I spent my forty-fuggin’-seventh birthday in a car driving down to New Mexico, Santa Fe to be precise to attend the Tony Hillerman Writer’s Conference, also known, for some reason as “Wordharvest.” I’m unsure why they need two names, but whatever. I went last year and it was great. I went back this year and dug it again. It’s limited to like only a 150 people so you probably didn’t get to go. As a public service, here is a list of what was buzzing in my head while I drove home after the conference.
|Anne Hillerman, our hostess|
(photo quality: potato)
Agents are so helpful. They get you published by the big five and make sure your subsidiary rights are addressed. Though there are bad ones, the good ones are worth every penny of their commission.
2 – Writers are good people.
The best thing about the Hillerman Conference are the people. No doubt about it. It’s small enough to mingle with everyone, big and small, thin and fat (me there) and actually get connected. I handed out business cards to everyone with fingers, and except for the guy in the buffet line who had a conniption when I tried to pass him the pasta tongs but dripped a drop of sauce on his cowboy boots, everyone was wonderful. That one guy was a complete prick though. He can die in a fire. That’d be alright. I mean, it was an accident and I even wiped it off. Jerk. Fire’s too good for him.
3 – Westerns are coming back, if they haven’t already arrived.
It was a western writers conference so what else are they going to say? Westerns and western mysteries, procedurals and such, are celebrated there. Remember the name Hillerman Conference. Like Tony Hillerman. Actually, it’s not like Tony Hillerman it is Tony Hillerman. If you don’t know him, go get acquainted.
Steven Havill, Margaret Coel, Anne Hillerman (debuting at #10 on the NYT best-seller list, I might add) and Craig Johnson who’s books are now the basis for the A&E Longmire series. I hung out with all these folks, by the way. It was cool. If by no other metric than Craig Johnson’s success, I’d have to say that Westerns are alive and well. Too bad I don’t write any (yet).
4 – Don’t spend more than three months on a rough draft of anything.
Writers conferences are always full of advice. Yep, they’re always full of it. You’ll get a bunch of rules and ideas from author and then the next one will effectively contradict everything the previous one said. There aren’t really rules to writing. No one can tell you precisely how to write your book, outline or freeform, characters or plot first, start at the end or the beginning. It’s all subjective. However, when I hear another author say something that I agree with, that will actually help my personal writing process, it’s wonderful confirmation. Such was this twice echoed direction to blaze through the rough draft as fast as possible. Put the black on the white, edit later. Three months sounds about right.
5 – It’s good to have an agent.
Once you have an agent, you can offer your manuscript and they will accept it. If it’s not perfect your agent will offer professional editing to get it ready for publishers who’ll either snatch it up or edit again for you before snatching it up.
|Think these agents are hard to catch? Try a literary agent.|
That kind of sums it up. It’s also useful for promotion and getting in touch your fans (when you get them). There’s a lot of it and it’s a pain in the ass and will suck up all your time from now until the end of your career if you let it, but unfortunately, unless you’re already somebody, it’s necessary.
7 – It’s good to have an agent.
Agents will get your newly acquired book reviewed in all the right places. Publisher’s Weekly comes to mind. Does Oprah still have a book club? Let’s call her and find out.
8 – The best place to write is from your private ranch studio loft overlooking a majestic western landscape, mountains, horses, and deer (elk optional).
9 – Write every day.
Another rule that was repeated. It’s a luxury to be sure to write every day and hearing it from authors who write full time, with no other job, is a little biased, but it’s still great advice and another one I believe in, but of course, I write full time. Poverty sucks.
10 – It’s good to have an agent.
It is pert near impossible to reach the top echelon of publishing without an agent. Touted aberrations aside, the gates are still guarded by agents who are human and busy, selective and political. With the right connections they line up at your door. Without them, welcome to the wilderness, where on a clear morning we can look out from the weeds, over the meadow and see the sunrise reflected off the glass windows of a private study in the loft of a stately mountain ranch.