Conference Overview- Tips, Links, and so Much More!
Here I am at the conference. Can you find me? :)
Recently I came across a writing prompt that I think every writer should listen to and put together straight away. Even if they never share it with the public, it's good to have on hand. That prompt was to amass a top ten list of the best writing advice you've ever read, been offered, or learned all on your own from trial and error. How ingenious to have such a valuable list handy when the time comes time to edit, submit, and promote your book? It's as good as a cheat sheet.
It's been on my list to do ever since, and in honor of the fabulous conference I attended this past weekend, I thought to do a top ten list, conference style! This way I can share some of my own gold nuggets of awesomesauce and as well as a few that were imparted upon us attendees by some very sage ladies from ORACON. Without further ado, here I go!
*Don't harp! This is some advice I've heard on several occasions, and was reiterated at the conference. What I mean by this is that we as writers tend to agonize over every word choice, anything spoken by the character, and seemingly every other scene we write. Sometimes this obsession for perfection stops you from writing past the first chapter! I am guilty of this, particularly when it comes to my opening chapter. Do we want our first words to generate enough interest for readers to turn the next page? Yes! Can we do that when the only thing to our manuscript is the first chapter? No. So if you are still harping on that first chapter, your first sex scene, or any other passage in your first draft, stop! Give yourself a break, realize that every author out there spits out a shitty first draft, and move on. You'll thank me later, I promise.
*Make yourself a checklist for edits. From Tish Beaty's Fifty Shades of Editing class, I have a few questions you can ask yourself or some things to ponder on the go through:
- Repetition. We all have our favorite words. Perhaps yours is "just," "and so," or "like." Whatever they are, search your manuscript for them and kill those darlings! Use the search/find option in Word, or read backwards. No matter how you do it, doing it and being aware of what those words are will make you a stronger writer.
- What is your show/tell ratio? From Tish's hand out, she says "Showing involves the use of dialogue - complete dialogue, not dialogue that has been cut away by narrative. It rouses readers' emotions through character reactions and rich writing."
- Have you included everything? Did you make your point or did the theme of your story get lost in translation? Did every character participate to the best of their ability, or can you cut some talking heads to make it more concise?
- Does it make sense? This is where BETA readers and critique partners come in play. They might see the plot holes, the scenes left dangling, or the confusing dialogue that you did not.
- Is it organized in a logical way?
- Does the text flow?
- Does the story have a narrative arc - beginning/middle/end?
- Is the tense same from beginning to end? Switching from past to present and present to past is one of the most common mistakes authors make. The tense must be consistent.
- Too many adverbs? Remember, strong verbs say much more than a string of wimpy adverbs.
- Are your words strong? Meander says more than walk, screech says more than yell, scowl says more than frown, etc.
*Feel as if something is missing? As if the story is falling flat somehow, yet the storyline seems solid? Look to your characters. Do you have one dimensional characters, or three dimensional characters?
*Read wide and read often. I'll admit, I often get so caught up in my writing and personal life, that I forget all about the shelves and shelves of books waiting for my attention. But as writers, one of our jobs is to also be a reader. We need to not only stay abreast of what's going on in the literary world, we also need to get and stay inspired. That also means not confining yourself to one genre. Just because you write historical romance novels, it doesn't mean you can't crack open an erotica, a fantasy, or contemporary - or even a YA or horror! Some of the best writers don't limit themselves to the genre they are classified. While an author of historical might be restrained to certain expectancies of the genre, there is no reason they cannot borrow from other genres or sub-genres. Unless you are writing Christian, who is to say your love scenes can't get a little steamier than normal? Or that your duke can't also wield magic? Or that your villain can't be a little Machiavellian, a la your favorite horror novel? Spice things up. But most off all, be well read. No matter how busy you are, fit in the time. What good is a bath without a good book anyway, right?
*Get away- but take a notebook. Travel, even locally, can stimulate your imagination. A day trip to the lake can bring to mind old memories, or the perfect description of rippling water. It can conjure images of a couple fishing, and the romantic escapades it can lead to. Get my drift? No matter where you go, learn from it and write it down.
