Conference Withdrawal

It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. ”
E. L. Doctorow (on writing a novel)

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I was just at the Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop last week.  I don’t want to say too much about the conference since I’ll be posting on the experience at Writer Unboxed on October 5th.  I will say that re-entry into life has been more difficult than I anticipated.

Aside from the obvious (no one to cook my meals, no housekeeping, no time for runs every morning, no more bars every evening), I found myself circling the quivering, torn up, whimpering, rearranged, bled mess that was my work in progress without being able to move in for the kill.  We were both a little stunned after the conference, my manuscript and I, and neither of us knew what to do next.  I was completely overwhelmed by the changes I needed to make.

Thankfully, I met with my writing partner today so we could discuss my road map for revisions.  We talked about the new plot layer I’m adding, how I’ll increase the tension, and which character is being cut (sorry, friendly neighbor, you made my protagonist’s life too easy).  I could feel my anxiety level rising as I explained each change, but also, my heightening excitement over the improvements. We set our submission date for next Tuesday.

Then I felt the shift, the lift, the easing of the anxiety.  It was the deadline that liberated me.

It’s just one scene.  I can rewrite one scene by next week. I can build more tension, cut unnecessary words, and smooth out the plot bumps. It will take time to untangle the mess I’ve made, but the manuscript will turn out worlds better than it started.  Each draft will reflect the growth of my characters and my self as a writer.  I have to trust in the process, one scene at a time.

How do you put what you learn to work, post-conference? Do you tackle revisions chronologically, organically, or alcoholically? 🙂

photo credit: Headlights by Reskiy @


3 thoughts on “Conference Withdrawal

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hallie Sawyer and Tracy Hahn-Burkett, Erika Robuck. Erika Robuck said: In which I blog on conference withdrawal, and picking up the pieces… […]

  2. Rima says:

    I’ve never been to a conference. I don’t have the cash. However, I am living vicariously through you, and cringing for my poor manuscripts as I read your post. Looking forward to your post on Writer Unboxed!

  3. Erika Robuck says:

    Rima–Thank goodness for the conference scholarship. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to go at this time. The best, free thing you can do for yourself and your manuscript is find/start a writer’s critique group. Getting and giving regular feedback on your work is invaluable to the overall health of your writing.

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