Monday, April 26, 2010

A Great Conference & The Importance of Patience

Wow! What a great time I had at the LDStorymakers conference in Provo, Utah, this last weekend. It was so great, seeing everyone and hearing so many inspirational stories of failure, trials, and ultimately success. Writing is definitely a contact sport. You have to be willing to work hard and get a lot of rejection. Even authors you think must have coasted to their big contracts saw lots of setbacks most people don’t know about. In the final class I did, (see the video below for a spoof of how James and I came up with it) James mentioned something I saw more and more of. It is the need for patience.

As writers, you would think we would understand that writing takes time, and good writing takes even more time. A quality manuscript can takes months or even years to write. Then we take months more to rewrite it. Then we take years to get it published. We know this, and yet we are always looking for a shortcut. Just a few thoughts I’d like to share from some things I saw or heard.

Don’t be in such a big hurry to get your manuscript out to an agent. A fast no is not better than a slow yes.

Just because you typed “the end” does not mean you are done. The best authors I know rewrite many times. Are you really so much better than NYT Bestselling authors that your work is sellable after the first pass?

More than ever, editors are requiring authors to submit higher quality manuscripts. With many publishers cutting staff over the past few years, they are looking for manuscripts that they can take to committee without massive rewrites. Get plenty of feedback and put in the work before sending your baby into the world.

It is not as hard as you think to go back and fix a broken story. Don’t have a strong enough villain? Go back and make him stronger. Realized your world isn’t as complete as you’d like? Take it a chapter at a time and add more detail. Remember, diamonds don’t come cut and polished.

Finally, that query letter. I know you are anxious, but do your research. Get feedback. Make your query the best it can be, so your story will get the look it deserves.

The same advice can be applied to life. The best things don't come fast. Give yourself permission to take an extra week--or month--writing your story if it means you get to spend a few more minutes every day playing with your kids, or getting enough exercise, or being with your spouse.

Here’s a fun little movie I made of James and me coming up with our Q&A workshop—which was a blast to do!

Here's the link:


Erin G. said...

You are/were my favorite person I met at Storymakers. Hands down (with James as a close second).:)
You're just so inspiring and awesome! Everything you had to say was something I really needed to hear. Patience is definitely a virtue that writers need to develop. That's something I'm trying to learn. I've been in a total slump lately, but the conference revitalized me and now I'm back to the old grindstone. But your classes were great and I learned so much, so THANK YOU!
You are seriously the best! :D

Suey said...

Love that video! :)

Laura said...


That video had me laughing so hard. It was perfect.

But, I wanted to thank you for your words during that panel you shared with James. There was a moment in there where I felt the raw adversity you had to face, and although it made tears come to my eyes, it made my own journey feel validated. Thanks for being willing to give the honest part of yourself, the part that is hard to say out loud.

As writers, we probably spend more time cutting ourselves down than telling ourselves that we can do it. The last piece of advice to believe in yourself was the final thought engraved into my mind before I left the conference. It all comes down to that in the end.

And, as fate would have it, the next morning I got my very first request for a full manuscript from an agent in New York. It was as if I needed proof that if you hold on until at least one day after you feel like giving it all up, something good might actually be around the corner.

Even though I looked forward to going to the conference, I was ready to give it all up. Who was I to think I could make it in this brutal career of writing?

Thanks for helping me make it through one more day.


J.N. Future Author said...

oh no! I can't believe I missed the Storymakers Conference!

Oh well, there is always next year

I hope it was as fun as it was last year! Last years was a blast!!!

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

Oh man. That was too funny. Your video, I mean.

This post gave such great advice. Amen to all of it.

I'm so glad I went to your class on villains. What insight you have and you know what I like best of all? That you are a real person. You are nothing like that little video. You're sincere and kind and treat all us "little people" like we're movie stars. I love that. Thank you for always including me and making me feel important. I can't wait for you to read my book!

Christy said...

Thanks Jeff for a great post that puts everything into perspective. Writing can definately be a daunting task. Thank you for reaching out to fledgling authors, like myself, and giving encouragement. I attended your villains class, as well as the panel with Dashner. I learned tons-thanks!

Alyssa said...

Wow, Jeff, that move was reeeally selfless and humble of you... but it was funny, so I guess that outdos that! Keep on writing! I love your blog! :)

Anonymous said...

Help me! You posted a comment about passive voice over on the frog blog and I need help. I'm trying to say something but I'm worried I might be using a passive voice. Here's the line:

His heart turned into a dead weight...


His heart sunk like a dead weight...(I use like here and I know that is wrong)

J Scott Savage said...

Erin, thanks so much. It was great meeting you! One of my favorite things about writers conferences is getting re-energized.

Laura, congratulations on your great news! I firmly believe that our burdens feel the heaviest just before we reach a new level.

Yeah, I missed you Jacoby!

Melissa, you are my new best friend!

Christy, you are my new best friend

Alyssa, you are my new best friend.

Suey, you are my long time best friend.

Okay, you are all my best friends. Because you can't have too many best friends.

Anon those are just fine. And there is no problem with using like. Remember active voice is subject verb. His heart sank. Passive is when you change the subject to an object. His heart was sunk by the woman's words..

NaTahsha Ford said...

Thank you for that post. I really needed it right now. I'm almost done with my first draft, but I'm daunted by the hard work I still have ahead of me. But like you said, diamonds don't come cut and polished.
I hope I wasn't too snarky during your panel, (I was the one who asked "what the heck do I need an agent for?") It was actually yours and James' response that contributed to my group's "revolution." (as we like to call it) We met each other at your Spanish Fork class, and we've accomplished so much together. We're in the process of forming a website, hoping that as a group, we can get more exposure. I'd love for you to check out my blog. I'll be linking to our website soon!

Amber Lynae said...

That is an awesome video.

Nishant said...
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