Anytime I speak about writing or dream-following or the amazing providence of God, I am asked how I got here. What was the road to publication like for me? Most of the time I can see one of two things in the eyes of an asker who is also a writer: hope or dread. Can I expect the road to be wonderful or terrible? those eyes say.
If I have the time I tell them it is both. It is wonderful and it is terrible. And for pity’s sake, have no more expectations. Goals are good, dreams are empowering, passion is essential, but expectations just don’t seem to figure in to getting published. They did far more to trip me up than build me up. Because what you expect is rarely what happens.
I tell fellow novelists waiting for that big break that there are only two things you need to get a book published: 1. An incomparably well-written story 2. Perfect timing. Only one of those things can the writer control. They hold sway over the depth of their prose but they are not in control of time. You could write a stellar novel about a boy who learns he is a wizard but your timing would be splendidly off if you expected to see it published. Timing is everything.
But here’s the good news. There is something you can do to improve the quality of your writing and your knowledge of what is timely and what isn’t. It’s something I should have done in the beginning and didn’t but which I heartily recommend to any writer at any point in the journey. Go to a writers’ conference. Just schedule the time, invest the money and go. Which one is best for you largely depends on where you are at with your writing project and who it’s for. If you write fiction from an inspirational worldview, may I encourage you to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference in Dallas. The dates are Sept. 20-23. I am one of many workshop leaders who will be sharing at the conference. In addition to a strong panel of teachers and leaders, editors from major publishing houses and literary agents will also be available for personal appointments. This is really the best reason to attend an conference like this one. There is no other way to have one-on-one time with an acquisitions editor or agent. Sending in your completed and (gasp!) unrequested 350-page manuscript just doesn’t work anymore. It’s personal contact that gets your foot in the door. And this is what happens at the ACFW writers’ conference.
God was amazingly kind to me to get me inside this industry without that personal contact upfront. But it doesn’t usually happen that way. Plus, I missed out on all those opportunities to build friendship connections in those early days. I failed to see writers’ conferences as CEUs, an investment in my future, a fantastically SMART way to improve my writing and my network of contacts.
So if you’re an aspiring author or you know of one, take this advice to heart or pass it along. You don’t have to go to a writer’s conference to get published. But it sure does help. In more ways than one.