Making the Most of a Writing Conference

October 8, 2018

Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan

Let’s face it. Writing can be a solitary endeavor, but you don’t have go it alone. You can always do what I do … attend a writing conference, and meet some of the other members of that tribe called writers.

On October 20, I plan to attend the Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University again, something I’ve done every fall for the eleven years it’s been in existence.

It’s a great conference. You’ll find loads of interesting workshops, access to agents and editors … and swarms of writers of various levels, all packaged neatly into a nice, affordable, single-day event.

Workshops
Conferences like this are a great way to learn about all aspects of writing. You can attend a variety of workshops, gathering methods to turn your ideas into finished stories. You’ll also learn more about trends in the industry and the business side of writing.

Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to gather advice on using social media tools like Twitter, and delve into making personal podcasts to develop your writing career and market your stories to readers.

I decided long ago to go the indie route with my fiction, but if you’re still thinking about traditional publishing, or have an interest in the non-fiction market, the Rochester Writers’ Conference will offer an opportunity to pitch to agents, and talk to a panel of editors.

That experience, in itself, is fabulous. If nothing else, talking directly to agents and editors let’s you examine your own work through a professional’s objective eye.

You might even get comfortable talking about your work – something you’ll definitely need to do when trying to sell someone on your proposals, or when marketing your books.

Networking
Even if the conference itself doesn’t offer all the answers, you often need to look no further than those around you. Looking for a good editor? Thinking about arranging speaking engagements? Trying to find a cover or website designer?

Talking to, and connecting with, other writers can be one of the most valuable things about attending a writing conference.

Talk, be friendly, ask questions. You’re with your tribe, after all.

Make the Most of It
Here are some suggestions to ensure a productive experience. First, take a few minutes to plan for the workshops you want.

A word of warning … you probably won’t get to all of them, due to time constraints.

So, pick wisely among the sessions you know will give you the most help. But go beyond that. Challenge yourself and take at least one session on a topic outside your comfort zone. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re a beginning author, with more questions than answers, don’t fret. Most of the sessions are geared to accommodate you. Plus, you’ll find many experienced authors in attendance will be happy to share what they’ve already learned.

Remember – Elevator Pitch
If you plan to pitch your work to an agent, don’t worry if you’re nervous. Everybody is. Compensate by being over-prepared. Have at least a rough draft ready before you go.

Also, keep it short.

You usually only have sessions of about 15 minutes with an agent so, please, don’t fill your time with nervous apologies, or rambling, inconsequential details of your personal life.

Talk about your book. Give them your elevator pitch.

Tell what your character wants, why he wants it, and what keeps him from getting it. You should be able to tell your whole story-line in 30 seconds. Remind yourself it’s okay not to explain all the details or the final outcome. Stop at a moment of tension and wait.

Let the agent guide the discussion. Find out what’s caught their attention, or what piece is missing. The longer you talk, the less time the agent or editor is talking, and the main reason you’re talking to them is to hear their feedback and reaction.

Not planning to pitch? Still be prepared to talk about your writing. Other attendees will want to know about your work, and your elevator pitch should always be ready to go.

Be Professional
Have a business card. A business card, with your contact information, is an easy, professional leave behind to give to agents, editors and other writers. I actually prefer a bookmark, because I can list my books, too. Besides, I’ve learned they’re harder to lose.

When you attend any conference, you’ll be making a lot of first impressions. Not only with professionals in your industry, but a host of your peers. It’s okay to show your personality a little, because that can reflect your writing style.

Just make sure people think it’s a good one.

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake” was a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist. It was just named a 2018 book-of-the-year finalist by TopShelf Magazine.

* * * * *

I’ll be signing books at Lake Orion High School on Saturday, October 13, and again at the Books & Authors Event at Leon & Lulu in Clawson on Sunday, October 28.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

How Important is Dialogue in Fiction?

September 18, 2018

Picture courtesy Pexels.com

I’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I don’t think it can be over-emphasized. Dialogue, when properly structured, is one of the most powerful tools in the fiction writer’s arsenal. When you turn on the sound, which is what your dialogue is doing, the scene becomes real and immediate.

However, to attract readers, dialogue must sound natural and true-to-life. It needs to be as comfortable as an old pair of sneakers.

The Best Way to Do That
Eavesdropping on a nearby conversation is an excellent way to study how real people talk. Try it sometime in your favorite coffee shop. If you pay attention you’ll discover something important. No two people express themselves in the same way.

More importantly, it’s not like the English they taught you in school. Real dialogue wanders. It begins with a tale from yesterday, interrupts with a rain prediction for the afternoon, and may leap forward to tomorrow’s dental appointment before it returns to the story.

When you realize how people actually speak, what you have your characters say can reveal volumes.

That’s because, in much the same way as we glean information when encountering new people in person, your readers will do the same sizing-up of the characters you create.

Good dialogue gives them the illusion of reality but, because a good writer is an artist, paring away the unnecessary and pointing us to what is important, it is more directed.

Distractions
By that I mean, if it’s done properly, dialogue can convey mood, backstory and more as your characters speak. However, it needs to be judiciously placed among the action to bring us close to those moments of discovery our readers love to follow.

