I love writing. Huddling behind my laptop means a beautiful day for me.
For those of us in the romance genre though, the Romance Writers of America is where it’s at. The national organization has over 10,000 members with more than 145 local and online chapters. Their national conference has over 2,000 attendees, and as a member of less than a year, I am still overwhelmed by their website. Yet I have an insatiable craving to learn more about the art and business of writing, and so I decided to start small at the New Jersey chapter’s Put Your Heart in a Bookconference.
Not Just Romance
Before the non-romance writers tune out, remember that writers are writers and novels are novels, and it was two days of just that: professional talk on writing and selling novels. Though the pervasive air of generosity may have been romance related.
From the Start
At the “First-timer’s Workshop”, veteran bestselling author, Christine Bush graced us with encouragement to make friends. “Romance writers care about each other,” she said. “They love other authors because they love to read their books.”
In the pre-conference workshop, Roxanne St. Claire presented us with handouts that compared first and final drafts of scenes from her bestselling novels. Talk about bravery! I wouldn’t show my first draft to my best friend, let alone a room full of writers. She was so eager to answer questions that by the end of the weekend, she lost her voice.
People talk about “networking” at conferences. I hate that word. It makes my stomach clench until I cower behind my laptop in the hotel room, but as Christine Bush said, I decided to think of it as making friends. From the bravery of a glass of wine at the cocktail hour, I chatted and laughed with bestselling authors and gained invaluable confidence that I belonged among these people. The confidence girded me for pitching my novel the next morning, which the comforting volunteers made a stress-free experience.
Prioritizing the workshops was difficult. I wanted to split myself in two. Here are some tidbits I picked up from my solo adventures:
- “Each scene is a mini-book: beginning, middle, climax & hook.”-Roxanne St. Claire, From Sleeper to Keeper: Revisions that Transform Every Scene of Your Book
- “Look for details that blossom: the single detail that says it all.” -Anne Frazier Walradt, Tips for Writing the ‘Can’t Put It Down’ Novel
- “Whether you write paranormal or contemporary, figure out the magic in your book. Then, what is the cost of that magic?” –Kristen Painter, World-Building through a Series
- “Stick to emotional truths and character decisions that make sense, even when those decisions are the wrong ones.” –Nisha Sharma, GMC in the YA Novel
- “Set goals for yourself. Print out a copy of the New York Times bestseller list, white-out a name, and put yours in its place. Hang that list on your wall.” –Susan Mallery, Keynote Speaker
The only thing that saddened me was the billing of the conference as specifically romance. The workshops were on general novel writing and the business of being a writer, and I wished my friends who write YA and paranormal had felt more welcome. They would have had a great time. Though alternately, the attendance was majoritably, female, and the editors and agents attending were interested in primarily romance submissions.
Fiction writing is at its essence romantic,whether it’s elements of romance, love in friendship, love of the self, or even a struggle in love’s absence. The love we put in our writing reflects outward, not only at our readers, but at fellow writers when we feel safe to express it. I experienced that over these two days.
I’m sure I’ll go back next year, to connect with the same writers and to hear the hot topics of 2015. I’m grateful for the positive first time experience. Maybe I’ll go to the national conference with my friends next summer. I’m told RWA in Manhattan is not to be missed. Though I’ll look forward to the cocoon of New Jersey’s chapter conference in the fall, having writer friends is where it’s at for me. I can’t find those on my laptop no matter how much I love my characters.
Robin Lovett, also known as S.A. Lovett, writes contemporary romance, and her debut novel, Racing To You, will be released July of 2016. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency and has a forthcoming series releasing with SMP Swerve in the summer of 2017.
She writes romance to avoid the more unsavory things in life, like day jobs and housework. To feed her coffee and chocolate addictions, she loves overdosing on mochas. When not writing with her cat, you can find her somewhere in the outdoors with a laptop in her bag. Feel free to chat with her on Twitter.