“The business of writing is the business of reading.”
These words from Richard Nash’s keynote address have been sitting in a quiet space in my writer’s heart since I heard them.
They seem so simple, but the meaning is profound. If I think about what reading is—the intimacy of the act of bringing someone else’s words, thoughts, and imaginings into my brain, often while I’m in bed; if I reflect on the weight of that as a writer and apply it to all areas of the publication process (from words on the page, to editing, to marketing, etc.)—I can transform the entire experience into something I’m eager to do, every step of the way.
The breakout sessions I attended communicated this same idea, over and over again, in new and varied ways: the importance you and your passions are as a writer to the business of writing.
Your Publishing Options
I began the day at Jane Friedman’s session, “Your Publishing Options,” outlining the various forms publication takes in the present day.
Jane focused on the three major avenues: traditional, small press, and DIY/self-publishing. What was striking about Jane’s presentation, aside from her warmth, humor, and knowledge, was her emphasis on writers carefully reflecting on the best publishing avenue for them, individually—really asking ourselves as writers what’s important to us, who will read our work, and the best placement for its success.
If you seek an avenue suited to your personality and writing goals, you will be infinitely more likely to achieve it. When I left her session, I truly felt empowered to choose the best path for my own efforts.
Building the Perfect Plot
Following Jane’s session, I attended James Scott Bell’s workshop on “Building the Perfect Plot.” In addition to doing a mean Dirty Harry impression, Bell discussed the strengths of the three-act structure in writing and his “Lock System” for solid plots. He emphasized character as the means by which readers connect to the story, which was helpful in preparing my pitch because it showed how I must emphasize my protagonist to invite agent connection.
Richard Nash’s keynote address was powerful. His words on the importance of writers as readers—and on the publishing industry understanding that and treating them as such—clearly resounded with the room.
He emphasized that building platform should not be thought of as an “economic leverage point,” but as a natural extension of your work and what makes you happy. This was revolutionary, and illustrates why so many author and publisher efforts at spreading the word in a one-size-fits-all approach lead to failure.
I found myself in awe of all of the writers in the pitch lines so passionate about their books, and ended up scratching out my own pitch (which I’d been obsessing over for weeks) and just speaking clearly and authentically from the heart. It was received very well, and I have the session leaders and conference organizers to thank for that.
I no longer think of writing, reading, and the business of writing as separate facets of my career, but as parts that work best when integrated.