It’s important to remember most people use contractions, sentence fragments and maybe even dialect in everyday speech. Done the right way, these can become tactics to help portray your characters as relaxed, informal or, perhaps, from a certain locale. Lose the subtlety though, and your characters can quickly turn into caricatures.

For instance, I’ve never been one to shy away from curse words to portray something about a character. Use too many, though, and your character may seem ignorant and crass.

Worse, so will you.

Slang presents a different problem. Even when it’s used sparingly, it can date your piece. However that, in my opinion, is an extremely good use for it … establishing, or reinforcing, a time period.

Rules
To me, one of the biggest rules in dialogue is this: No unnecessary words. Nothing to excess. That’s true in all writing, of course, but it has a particular acuteness when it comes to dialogue.

If you include a few unnecessary sentences in a description of place, aside from registering a minor and temporary slowing of the pace, most readers won’t notice or care.

Do the same in a block of dialogue, and your characters will seem to be speechifying rather than talking to their friends. So, don’t do it!

I’ve been told dialogue is one of the strong points of my fiction, and my advice to you is keep it spare. Allow the normal gaps that occur in communication and let the readers fill in the blanks. Give them 80% and let them figure out the rest which, in my world anyway, pulls them directly into the story.

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake” – which was a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist, was just named a 2018 book-of-the-year finalist by TopShelf Magazine.

* * * * *

On September 18, 2018, I plan to attend the Freelance Writer’s Marketplace Group at the Barnes & Noble store in Rochester Hills. Next month, I’ll be signing books at Lake Orion High School on October 13, and again at the Books & Authors Event at Leon & Lulu in Clawson on October 28. I’ll also be attending the Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University on October 20. If you never attend any other conference, you should try to go to this one.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Want to Write a Good Story?

September 9, 2018

Picture courtesy Pexels.com

Every writer has heard the question many times: Where do you get your ideas? The answer from most of them is almost always the same as it is for me …

Everywhere.

Many aspiring writers believe they need to wait for a sudden flash of inspiration to write well but, in truth, generating ideas is more of a process than an epiphany.

You aren’t going to be standing in the shower, humming to yourself, with hot, soapy water cascading over your shoulders when, suddenly, serendipity smiles and you have a flash of unmitigated brilliance.

It’s the idea to end all ideas, and you’re certain you’re a genius!

Except, when you get home after a long day and a treacherous commute, the muse has abandoned you, and you can’t seem to recall that moment of morning insight.

Surely, it’ll come back once you’ve had some time to unwind, right?

If you’re like most people, myself included, there’s a good possibility it won’t. Ideas are notoriously elusive and hard to hold on to.

Jot Things Down
It may seem old-fashioned in the electronic age, but keeping a pen-and-paper notebook nearby has advantages. For starters, writing in longhand boosts memory, making your ideas seem more real and encouraging you to actually do something about them.

If you’re old school, like me, the act of writing things down will also remind you to focus and be in the moment. And that’s important. The best writers are also keen observers.

Revisit Your Ideas
The best method for storing your ideas is one that encourages you not only to keep them, but to use them. Keeping track of them is only useful if you have a plan to come back and put the best ones to use.

Finding what works best for you will probably involve trial and error. Some creatives have been known to use a pen to scrawl a brilliant idea on a napkin or even the back of their hand.

Maybe, if you’re older than three, you’re eccentric enough to even get away with writing on the wall.

Pay Attention
Knowing how to write a good story is a powerful skill. The human mind is drawn to stories. Recite a laundry list of events from your day at work and our eyes glaze over. But tell us how the unarmed local constable heroically saved the day by stopping the crazed bank robber with some duct tape and a paper clip and we’re riveted.

You can learn to do this by paying attention to what’s going on around you. Those snippets of conversation you overheard at dinner; the car you witnessed going the wrong way down the freeway during rush hour; the elderly man trudging down a dark alley, repeatedly calling a woman’s name, could all spark a story.

Although some of the events you describe may be extraordinary, they don’t have to be. They just have to be interesting.

Ask “What If?”
Events aren’t necessarily stories unto themselves, but they can germinate fabulous stories when the writer plants the seeds by asking questions, and letting the characters respond.

What if the car you witnessed heading the wrong way down the freeway at rush hour was driven by a pregnant woman in labor who needed the fastest route to the hospital?

What if the elderly man calling out in the dark alley was a forgetful widower looking for his deceased wife?

One of the primary questions I always ask to get a story started is exactly that …

“What if?”

Remember
Stories are not just sequences of random events … they have to go somewhere. Any good story begins with a character who wants something. The story describes the character’s journey toward getting what he or she wants … or maybe not.

Not everyone gets his heart’s desire and stories, after all, don’t have to have happy endings, only acceptable ones.

Keep your character’s struggle to get something he desperately wants in mind as you build your story framework, and watch your character’s story come alive.

* * * * *

On September 18, 2018, I’ll be attending the Freelance Writer’s Marketplace Group at the Barnes & Noble store in Rochester Hills. I wrote in the last blog about the things you need for a book-signing. Next month, I get to practice what I preach. I’ll be signing books at Lake Orion High School on October 13, and again at the Books & Authors Event at Leon & Lulu in Clawson on October 28. I’ll also be attending the fabulous Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University on October 20. If you never attend any other conference, you should try to go to this one.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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