amazing it already is. Notice I said it. Not “I.” One of the most difficult things we can do as writers is to step back from our own work and see it as a thing apart from us. Once the red-hot fire of initial creation is over, we need to be able to look at it as a surgeon looks at a patient: What needs to be done to make this better? I imagine I’ll have lots to mull over, and also I will be inspired to jump in and start slicing and rearranging and rewriting, ready to take it to the next level. And this is a novel I thought was done. It’s taken me a while to realize it maybe isn’t, and to be okay with that, even to get excited about its potential.

What pieces do you have that you consider “done” but haven’t garnered much interest from the marketplace? Have you received any new feedback that might help you reconsider? Can you think of a way to increase the “wow” factor?

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