Where to start! In previous years I've only gone for the Friday and Saturday, coming home at night because I'm only an hour away. This year I went for the all singing, all dancing (actually nobody was dancing, too tired!) weekend package starting Friday morning and finishing Sunday afternoon. This comprised:
Friday mini course - Writing a Series Veronica Heley
Fri eve - Getting off the slush pile Lucie Whitehouse
Sat - Lectures on:
How to market yourself as a writer
Are you really a non fiction writer
How to use the web to get published
The X factor in novel writing
Sun - Completion of getting off the slush pile
Throw in a couple of 15 minute appointments with an agent and an editor, non-stop talking at breakfasts, lunches and dinners and you have...an exhausted but buzzing conference delegate.
The real benefit I got from staying the weekend was getting to chat to more people and hearing their experiences. There were several authors there who'd been published as a result of people they'd met at previous conferences. It was fascinating to hear so many of them say they did six or seven drafts of their book before it was ready. I was chatting to an author and agent one lunch, not realising this was the agent I had an appointment with the next day! We ended up at the same table for dinner and breakfast. The poor woman probably thought I was stalking her!
The two appointments are the priceless element of the weekend. I'd sent the chapters and synopsis they'd asked for in advance and they both gave me some great advice. The editor focused on the time period I'd set it, wondering if 30 years was too far ahead and if it could be set very near future. We also talked about the SF market, and given that there were elements of crime in my novel whether I might be better off writing a crime novel first. Not what I wanted to hear, but I agree it's a much larger market. The agent I saw focused on my main character and wanted me to develop her more, saying she needed to express her motivations more clearly. She'd written loads of notes on my manuscript which is really helpful. I also got some good tips on people to send it too. I was aware neither of them was likely to be interested in a pure SF novel, but they both consider books with an element of SF so I thought they'd have the best advice.
The other novelty of the weekend, although novelty perhaps implies more enjoyment than I was feeling, was the accommodation. My own university halls were pretty grim, with unpainted breeze block walls and moulding shared bathrooms. Having seen some plush university rooms since I was rather unprepared for what I faced! Throwing on some clothes to face a dark hallway at 3am, just to get to the loo, wasn't the most fun. Trying to have a shower with NO hot water either day wasn't improving my opinion either! They do have some en-suite rooms off campus. Apparently it's a 20 minute walk through the graveyard, along past the hospital, just beside the prison...
It was an inspiring weekend though, and just picturing myself there gives me part of the buzz I felt and really motivates me to get writing, rather than wittering on with my blog. I just hope I wrote down enough of the fabulous advice I got, because I intend to use it!