Writing conferences can be invigorating. I recently just returned from Left Coast Crime in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I always come home from gatherings like this feeling like I can hardly wait to sit down at the keyboard and get to work. To me, a writing conference is a wonderful way to rejuvenate yourself.
The answer is simple. It's always fun to meet other writers -- like best selling author Craig Johnson.
And it's not only fun to listen to the processes some of the others writers use, but it always interesting to hear their publishing success stories. And who wouldn’t want to listen to an award-winning, best-selling suspense writer like Laura Lippman talk about why she thinks women writers deserve more credit for their work? That discussion was inspiring on many levels.
For instance she noted that the book, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” deserves every bit as much acclaim as “Catcher in the Rye.” That was a book many young girls still read and can relate to. She’s right. It stands out as one of those books that inspired many young women. She says it was the book that made her want to be a writer, and I’ll bet it inspired a good many other young writers as well.
It was also interesting to listen to Craig Johnson, who has reached a high level of success with his Longmire mystery series. It features longtime lawman Walt Longmire who keeps law and order in a Wyoming county. The series is being made into a television drama series by A&E. He told us about starting to research his series many years ago, talking to a sheriff about his story idea. Ten years later the sheriff came up to him and asked him how the story was going. Well, he hadn’t finished it. But he did. He went back and began writing and eventually was able to finish and get his work published.
But some writers take longer, as many published authors will attest to. How many writers start out and then shove their book in a drawer and never come back to it? But how many do come back? And how many eventually succeed? Those kind of stories are inspirational. You don’t fail if you keep trying. Perseverance and hard work and continued drive can often make the difference in whether you succeed eventually.
I started out writing as a teenager and it took years before I considered trying the publishing world. When I did, I was immediately sent several rejections. I still have them. What bothers me most about those rejections is what they said and what I didn’t understand at the time. The editors liked the story. They even said they might look at my work again, but it needed work. All I saw was the part that said they didn’t want this story. I put it away and it’s still in a drawer somewhere.
Years later I tried again. This time when I got a rejection, I read it more carefully. It said my work lacked polish. That was some of what the other editor said. She kept questioning my POV – I didn’t know what POV was. But this time around, I was determined to find out what “lacked polish” meant. I went to a writing group. I went to writing classes, and I kept writing.
This time I was much more determined. And eventually it happened. I got short stories published and eventually a novel.
My success has not reached that of Craig Johnson or Laura Lippman, but my determination is there and I won’t quit writing this time. And I heard similar stories from other writers at the conference as well. We’re not best sellers – yet – but we’ve got stories to tell and we’re going to tell them. And sell them!