Business of Writing · Writing

SFWC – Part Duex – The Lighter Side

In case you missed part one of my SFWC Take-away series, you can find it here.

And now, for the more comedic, and yet still very helpful take-away from the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. I laughed a lot at the conference. It was a beautiful thing.

The conference director, Michael Larsen, is quite the comedian. The panelists were hysterical. The other attendees, well… it’s a giant group of writers. The presence of “quick wit” is assumed.

So, without further ado….

Tip #1 – Don’t Pitch in the Bathroom

According to Mr. Larsen, at the 2014 conference, someone-who-shall-not-be-named followed an agent into the restroom, slipped his or her manuscript under the stall door and said, “Since you’re not busy right now…”


There were several times I found myself waiting in line for the loo astride publishers, editors, authors and agents. And we did talk.  We discussed how there’s never enough women’s stalls. We determined that everything in San Francisco is miniature-scale, with extra-narrow doors, tight corners and things-crammed-in-all-the-wrong-places. (It’s the only way they can make everything fit)  We discussed the awesome quality of lunch, or how great the keynote speaker was. We did not pitch our works!

Mr. Larsen went on to clarify, “The industry professionals you see here today go into the bathroom to do business. But not that kind of business.”

Tip #2 – Don’t Write Romance If You Can’t Say Cock and Pussy

Attending the romance panel was a last-second decision on my part. I’m so glad I did. Otherwise, I’d never have met Tina Folsom. I wish I’d been able to meet up with her later and pick her brain (not in the bathroom).  We did try to track her down at the Gala, but she wasn’t in attendance. Bummer.

The romance panel was fantastic. I’m a noob at writing romance, and admittedly, I’ve never really read the genre per se. I’ve read heavily-romance-inspired… but flat-out romance is something I’ve always kind of looked at sideways before wandering off to the SciFi section. I started writing a romantic story, because: reasons. I figured attending the panel would give me an idea of whether or not I should really continue.

When someone asked about “purple prose,” I admit I wanted to raise my hand and ask what it was in romance terms. It was easy enough to figure out from the context that, in romance, the “flowery, ornate, (distracting) text” refers to those throbbing manhoods and heaving bosoms that have become synonymous with Harlequin Romance. She very directly said, if you can’t say “cock” and “pussy”, stay away from romance.

If this blog is any evidence….I’m safe.  I’ll continue with my romance.

Tip #3 – Post-it Notes are Of The Gods

My friend and fellow writer Caroline Fréchette holds the title for Best Post-it Note Post.  Most writers I know have a thing for post-its. Like, if you are in a relationship with a writer, don’t make her choose between you and the post-its. You’ll lose. No questions asked. The conference panelists made me rethink my own post-it usage.  The aforementioned Tina Folsom said she plots all of her sex scenes on hot pink post-its. In books where she has more than one protagonist, she plots their POV scenes on different colors. The antagonists have their colors, too. That way, when she lays out the story arc and timeline, she can visually see if the story is lopsided, lacks action, or is otherwise unbalanced.

Effing. Brilliant. And I’m the engineer, right?  Why didn’t I think of that?

Tip #4 – Writers Are Professional Eavesdroppers

Our lunchtime keynote speaker for Friday, Yiyun Li, talked at length about how her career in the sciences left her feeling unfulfilled, because she had, her whole life, preferred eavesdropping over all other activities. She then went on at length about how to properly listen in on your fellow man and write about what you hear. Most important, of course, is mastering the ninja art of blending into the background. You are not seen. You are not heard. Yet you, dear writer, see and hear all. And then what you witness becomes your next best seller. This is just fair warning: She’s absolutely right.  Writers are notoriously nosy.

Don’t be surprised if you end up in my book, friends.  I can’t help it. It’s just what writers do.

Tip #5 – You Are On Display

When you’re talking to agents and publishers, remember that they have to sell you. Your potential media saleability is pretty critical. If you look like you’re about to wet yourself when you talk to them, it could mean serious points against you. Get a game face. Wear it. Practice it. Perfect it. If you’ve never had training for public speaking, take a class or join Toastmasters International. Learn to speak in public. If you’re afraid of speaking in public, the industry can smell it, and it will avoid you.

Tip #6 – The Surefire Way to Avoid Rejection

Michael Larsen gave the best tip as the first tip of the conference.  There is one way to avoid rejection… you’ll never hear the word no! Guaranteed!


Wait for it….

Never. Submit. Anything.

Happy writing, folks!

Slow Clap picture credit:

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