Jilly: Making the Most

Making the MostAre you doing anything special this week? Will you live in the moment, or do a little preparation to ensure you get the most from the experience?

All being well, by the time you read this post I’ll be in California. Whoo!

The excuse for main purpose of my trip is to attend the RWA National conference, but it’s a long and expensive journey from the UK, especially at current exchange rates 😦 and while I intend to enjoy every minute, I also want to feel that my investment in time and money has been worthwhile.

Time flies by so fast on these trips and a pinch of preparation saves a bucket of lost opportunity so I’ve been thinking about what I want to achieve before, during and after the conference. I’m feeling pretty bullish, and here’s why:

Before the Conference

I’m currently writing romantic fantasy, but I have a file full of notes for three more contemporary romances in Ian and Rose’s Gilded Lily world and I expect to go back and write them at some point. The third unwritten book (so #4 in the series) involves astronomy and Caltech, the world-famous science and engineering research and education institution. I don’t know where those ideas came from but they feel right for the character and I want to write her story, so Caltech it is. I’ll never get a better opportunity to walk the terrain and it seems stupid to pass up the chance just because I’m not focusing on that book right now. So I’ve persuaded Kay to join me on a side trip to walk the Caltech campus in Pasadena and to zig-zag up Palomar Mountain to the Observatory. I’ll prepare lots of questions, but what I find doesn’t have to be technical or scientific. I’ll be looking for anything and everything, small details that will give my story an authentic flavour.

I was also lucky enough to secure a place on the RWA’s authorized visit to the Naval Base at Coronado (SEALs, anyone?), and as a Suzanne Brockmann fan I’m ridiculously excited. I have no idea what my takeaway from that half-day will be, but I’ll be soaking up the impressions. I have no doubt it will be story gold.

At RWA National

This will be my fourth conference, and every time I tweak my objectives a little. This year my shopping list is as follows:

  • Watch, listen and learn all the time, not just in the workshop sessions.
  • Meet fellow writers and make new connections.
  • Learn about the current state of the publishing industry, and in particular the latest in the traditional v indie debate.
  • Gain insights from experienced authors, especially in the fantasy/paranormal genre.
  • Glean useful information by attending workshops in subjects that could enrich my story – like fighting, weaponry, first aid and horses.
  • Pitch Alexis, not just during the official pitch appointments, but to anyone who asks me what I’m writing. It’s a great opportunity to figure out whether my story snapshot is engaging and if not, what elements need tweaking.
  • Help Kay at the indie author signing event.
  • Identify gaps in my knowledge, decide whether they’re things I need to worry about now, and figure out what I’m going to do about them.

Ad Hoc

A major bonus is that I’ll see Kay and Jeanne and we’ll make time to argue and brainstorm. I’m looking forward to talking to them about their stories and I plan to pick their brains shamelessly about Alexis – the current WIP and my plans for the series. I already know my books will be better for their suggestions.


A trip like this is intense and it’s hard to digest so much material in such a short period. I’ll allow myself a day or two to recharge, but then I intend to schedule time to revisit my notes and reflect on what I’ve seen and heard. I want to make sure I retain and use the good stuff I’ve learned.

I’ll also buy the audio recording for the whole conference and I intend to listen systematically to the workshops I wasn’t able to attend.

So…that’s my plan for the week. What’s yours?

5 thoughts on “Jilly: Making the Most

  1. You’re always so organized in your objectives. I’ll probably do my usual “make some plans, then shunt them aside when something shiny catches my attention.”

    And that works, too.

  2. Can’t believe it’s already Monday and I missed this yesterday! Jilly (and Kay and Jeanne), have a great time at RWA. I can’t wait to hear all about it. Rachel x

  3. I missed Sunday too, sorry – my flight did not go entirely to plan 😦 but all’s good now. We just had a great walk around Caltech, which is as perfect for my story as I had hoped. Yay! Now for a shower and a cold beer. Tomorrow – Palomar, here we come!

    • Had I known you were doing that, I would have hooked you up with a high school friend of mine who has been working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since he graduated college. Both he and his wife work there, and I believe Brian worked on the original Mars rover. If nothing else, he probably has lots of friends whose brains you can pick!

      If you feel like fitting it in (or want some brains to pick), LMK and I’ll connect the two of you.

      I’m sad I’m not going to RWA this year, but at the same time, there’s nothing new in my writing life and I’m tired of pitching the same book for the 3rd time. Hopefully next year!

  4. Oh man, here we are at Friday. Where did the week go? I was down a tube, not getting anything done at all except a couple of doctor’s visits and watching some YouTube. Oh, and I read two books, one great and one fine.

    I hope you had a wonderful time! I always think it’s very valuable to visit a military base as an adult. There’s a lot going on on the surface that sometimes points to deeper things going on in the world at large. I think there are three Self-Defense Force bases in an hour’s drive from my house, and the PTA mothers visited one, once. Very interesting! My father was in the military, so I always get a little worried when the bases start doing more helicopter practices than is normal during a week.

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