Novel Girls: Credentials, Conferences and Taking a Break

30 Sep

This version of Novel Girls is a little less technical and more theoretical.  I hope you’ll leave a comment with your opinions.

Nicole and I met Thursday night to do our usual editing and pizza.  Before we got to the red-pen marking up, we were just chatting over our shared garlic butter and three things worth discussing came up.

The first is credentials as a writer.  I touched on this briefly in my post about being published.  When submitting a query letter, it’s recommended to list your credentials as a writer.  As of right now, all I have is my two stories published in Summer Legends.  That’s not much to go on!

I don’t have an English degree and the only reason I understand grammar at all is because I had to learn Spanish grammar.  I haven’t taken a creative writing class since high school.  I did well writing essays in college, but they were only essays (mostly business essays at that, which are a different category altogether).  I read a lot, which I think makes for a better writer, but that’s hardly a qualification.

So, what would I put on a query letter?  I was high school Lit Mag editor?  I have a blog with 32 followers?  I have a really really great personality?

I’ve read to just leave any references to your qualifications off if they don’t pertain to writing.  So ignore the fact I have two bachelors degrees, graduated Suma Cum Laude and work for a Fortune 500 company.  NO ONE CARES!  Right? I’m doomed to be the unqualified writer for the rest of my life.

Reader, what’s your opinion?  Am I out of the game without an English degree (and please don’t say MFA, I’m thinking MBA is a bit more applicable to the job which brings in some money)?  Besides being published in a journal, what kind of credentials could I gain before querying my novel?

The second thing we discussed, which kind of follows from the former, is writers conferences.  I’ve seen some places that say a writer was a participant in XYZ writer’s conference or workshop.  The first thing I think when I read this is that they took six months off of work to go sit in the woods with some hippies and write what came out of their acid-fueled dreams.  (PS- I know this isn’t true)  So what does one get out of going to these conferences?

I did my two-hit Google search research.  A lot of conferences seem to be weekend meetings where an writer can talk to authors, agents, publishers, etc. to get their advice and guidance.  That sounds awesome!  I’m not going to lie, I’d love to go to a conference.  There’s one locally that sounds great but it’s the weekend of my brother-in-law’s wedding.  I hope to go next year.

So my question is, what have you gotten out of a conference that made you a better/more successful writer?  Was the money/time invested worth it?  What are some things to look for to find a good conference?

And the last question.  It’s pretty timely as NaNo comes up.  Nicole told me her goal is to finish the novel she’s working on before NaNo so that she doesn’t have to stop in the middle of it.  I realized that I stopped for about six months in the middle of my first WIP.  Of course, I never stopped thinking about it but my job at the time was too demanding for me to do anything else.  When I switched to my current job, I had the time and I finished the manuscript.

Have you ever taken a prolonged break in the middle of a manuscript?  Was it to write another book, for a job, family, etc?  Did you feel you’d lost something when you came back to it?  Had you forgotten where you wanted to go?

I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on these three topics!  Please help give this fledgling writer some guidance.

6 Responses to “Novel Girls: Credentials, Conferences and Taking a Break”

  1. Nicole Marie September 30, 2013 at 6:30 PM #

    It’s me… the infamous Nicole. 🙂

    Here’s my 2 cents (again).
    1. Having credentials: I really don’t think that having an English degree has made me a better writer. In fact, I’ll be the first to point out that I have the worst grammar in the history of all English majors. When I pursued my English degree it was simply because I wasn’t good enough at anything else. Granted, I also wanted a career with writing. But still, after taking hours of classes that included everything from creative writing to business writing to technical writing, I’m still learning and developing my craft. And I think that writing fiction (or historical fiction) is more like that – a craft. And like anything else, just needs to be practiced and perfected. Why do we write/why do we want to get published? My answer was always to a) entertain, b) escape or c) to share something meaningful with others. I think if you can accomplish that, then you already are successful. I look at publishing now like I look at Hollywood – some make it, some don’t, but we all give it our absolute best shot. If it really means that much to you – you’ll never give up trying.
    Here are some sites I found on the topic:

    2. I have mixed feelings about conferences. I think too often about wanting to “escape in the woods” to go write. I view conferences as my escape into the woods. It gives me a chance to get out of reality, surround myself with other writers and people who enjoy it, and maybe come up with some stroke of amazing inspiration. But I have found in the few I’ve gone too is there is more on the “teaching” or “coaching” aspect and author’s success stories verses “let’s do some writing exercises,” or “sit down and write whatever comes to you and don’t leave until you are happy.” I think that making a habit out of writing and actually doing it can be just as beneficial as paying the big bucks to sit with established authors and rub elbows.


    • Sam October 1, 2013 at 7:39 AM #

      I guess I’ll go back to something the infamous Nicole said when we were eating pizza: it’s the business of writing that has interested you. I know nothing of the business of writing or it’s trends because I’ve never been exposed to learned persons or professionals in the field. I think that’s something I would really enjoy out of taking some English classes. Maybe even a community college class would help me feel better about it; who knows.

      I’m still kind of lost within the vast variety of retreats/conferences available. I think I’d have to do some serious research to see what kind might be beneficial to me. Like I said, the one in Rochester next year sounds like a good place to start and it’s not that expensive!


    • Sam October 1, 2013 at 7:51 AM #

      Also, some excellent articles, thanks for sharing them!


  2. 2001pm October 1, 2013 at 5:13 AM #

    I’ve never been to a retreat or a conference, probably to my detriment — I really don’t know. When I wrote as a full-time copywriter, I was really driven to creativity by fear: the fear of being fired for not making a deadline. When I wrote as a columnist, I’d literally talk to the wall in front of me to give myself a jump-start toward better writing.

    My favorite book on writing is Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ I have two copies and read the book once every year. (I understand Mr. King has been published a couple times, and may have some advice on the subject.)

    I like both of your writing styles. Keep it conversational. Lots of people may want to listen!

    – Jim


    • Sam October 1, 2013 at 7:39 AM #

      I have Stephen King’s book on my To-Read list. I’ve heard from writers and non-writers that it’s a good read, either for the autobiography part or the writing advice part.

      Blogging feels like it should lend itself to a more conversational style. Especially because I want this to be a dialogue, not a monologue. Thanks for all of your, comments, Jim! It’s good to know people are listening.



  1. Recently Added to my To-Read Shelf | Taking on a World of Words - October 9, 2013

    […] Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson: On my previous post talking about the credentials a writer needs, Nicole send me a list of links and one was to Ingermanson’s blog.  I liked […]


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