Author Post: Writers Write

Enjoy today’s post by Solstice instructor and prolific author Dean Hughes. To register for Dean’s Solstice class on writing historical fiction, click here.

I meet lots of people who “plan to write someday.”  They’re going to do it when they “have more time.”

I understand the problem.  We’re all busy.  But what would you think of someone who said, “I want to be a musician, so someday I’m going to buy an instrument, take some lessons, and start practicing.”  We all know that doesn’t work.  Musicians make music, and they start young.  They practice all their lives.

My point is, a writer has to write.  The published authors I know all made time to write, whether it was convenient for them or not.  They practiced.  They often found ways to take classes, to read good writing, perhaps to join writers’ groups.  But above all, they wrote.

A friend of mine raised a large family and she published all while her kids were growing up.  She found minutes to write, not hours, but she used those minutes well.

I have another friend who got up very early every morning and wrote for an hour or two—for many years.  He has published dozens of books.

Some stay up late.

Me, I could never do it those ways, but I found—no, I “created”—blocks of time.  I had an adjustable schedule, so I could carve out days, even weeks, when I could put in a big share of my day, each day, writing another book.  But I did that when I was busy making a living, raising a family, fulfilling church and community roles, and living life.  (The first three books were turned down; I published my fourth.)

You see my point.  Writing is a skill that has to be developed, and it doesn’t come by thinking about it, talking about it, or wishing for lovely days without distractions.  Writers figure out a way to write, and they do it now, not when they “get the time.”

Why Should You Attend?

Let’s face it. Writers are weird. You know what I’m saying. When I tell people I’m a writer, they give me a funny look and I can tell they’re not sure how to respond. It might be that I haven’t published anything in the nonfiction world yet. It could be that I disappear from my social circles for weeks at a time because I get so caught up working on my manuscript. No matter how you slice it, I am not like my non-writing friends.
However, there are places I can go where I feel less weird and more like my normal self: writing conferences. As an assistant for both Solstice and Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) this year, this topic is near and dear to my heart. I have attended and/or planned several writing conferences over the years, and the the things I’ve learned have made me a better writer than when I first began. Teachers attend professional development seminars to become better at their profession. Doctors go to medical conferences to gain deeper insight into best practices. Writers should do the same thing. Here are three reasons why you should attend conferences and workshops like Solstice:

Fellow Weirdos Unite
When you first walk into a writing workshop, you’re a bit overwhelmed. You’re self-conscious of the fact that you’re new. Then you look around and you see someone wearing a Harry Potter T-shirt. Someone else has pencils stuck in her hair. Two guys are discussing some author’s most recent blog post. You recognize a bit of yourself in all of them and realize you have finally found your people, so you relax and pull your notebook from your Charlotte Brontë book bag.

Networking
As the conference progresses, you get to know people. Here in Utah, there is a vast and talented writing community, full of people who are willing to help each other improve their craft. When I’ve attended conferences like Solstice, I’ve set up critique groups with people I’ve met, kept in contact with editors, and have even had instructors who were willing to help me well after the conference. Beyond that, I’ve developed friendships with people I might not have otherwise met.

You Become a Better Writer
This really goes without saying. Take the opportunity to dive in and do the work, to learn from others within the industry. It motivates you to keep going. You’ll workshop your manuscripts and you’ll rewrite passages, and by doing so, you will improve your own writing. At times you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge and information you gain, but you’ll learn to contain it into something manageable and use it to shape your own voice and writing style. And when you do that, you’ll realize you weren’t so weird after all.

So take that step and sign up for a conference today. Solstice is a wonderful place to start. If you’re interested in writing fiction, come to WIFYR in June. Just do it!