Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting Ready for a Conference

In the good old days, before I became a writer, getting ready for a conference was easy.  Pack and go.  Not much thought to clothes because all conferences those days were "business dress" and I had my wardrobe of women's dress suits (a few of which I still have.)

Getting ready for a writers conference, even when you're just a participant, is a whole different ballgame.

First, I'm never "just a participant".  I always pitch. After all, why pay the conference fee, if I don't take advantage of chance to meet people face to face.  So that means getting a pitch ready and sweating over a one-line log line.  I've done a few pitches now and I no longer sweat over the pitch. In fact, I've discovered that less is more.  So I usually just put together one short paragraph that highlights the gmc and the thing that makes my story unique. (GMC = goal, motivation and conflict, the core of any novel)

What's really important about the pitch is what makes your story unique.  If you've ever been in a plot workshop and read a bunch of gmc lines, you've discovered that they're pretty much the same.  What catches an agent's or editor's interest is how you're going to take that standard plot line and make it fresh and new for your readers.

Anyway, getting that "right" can take me a week or two, if it's the first time I've pitched a book, less if I've already pitched or queried (I use a modified version of my pitch for my query and vice versa, depending on which I wrote first.)

Then there's the rehearsing.  Or there was.  Now I just read it over a couple of times to make sure it flows and then don't fret it.  By keeping the formal part of the pitch (those cue cards) short, I've left lots of room for questions and answers and the whole pitch flows a lot better.  I've also learned to ask questions about what the editor/agent is really looking for.

This particular conference the prep was a bit more detailed.  One of the editors I'm pitching to wants to see a "one sheet".  This is a single piece of paper that gives your contact details, a brief bio, and the essential facts of the work you're pitching (title, genre, word count, hook, brief summary, gmc).  I'd never done it before, but I did have all the elements already prepared thanks to having already prepared queries and a pitch for my book.

The only trouble is, I'm terrible at formatting.  Not that I can't do it.  I'm a wizard at Word.  Just that I don't have the artist's eye to make the page actually look good.  No worries, I thought (now there's a NZ expression!) I'll just take one of the resume templates MS Word provides and modify that.

Oy!  It took me four hours.  It would have been easier to try to make my own template based on what theirs looked like.

Then there's the issue of clothes.  "Casual but professional" was what the conference coodinators suggested.  Obviously I wasn't the only one who was confused, because that was the announcement topic that generated the most chat.  Anyway, I spent 2 hours this morning trying on clothes, because what works as conference casual in a damp, cold New Zealand winter is obviously not going to work in Arizona at 91 degrees F.

At least the evenings are conference casual, too.  None of this bringing along a second set of formal outfits, as was the rule at RWNZ and RWA national events.  Though I do miss "dressing up."

I still have to pack.

Still, the conference looks exciting and I can't wait.  I'll report on it when I get back.

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