Thursday, February 19, 2015

Novel Update: San Francisco Writers Conference 2015


After cutting and refining my novel, I finally decided I was ready for the next step: attend the San Francisco Writers Conference, where real-live agenty people would congregate... along with the rest of us.

I won't provide a ton of detail, except to say that the price is probably a bargain if you attend all four days.  I came for only two.  Still, I managed to get what I came for.  

On Saturday, my first full day, I showed up at the Mark Hopkins Hotel to do what is called "speed networking," where you meet with an agent for three minutes and pitch your novel.  At 8 am, riding a caffeinated high, I flocked into a large room where agents sat and lined up with the ones on my list.  I had just an hour to appeal to as many agents as possible, and regrettably, I was not as efficient with my time as I could have been.

One big-time agent shot me down, stating my idea wasn't high concept.  It was painful, but then again, she was right.  It was a valuable lesson to learn, that no matter how well written my pages, some agents who represent my genre just won't go for the story.

Still, it left me reeling, and I wasted a few minutes just standing there, too rattled to talk to my next chosen out of fear that I could be shot down again.  Finally I did, and surprisingly, she was very enthusiastic about the novel pitch.  

Overall, I talked to five agents: the one who shot me down, one who had previously liked my pitch but rejected my pages, and three others whom I had never pitched to before.  Each of those three agents requested pages.  

The rest of the conference was a thick mass of 45-minute sessions on everything you want to know about writing.  Much of it I had already read about in publications like Writers Digest or on writer websites.  Some of it just plain didn't apply to me.  I'm not quite ready to solicit reviews or design my book cover.  That said, it turned out my last session on Sunday may have been my most valuable.

The session was "Hiring a Freelance Editor," or some such.  I went in thinking it wasn't necessary because hello, I have spent the past two years editing my novel.  I had hired a semi-professional editor to help cut the novel down and had cut it by nearly one-third.  Plus, I had been a professional editor myself, albeit a line and copy editor more than a developmental one.

It turns out that spending years editing your novel isn't that unusual.  The editors flat out stated that when you think your work is as polished as you can make it, that is the time to hire a developmental editor.  Which of course isn't cheap.

Whereas once I kicked and screamed at the thought of reducing my word count (as documented in several posts), now I feel agnostic.  If an editor can make my book awesome in 90,000 words then go for it.  At this point, I just want to give my novel the best chance for being published.

However, I do feel a bit repulsed by the thought of more editing.  Noooo!  I thought I was free.  I thought I could finally focus fully on my second novel.  But I guess that's not a realistic possibility until the first novel is published.  So right now, I'm studying different editor options, searching for the one that's right for me.  Should I use one, by the time I'm through, I hope the agents waiting for my pages won't have died of old age.

The above image is royalty free from freeimages.com.  

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