Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What I learned at the ACFW conference

Desperate to get a publishing contract, I spent the better part of 2011 writing a contemporary romance that I was sure would awe every editor at the ACFW conference in St. Louis. The first night in the conference bookstore I was discouraged to see most of the titles on display were nothing like mine. I know it’s good to have a distinct style, but if you want to get published you must write what the reading public is buying. The stories I wanted to write didn’t fit into what I saw on display.

After the book I had worked so hard on this summer was firmly rejected by my dream editor, I began to rethink my publishing strategy. Was I missing the point? Was I writing for the market instead of writing the stories the Lord had placed in my heart, even if they weren’t the most popular topics and genres of the day?

At a mentor appointment on the last day of the conference, my suspicions were confirmed…and validated. Andy Meisenheimer from The Editorial Department advised I write what I am passionate about instead of writing for the market. Who knows? I could be the forerunner for the next big trend in Christian publishing.

“Give it two years,” Andy said. “Write your dreams first. If after all that time, you have no success, no one says you’re growing or headed in the right direction of achieving your dreams, then sell out.”

Good advice, Andy, and something I’ve taken to heart. Instead of working on projects that don’t speak to me, I’m going to write the stories that burden my beleaguered writer’s heart. The projects that excite me. Not what might be the hottest trend on the market today, but the stories that speak to me.

What about you? What did the Lord teach you at the ACFW conference? Did a meeting or encounter impact your life or career? How has your writing focus changed since the conference? Most importantly, how have you put it into action? Please share that we all might learn and become better writers and disciples of the Lord we serve.


Molly Noble Bull said...

Good points, Teresa Slack. Write your dreams. Trends come and go. Yours might be the next wave slashing over the sandy bank.
In the meantime, tell us what WAS selling at the conference via those book titles. I didn't get to attend the conference, and I would like to know what's in and what's not right now.

Teresa Slack said...

Nearly every book on the shelf was Amish, historical, pre-WWII, or stuff from big name authors. I'm sure there were a few misc. titles mixed. SciFi is growing in popularity. I write Suspense/Women's Fiction. I don't remember a single title in those genres that weren't done by multi-pub'd, big names. Sigh. But it will happen. Kids in fiction are also popular. Nearly every heroine has at least one. Can't wait to see something new from you, Molly.

Patty Kyrlach said...

You go! It will be a sad world when writers have to conform to the norm in order to succeed. Be the head and not the tail, above and not beneath. Be the leader of the pack!

Teresa Slack said...

Yeah, that's me, the head and not the tail. Thanks, Patty. We need to have a writers' meeting somewhere.

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Yes, think of a story that you're passionate about and write it! Very good advice, indeed!
~Cecelia Dowdy~

Norma Thurston-Holtman said...

Very good points! I too have been writing my dreams and did not get the kind of encouragement I wanted at a conference I attended, though I won't say it was all bad. I like Andy's suggestion of really giving it a try and believing in what you are writing. Thanks for sharing!