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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Get Your Head in the Game: Preparing for National

Several years ago, I wrote the following advice for the President’s Column in The Georgia Romance Writers’ Galley newsletter. I’d like to share it with posse readers, too, because I think what I have to say is just as relevant now as it was then. Prepare for the national RWA conference at the end of July as you would a district basketball title. If you want to win an opportunity to send a partial to the editor or agent of your dreams, gain new professional contacts, and make a good impression on everyone you meet, you’ve got to get your head in the game.

Practice Your Free Throws. Those of us who watch basketball go ballistic when we see players missing free throws, also called foul shots. Players miss for two reasons: they get intimidated and choke or they don’t practice enough because it’s an easy shot. The writing equivalent to a free throw is the two-minute-or-less pitch. Quick pitches are great for when you’re introduced to a published author, editor, or agent who asks what you’re working on. You might feel intimidated, so practice. Your two-minute-or-less pitch should tell who your hero and heroine are, what their major conflict is, and what subgenre you’re targeting. Practice your two-minute pitch while showering, while driving in the car, or while grocery shopping. You don’t want to shoot an air ball.

Don’t Get Caught Hacking. Hacking is a personal foul. The equivalent in the writing profession is to speak ill of other writers, editors, and agents in a public forum. You do not know who might be listening at the bar or restaurant, or in the elevator. Consider keeping the alcohol to a minimum as well. An extra glass or two of Chardonnay sometimes loosens a person’s inhibitions and tongue.

Don’t Be a Ball Hog; Get Some Points for an Assist.
Introduce a friend or acquaintance from your chapter to another professional, be it a published author, editor, or agent. Networking is part of the business. Several years ago in Reno, fellow Georgia Romance Writers member Berta Platas (Lucky Chica, SMP, January 2009) introduced several unpublished authors from our chapter to her agent and other agents she knew. These introductions resulted in requests for partials. Points scored. Kudos to Berta on the assists.

Develop a Game Plan.
Would you play for the district title without one? Use the conference schedule sent out in RWA’s Romance Writers Report or online to determine which workshops you’d like to attend before arriving in San Francisco. Contact friends and professional acquaintances you’d like to see now. Volunteer to help at the conference. There’s no doubt about it, networking and spending time with friends during the conference are as important as learning more about the craft of writing romance. But don’t forget that with the slate of fabulous workshops available, you are there to learn as well as socialize, network, and get requests. Balance is the key. Leave yourself a little down time every day to rest and evaluate how you’re playing. Every basketball game has a half-time.

Break Away
A breakaway shot is one where you beat your opponents down the court for an uncontested opportunity at the goal. Finish the book and polish it to perfection now, so that when you get a request from an editor or agent, the book is ready to send. Many of your competitors won’t have theirs ready, and you can break away. You might just get a slam dunk!

Is your head in the game?

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At 10:01 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Great advice, Mo! Conference can be overwhelming at times but I always come home feeling motivated and ready to write! I usually don't get enough sleep at conference and then I end up walking around like a zombie. So this year, I'm going to try to get to my room earlier...

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

I won't be at RWA but I love all things basketball and can appreciate the advice.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

That's great advice, too! We sometimes don't get enough sleep, which could make our brains a little sluggish during editor/agent appointments or slow on the uptake if we're conducting a workshop.

If you don't get enough sleep, I recommend a tall latte with a double shot of espresso and a few drops of visine in the eyes.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Thanks! You can also use this advice for any other writing conference you may be planning for. Did you by any chance play b-ball? I played center from 4th to 9th grade, then stopped because it was getting too rough for me-- scratched cornea and huge bruise on my nose that thankfully wasn't broken.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

My husband and I love basketball, Mo. My daughter played varsity all four years in high school (point guard) and two years in college (they came in second in the state finals). She had shoulder surgery a year ago and she doesn't play any longer. My husband coached basketball for years and he misses it!

And I don't understand at all why those players can't make their free throws!!! Go Kings! :)

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Oh, and bummer that we won't see you at conference, Patricia! I was hoping to meet you. Maybe next year?

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Great advice, Maureen. Hopefully I'm better at making the most of the conference than I was at basketball. :)

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I know you'll make the most of your conference. :)

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Wow, Theresa! I'm impressed with your daughter's b-ball accomplishments. You must be so proud.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Janet Mullany said...

Great advice, Mo, tho I don't know from basketball... I'd like to add that I've made some wonderful friends by emailing writers whose work I really liked and suggesting that we meet at National. You can't rely on bumping into people (altho it's surprising how often it happens).

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Great suggestion about contacting writers whose work you admire, Janet! And it's amazing how often you do run into old friends at the conference--usually, for me, at the hotel bar or at any event involving chocolate!

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Lisa Hendrix said...

(snip)Finish the book and polish it to perfection now, so that when you get a request from an editor or agent, the book is ready to send. Many of your competitors won’t have theirs ready, and you can break away.(snip)

Boy, do I second that! And I'd like to add: ACTUALLY SEND IT.

An editor once told me that she'd asked for ten supposedly finished mss at National. By October, when we spoke, she had received precisely zero. Zilch. Nada. Either people lied or they chickened out. Don't do either one.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Good point, Lisa. Some writers do chicken out. Or they decide they need to revise the story one more time. I've been guilty of that form of procrastination in the past. If you get a request, the editor or agent wants to see your work. So send it!

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Fabulous advice, Mo! (You sporty thing, you!)

I think the two-minute pitch is the easiest to blow off, because often it points out the lack of a clear hook in a MS. Been there, done that. Or you think, oh, I know my own book. Of course I can talk about it! And then lack of practice makes you freeze.

At 3:08 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Thanks, Esri! Practicing works. Case in point, I practiced my "two-minute drill" before the last chapter meeting (in the car mostly)and when someone asked me what I was working on, I was ready and able. No one glazed over as I went into too much detail, either, which is the opposite and often as deadly as the frozen brain.

At 10:58 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Great advice, Mo. I am printing this one out as well. I need to practice my two minute drill for sure.

Darn, Patricia! I was so hoping to meet you at Nationals. Next year maybe?

I actually played basketball on an intramural team when I was in college - all five foot nothing of me. I was fast and sneaky!

Now my niece is my pride and joy. She is 14, will be a freshman this year and has played varsity basketball, softball and volleyball for two years already. She did NOT inherit her height, nor her blond good looks from her short, Native American aunt!

At 6:20 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

What a great analogy! I always try for the assist, myself, paying it forward for all the people, including Delores Fossen and Jo-Ann Power, who assisted me.

At 9:11 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

If you practice that two-minute pitch, you'll have it ready by San Fran. Let us know when you get back where you used it.

Kudos on your b-ball accomplishments and those of your niece!

At 9:12 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Kudos to you for getting lots of assists! I, too, am a firm believer in paying it forward.


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