The Peer Train

I’m going to a writer’s conference tomorrow. From 9am until 4pm, I’ll be in a room with a hundred other authors learning how to do all the stuff I talked about in last week’s post – querying, agent shopping, manuscript editing, self-marketing, etc.

Admittedly, I’m a little nervous. Why, you ask? Why would I be nervous when I’ve already done all that? I already have an agent. I already have a publisher. I’ve already been through rough edits, line edits and, soon, copyedits. I’ve already built a website. And I’ve already started forming the foundation of my author’s platform. I already know that someone likes my writing. They wouldn’t have signed the contract if they didn’t.

The part of tomorrow that makes me nervous is the public-ness of it. The second half of the workshop includes a free-for-all pitch session where each participant can read their query letter or elevator pitch to the audience and have it critiqued by a panel of experts. You’ll also be able to present the first page of your manuscript via a “stop-reading” format. The moderator reads the page aloud, and the critiquer tells them to stop the moment they lose interest. Then they tell you all the reasons why.

So here’s the thing: except for my editor, no one has ever really critiqued my fiction writing before. And certainly not out loud. Yes, I solicited a few friends to read the manuscript before I sent it off into the abyss, but they didn’t really critique it. They read it and liked it. They encouraged me to put myself out there. But they aren’t experts, not like the people that will hear my written words tomorrow. The first page of my next manuscript will be read out loud to a panel of experts and a roomful of other writers, and it scares the crap out of me.

I feel like I’m back in the 7th grade, waiting for the peer train to run me the fuck over.

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2 Comment(s)

  1. February 3, 2014 at 11:55 am

    It sounds like you’re headed to the SFWC. I was shaking in my boots last year, but it was worth its weight in gold in my getting published. There were moments when I wanted to go in a corner and cry and moments my paper was shaking so bad I couldn’t read off it, but there were a lot of other moments when I thought, “I can do that!”
    (If you have nervous hands like me, but your notes on a tablet.)
    I wish you tons of success! Have fun!
    Laura Hedgecock

    • February 3, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks, Laura. Despite all my worries, the whole thing went quite well. The panel liked my first-page review, and I learned so much. I just hope I won’t be so darned nervous the next time!


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