Sunday, October 16, 2011

Special Sunday Edition with Jennifer Slattery

Pepper here and I love surprises - the good kind anyway. Today we're having a special Sunday edition with guest, Jennifer Slattery. Best known for her involvement in Clash of the Titles, Jennifer also stays busy as a writer and much more.
With ACFW being almost a month ago, I asked Jennifer to share some insights for what to do AFTER a conference.
Please welcome her to The Writers Alley!!!

After perhaps a month, maybe more, of preparation, a rapid-fire weekend of exponential learning, networking, and pitching, conference is over. You slump in your office chair, eyes blurring. Before you start a complete rewrite, shred your novel, or email it to the friendly editor you met during dinner, take time to process, develop a plan, and review what you’ve learned. You’ve already plunked down the money on conference and travel fees. You may as well squeeze the experience for all it’s worth, refusing to let discouragement or lack of focus hinder your success.

Editor X told you your novel sounded cliché, agent Y turned glossy-eyed halfway through your pitch, and you came home ready to throw your manuscript, perhaps even your entire career, in the trash. Before you stomp your computer to miniscule fragments, take a moment to process what you heard. We’re an insecure bunch, and often our first response is to assume a position of failure. Yet when we take time to process the advice received, sifting through our manuscript once again when our emotions are less charged, we’ll find logical solutions to plot holes, cliché characters, and sagging middles. Each critique, if handled correctly, is an opportunity for strength.

Resist the all-or-nothing approach and focus on one change at a time. Move through your novel piece-by-piece, until you’re satisfied. It might require a complete rewrite, seven times over, but try to think in terms of small, manageable steps. Many of us get discouraged by such a monumental, yet achievable, task. By dividing our big-picture solution into bite-sized chunks, we can often prevent feelings of paralyses.

Forget perfection—unobtainable—and focus on excellence, a perfect blend of quality and efficiency. The agent or editor expects a slight time lapse between conference and final submission, but if you wait too long, they’ll forget your conversation entirely. Remember that piece-by-piece game plan I suggested in the previous paragraph? Assign completion dates to each task ,then meet those goals with unwavering commitment. By assigning time-frames while conference enthusiasm lingers, you can avoid time-sapping procrastination and resultant apathy.

Amidst your defrag time, make time to connect with all those lovely authors, agents, and editors you met during conference. Never under-estimate a conference connection. Be open for ways to extend and grow formed relationships into blogging and critiquing partnerships. Last winter after attending the Christian Writers Guild’s Writing for the Soul Conference, I returned with countless new friends, blog-post-swapping partners, and critique partners.

Take time to review what you’ve learned. In fact, consider purchasing a CD. According to studies, most humans retain 20-40% of what they learn, in the best circumstances. Because stress impairs learning and retention, when you add the stress of conference, those percentages drop, making review imperative. Begin with a big-picture review, taking time to listen to your CD’s and review your notes, then go back to your piece-by-piece plan. Choose one area—yes, one—to improve using what you’ve learned. Create a schedule and completion goals to work on the other areas.

Finally, take a moment to evaluate your entire experience. How did your appointments go? What could you have done differently? Were you often over-tired or overwhelmed? If so, what steps can you take next year to prevent those feelings? Did you stumble over your pitch? If so, why? Write these things down and tuck them away to be reviewed before you attend your next conference. Most importantly, always remember, writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Your goal isn’t to blaze through the finish line (unless you’ve already put in the miles) but instead, to jog around that next bend. If you do that, you’ll eventually reach your goals.

Thanks so much for being here,  Jennifer and sharing these great tips. You can learn more about Jennifer at or visit Writing Career Coach.

Jennifer Slattery is a freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of sixteen years and their fourteen year old daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse, Samie Sisters, and is the marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She also co-hosts (with five other ladies) a Facebook faith community called Living by Grace and works for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, as an assistant publicist and professional manuscript evaluator. Visit her devotional blog at to find out more about her and her writing and visit her writing blog at to find out more about her publicity and manuscript critique services.


Joanne Sher said...

What a great post, Jennifer.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

I agree with Joanne. This is a great post! I plan to print it out and look back to it again. I appreciate the practical tips and the encouragement to change our mindsets from that of failure to that of learner. Thanks so much for the practical applications!