*Log off! Yes, it is important to be present in the social age, especially if you are hoping to make a name for yourself for your upcoming release, but remember, social media does not require your attention 24/7. One hour a day is plenty enough. You cannot write if you are constantly plugged in. Also, limit yourself in the spending of your time. Joining every social media outlet and writing for numerous blogs seems like a good idea in theory, until you realize how much of your writing time it eats up. Ask yourself instead which sites bring the most bang for your buck, and invest your time there. Same for blogs. Which sites give you the most visibility, or that you have the most fun participating in? Decide, then respectfully bow out of those other blogs. Remember, a fan page and ten blogs does not make you an author. Writing a book does.
*Utilize any and every inspiration available to you. Feeling blocked by a scene? Find a theme song! Can't think of a setting for your characters, or even see the face of one of them? Pinterest is great for compiling a list of stimulating visuals for the muse. Just don't let these creative outlets consume you. Let the book do that.
*Be informed. So you've written a book. Now what? Your friend is published through X publishing house. Does that mean you should you also submit there? Now is the time to do your research. What kind of books does this house publish? Are they eBooks only, do they do POD, eInk first and print later? This is all important. If you have hopes of seeing your book in print, you aren't going to want to go with a digital only publisher. What about what they publish? If you write sweet romances, and the house only publishes erotic, you are not going to go far with the company. Once you have a list of who publishes your genre, you need to next ask yourself what matters to you in terms of format, distribution, and visibility, then go from there.
*Make a game plan. You have a contract and a release date, now what? It's time to gear up for promotion. And don't be fooled into thinking promo is done the week before release. Even if most of your promotion is crammed into the week prior to release (think blog tour, giveaways, etc), there is still a lot of planning involved in seeing that week is concluded successfully. Your release might be six months away, but it's never too early to start. Here are some venues to consider in promoting your book:
- Ads in newspapers and magazines (think smaller presses if you are a newbie author).
- Blog tours or blog hops.
- Review giveaways - This is when an author hosts a giveaway (say, for a gift card) in return for a review of their book. Authors will also often add the incentive of extra entries if you tweet, FB, or blog about their book.
- NetGalley and Edelweiss are great venues for reviewers to see your books.
- An ad in magazines hosted by your genre (such a RT or RWA if you write women's fiction/romance).
- Give away books, bookmarks or other swag at writer's conferences. Even if you won't be attending said event, sending your goodies is a great way to promote your book. Remember, the same women who write in your genre, also read your genre.
- Offer free chapters or excerpts (with publishers permission of course). Scribd.com offers the ability to upload free chapters.
- Offer copies of older books to hook readers and sell a series (again, with publisher's permission).
- Offer a free or appropriately priced short story, such as a prequel, to incite interest about your upcoming release (with publisher's permission).
- Offer an Amazon preview if applicable.
- Keep up with or create an Amazon author page (aka, author central).
- Start a website and make information easy to access.
- Think about starting up a newsletter and incentives you can offer for those who sign up.
- Host Facebook and Twitter parties for your release, both of which require some ahead of time planning.
- Recruit a street team.
- Offer free reads to book reviewers. Research the top players of the game in your genre.
- Feel free to copycat the ways you see other authors promote their books. What works for them could very well work for you.
- Look into securing a review blurb from an author in your genre, or from a reviewer to include on your cover.
- Also, you have the option of hiring a professional. Depending on what you have to spend will depend upon what services you get, which could mean you will still need to do your fair share of promoting, just with a little bit of help.
- Take off from the day job the day of release. You should be present all day to promote, interact, and overall stay connected with the community.
*Relax! A stressed writer cannot do her job properly. No matter if you are just starting to write the book or are in the process of promoting it, keep a level head and enjoy the ride!
BUT WAIT! THAT'S NOT ALL!
Want to win a Hot Damn Designs calendar full of yummy man chest? I happen to have one from the conference I would love to give away. Rules are as follows:
- Be sure to promote this contest and include all links in the comments field for extra entries. Your word of mouth is important. This contest will not end until we have at least 10 comments (with valid email address).
- For one entry, comment on this post and make sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you are the winner. For each venue you share this contest at, you will receive another entry. So say you include links to your G+, Twitter, and FB shout out in your comment on this post, you will receive a total of four entries.
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