The ‘Novel openings’ session which started the meet included lively interaction and questions from the audience, and it certainly helped me add some extra books to my ‘to read’ list for 2013, having piqued my interest with the 150 word snippets. A useful tip I picked up, which is comforting as a new writer, is how important individual voice is. It’s reassuring to know that I don’t need to try and write the next vampire/wizard/whatever book, I can write what I’m interested in, and if readers like my own voice, and story, they’ll come back. So that’s easy then...
I grabbed a vital cup of tea and pack of biscuits – essential to maintain the concentration – and joined the ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ session in the break out room. A great lesson which I took from this was that your life, what’s happening all around you every day, is a great source of inspiration. I often use situations I’ve found myself in, or which my friends have told me about, and I asked how much you can use a friend’s life as the basis of a story. The following discussion about how unique it really is to spilt up with someone, to fall in love with the wrong person, to have a friend who’s crap, helped me have the confidence to take parts of real life, conversations, phrases, character traits, and use that as the nugget of an idea to grow fiction around it. And that’s what I’ve done with my WIP ‘And then he came along,’ at the moment.
The ‘Getting published’ session was obviously of interest, as a currently unpublished author: I was heartened to hear there’s ‘no magical door’ and ‘no secret handshake,’ to let you into the elite of those who are published. My notes for that section are clear,(yes, I took notes, that’s just the way I am!): write the book, finish it; polish it – make it as good as you can get it; send it to the right publishers, and don’t ignore their guidelines. It was heartening to hear that it’s not essential to have an agent, particularly in this genre of fiction, which leads the way in e-publishing, and is therefore pretty advanced, compared to other genres. All very practical, helpful advice, one of the reasons I came to the meet.
In the ‘Online marketing’ session, I found out what a blog tour is, and subsequently, have appeared on Charlie Cochrane’s blog, and am now appearing on the Meet’s blog. It’s such a simple concept, but so great to drive new readers to your website and to discover your books. I also learned how irritating it is when authors use social media to only sell their latest book. Describing it to a friend afterwards I said, it’s a bit like being at a dinner party, being all sociable and chatty, and someone walks up to you with a clipboard and pen and says: ‘I’m a painter and decorator, would you like me to do some work at your house, I can take your details here.’ Not great, not pretty, and not clever.
Jordan Castillo Price’s session was a really inspirational way to end the day and my notes (yep those again) pretty much sum it up: ‘It’s tempting to write to the market, but you need to write about what you love and continues to challenge you. Take risks and don’t just follow the trends. Write what is around you in the world, which is how readers can tell the story is from the heart, so they’ll love the characters, and come back for more.’
Over tapas, I compared writing technique ‘to plan or not to plan’ with Anna Martin, and was shocked and surprised at the different ways people write. This was the first ‘writerly’ conversation I’d ever had like that, with someone else who understands what you’re talking about, and it was like a whole new world of friends and possibilities had opened up to me. Somehow, between tapas and going home, I volunteered to join the planning team for the 2013 meet. When I finally arrived home on Saturday night, the BF said I was ‘crackling with ideas and possibilities.’
In addition to the practical tips and advice I also met some great people, which has led to a whole list of other interesting things: I was tagged by Clare London for The Next Big Thing
blog, with Anna Martin, Jo Myles and Jay Rookwood; I appeared on Charlie Cochrane’s blog ; and I’ve been working in the background with the rest of the team, to make the 2013 meet even bigger and better than 2012.
I look forward to seeing you all there in July.