Tag Archives: authors

Writers Conference

As a writer, writers conferences are part of the package. While it does matter where you go and what type of event you attend, there seem to be a few things that are always the same.

Writers in every stage of the journey

At a typical conference, you will meet people that vary from those trying to write those first words, still struggling to identify what type of story they will pen, and those writers who have twelve books finished, three published, and two publishers vying for their hand for the next book (I completely made those numbers up. Point is, there will be someone whose success you will be jealous of). Why is the successful author at a conference if they’re not a speaker? The same reason you’re attending – they are there to learn.

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New information

Regardless of the topics discussed in the conference, you will learn things you didn’t know before. Certain things that the speakers say will inspire you. Bring pen and paper. You will be taking notes. Lots of notes.

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Old information

At some point, someone (a new friend, vendor, speaker, etc.) will recite information that you already know. It will seem pointless for you to hear this information. But others in the crowd need to hear it.

Books for sale!

Bring spending money to the conference – everyone will be selling books and other writing essentials! You may not plan to spend a dime. But you likely will. Either a speaker will be engaging, and they offer a book with more information, or you get caught up in the story they’re sharing, and you find yourself wanting to know what happens next.

 

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Publishers!

Yes, publishers of all shapes and sizes frequent these conferences. While traditional, reputable publishers make time to talk to authors, vanity presses and self-publishing companies frequent these things, too. Don’t be afraid to research and ask questions.

With that warning in mind, though, you can walk into a writers conference knowing you will be speaking to a publisher. Have material ready to give them, but don’t be surprised if they don’t read it. They may want to hear more at a later time, and that’s okay, too.

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Business Cards

I didn’t realize until the day before my own writers conference began that I needed to have business cards ready to hand to people. I went to Office Depot and bought some printable cards. I spent about half an hour designing a basic one. If you’re in a pinch, do that.

If you have time, go to Vistaprint and spend $10 for your own card. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll look very professional

Conflicting Information

It’s easy to suffer from information overload if you attend several classes a day. And with several classes come several teachers, who all have their own opinion about writing. The only hard and fast rule of writing seems to be there are no rules. Some teachers will present their opinion in order to get you to a desired goal. Another teacher, talking about the same thing, will tell you to do the exact opposite – since that worked for them.

Again, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will receive information you won’t always agree with. That doesn’t mean the teacher is a moron. It means that you’re a different type of writer. But also trust that the teacher knows more than you about whatever it is they’re teaching. Chances are, they’re right.

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Food!

Yes, all writers conferences seem to have food of some kind – even if it’s just snacks. Bring your appetite!

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The Conundrum of Happily Ever After

Happily ever after – the classic fairy tale ending. While it’s not terribly realistic, we as a society crave them. It’s as if we all want reassurance that things can turn out fine.

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I’ve read many books over the years, and I’ve been disappointed more than once by the ending. When things don’t get better, I get upset. My mother still tells me about the book she read, waiting for it to get better. The main character died on the next to last page!

I’ve made a point in my stories to have happy endings. I let my characters sweat, but in the end, it’s worth it. There is a reason for the struggle. That’s what God does with our trials – they are there for an ultimate purpose.

Why am I talking about “happily ever after” endings today? Because I’ve reached a crossroads with the next chapter of my stories, and I feel like the answer may change my identity as a writer. I may be forced to cut the next book in half just due to the sheer volume of events and pages – well over 100 chapters. If I decide upon breaking up the story, I will be forced to end one book before things get better. Yes, cliffhangers are good. But my characters won’t be in very good places at the end. How can I be okay with that as an author, since I’m not okay with it as a reader?

Even if the next book is released within quick succession, part of me feels as if it is unfair to the reader to string them along and then end without a real resolution. I can offer hope of a happy ending at my current stopping point, but that’s about it.

Readers, authors – anyone – feel free to offer feedback. What do you think I should do?

**PS, searching for beta readers for my next book. If you’ve enjoyed the first few stories and can offer honest feedback, let me know if you’re interested! Send me an email! *points to right hand sidebar for email address.***

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The Downside of Not Planning

There are two different fields of thought in the NaNo world. Either you are a planner and plan the events of your novel before they happen, or you are known as a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants).

