Just spending time with other authors you can learn a lot, especially the ways other writers do things (which will almost always give you ideas about your own work). But here are a few more tips I picked up from the scheduled presentations at this year’s Canadian Authors Association conference.
These days, you need to develop an online presence in every way you can, but before you do, make sure you understand your personal brand: who you are, what you do, and what makes you unique. Then stamp that brand everywhere you can on the web. (Thanks to Dawn Boshcoff.)
Read and follow a publisher’s submission guidelines to the letter, every time. Otherwise you’re asking to be rejected—they’re too busy to bend their own rules. Along with your publishing credits, publishers do want to know that you belong to professional organizations (like the C.A.A.) and smaller writing circles—it shows you work at your craft and take it seriously. (Thanks to Anne Judd.)
When trying to create fresh, original, and authentic dialogue don’t use filler words like well, oh, like, or you know. But maybe do try the “Law & Order” dialogue style: when the L & O cops are interviewing witnesses, the witnesses carry on with what they’re doing, sometimes even with other conversations. That’s realistic and automatically prevents long speeches. Just don’t overdo it. (Thanks to Matt Bin.)
You don’t have to sell your poetry for $10 a crack, or even give it away. With some creative thought, you can find nearly endless ways to market it in the form of everything from bookmarks to fridge magnets to framed decorative photos. (Thanks to Jean Kay.)
When doing a public reading of your work, or giving a presentation, relaxation and vocal exercises beforehand can make a world of difference. And don’t be concerned about a case of the “butterflies”—they don’t represent stage fright, but excitement, and that adrenaline can be channeled to make for a vibrant and compelling performance. (Thanks to Ben Nuttall-Smith.)
And last of all (for now) every serious writer acknowledges that, above all, you need to put your butt in the chair and keep it there. Eliminate all distractions and do the work. That’s the way, the only way, to succeed in this crazy business.