When an Industry Insider dashes your hopes at the conference
So you’re back from the conference a week, and while all the blog posts and the Facebook stuff are full of Happy, Happy Sunshine, you aren’t feeling the love and motivation.
For you, one of the faculty uttered an offhand comment or a direct response to a question that crapped all over your work. Oh, not your work specifically, but a key component in what you’re doing.
Oh, that doesn’t work.
You can’t really do it that way.
No one really does that any more.
It was my first writers conference experience. I don’t remember who the speaker was, but he (I think it was a guy) was talking about synopses. So I asked what seemed like an intelligent, appropriate question: How do you write a synopsis when your story includes flashbacks?
The answer: No one writes flashbacks any more. You shouldn’t do that. Next question, please!
Holy crap, I thought. My whole freaking story doesn’t work without the flashbacks and now this Industry Insider told me he doesn’t even need to see it to know it’s crap because no one writes flashbacks any more.
At the time, Kaye Coppersmith was my only real booster, having read my work in critique group. She told me not to listen to him (or her). As much as I liked Kaye–who I really didn’t know very well at the time–this was an Industry Insider telling me this.
Let’s say that’s you. And an Industry Insider carelessly cut your work and didn’t even notice it was bleeding. And now you’re trying to pick up all the shattered pieces of your literary existence.
Take a breath and calm down. There’s always the asterisk (you should never ever do that–unless it works). There’s always the subjective nature of much of this business. And there’s always the possibility that they’re right and your work will be better for having listened.
Either way, before you run off and drop your work in the shredder (or the shredder app, if it’s on a computer), do a little research. Find out whether what they say is true.
But these are industry insiders. Shouldn’t I trust what they say?
Trust. But verify.
Okay, does that mean you got crappy people at the conference?
Not at all. It means this industry is full of human beings with all their inborn biases, and they haven’t seen your work. Remember, this is the industry that rejected Harry Potter more times than anyone wants to count. Competent professionals did that.
But what if they’re right? That would be soul crushing.
Okay. If they’re right, be crushed. Give yourself some quality time with a half gallon of chocolatey ice cream or a six-pack. Wallow in your defeat and feel pitiful. Then get up off your butt and fix it. But use your brain about it. Consult other people. Use your judgement to apply their words in a way that make your work better.
It’s only defeat if you let it be.