For years, I was a dedicated planner. I knew my world. I knew my characters. I knew the story, since I’d been replaying the events in my head for months. I would know 90% of what took place in the story before I even began it. I was baffled by the people who talked about their characters taking over the story, not knowing what was going to happen next, and trying to figure out the plot hole they had accidentally just created.

Instead of accepting that I was different than most NaNoers, I thought that I was doing it wrong. It was only my second NaNo, and it was my first time browsing the forums. I decided that the following year, I’d write without a plan with a completely new story and “do it right.”

I did manage to eke out a novel that year, but it was hard for me to do. I didn’t know the characters, had only a vague sense of the story, and had no clue what was going to happen on the next page. My main character had amnesia, so she didn’t know a great deal of what had taken place before. It was perfect, since I didn’t know what had taken place before. I had people read my first chapter and go, “It’s perfect! You can feel her confusion!” I had to laugh, since I was confused over the same thing my character was.

I was at a writer’s conference one year, and our teacher said his writing process was like walking around in a dark room. He walks in, discovers chairs and tables, discerns a path, and eventually finds a light switch that illuminates the whole room. Now that I’ve actually used such an approach, that analogy makes more sense than it did at the time.

I did learn from that NaNo that I do better writing with a bit of planning. I don’t need every little detail planned out in advance, but it helps my sanity to prepare the story before it’s penned. With that said, though, I have discovered I’m a mixture of the two groups. I generally have the story arc planned out, but the details of how the heroes journey from point A to B is usually not discovered until it’s time to write the scene. Since I tend to write pretty quickly, I think this approach is what works best for me. I have now experimented with both writing camps and am happy with my mixture. It’s who I am.

So, why have I bored you to death with my writing process? Because not everything that happens during NaNo is entirely planned. This year, I decided to write about racing squirrels. I met the characters about three weeks before November and named them the week before we began writing. I only knew their personalities. That was it. Once November hit, I started with what I knew. I kept writing, desperately hoping for the light switch to be turned on so I could figure out how to write my ending. I really, really like to know my endings before I begin.
My light switch moment occurred sometime last week. It was tough, since I was behind schedule, but I finished my first story of the NaNo season on Saturday.

Since I’ve committed to a word count, I’m starting a new story. I’ve narrowed down my subject matter, and it looks like I’ll be following the princess stories again. I thought I was done with the series. Of course, I thought that last year during the last NaNo. I ended up writing another book after the one I started in NaNo. I don’t know if this story will end up being another chapter in the series, or if it will just be something to clear my head and explore a new possibility.

Either way, I will likely have a lot of fun returning to a land I know and characters that are largely the same. My only problem is that I’m still not sure about the ending. I know what I’d like to happen, just not sure how to make that feasibly possible.

Guess there’s only one way to find out.

Fellow writers, chime in. Do you plan your stories or not?

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The Finale

I watched three TV finales this week. One was a series finale. I am still upset they’ve cancelled the show, but at least the finale was great. Though the characters were mainly supposed to reflect on the past, almost each moment that was displayed was a brand new scene. Otherwise, I would have been majorly ticked that they picked the LAST EPISODE to do a recap of everything. They also wrapped up two story lines that have been brewing for five years. Yeah for happy endings!

I enjoyed each finale. I got caught up in the story and found myself yelling at the screen at one point (in unison with the other person in the room, also saying the same thing). Now, I understand that the point of season finales is to make you watch the episode and also have you tune in at the beginning of the next season. I know it’s a rating stunt, and writers save their biggest punches for the crucial times when they need viewers.

Still, though, the stories flowed well. We were able to follow the characters from one set of problems to the next. I only had continuity issues at one point in the episode (character had bullet holes underneath an area protected by a bullet-proof vest).

Finales are supposed to make you watch, cheer, and leave you wanting more. Series finales are meant to wrap up everything you’ve been wondering about for the entire length of the show.

Why am I writing about TV shows? They know how to make you keep tuning in.

How do we, as book authors, take the awesomeness of a season finale and bottle it into our final pages? It varies by author and book, but we tend to use the same principles. For series writers, the endings are more of a prelude to the next book than a complete wrap. For stand alone books, we have to tie up everything and leave the reader smiling or weeping (again, depends on the author) by the end.

Is it a little sad to end a story? Absolutely. But it’s also a wonderful feeling. If you’ve done your job right, your readers will want more. Just like a season finale.

Book Update: Release date still tentative. Expect a new post in a few days if things go well.

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