Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why Attend a Writer's Conference?



By K. L. Bridgewater

I have been asked by a number of people why do I attend writer’s conference. Having only attended two in my life, I don’t have a lot of experience, but the two writing conferences I went to were pretty great. I suggest researching the type of conference you want to go to, and glance at the reviews to see if it is well worth the investment. Most conferences cost a pretty penny. Tie in room and expenses to drive or fly there, it can become quite expensive. But I have three reasons that might make the money and time worth it.

1.)    You meet and make friends with like-minded people.
At my first ACFW conference last September, I attended the First Time Orientation where Brandilyn Collins answered questions and discussed what we could expect. After the Q & A session, Collins asked us to divide into our different genres to meet someone who writes in the same type of plot line. Since I write in suspense, I joined the suspense group, which sadly, was mostly populated with guys. Most of the woman grouped in romance or historical romance groups. After talking for a couple of minutes with the guys, a young woman about my age with shorter dark hair and black rim glasses with a camera around her neck approached me. We started talking about our writing and love of suspense. Instant friend. We talked a lot that weekend and still keep in touch. We plan to room at the 2014 ACFW conference in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to see my friend, Emilie Hendryx again.

2.)    You meet accomplished writers.
As an avid reader and writer, I become excited when I meet an author who I have enjoyed their books. At the ACFW conference, I took writing classes from Tosca Lee, Karen Witemeyer, Jeff Gerke, Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck  . . . Additionally, I took a picture with Colleen Coble, Brandilyn Collins, Rachel 
Hauck, Susan May Warren, and Robin Jones Gunn (pictured with a not so great picture of me) after they autographed their books for me. One of my favorite, and most valuable experiences, was meeting with mentors. I met with Ronie Kendig who looked at the first two pages of my chapter and scribbled all over the page to improve my writing. She actually enjoyed my beginning. It was nice to see these established writers as normal people who didn’t mind meeting with you. At the Writer’s Advance Boot Camp, I met Steven James and Lynette Eason, two of my favorite suspense writers.

3.)    You network with the right people.
At the ACFW conference, at every meal I attended, an agent sat at our table and asked questions. Steve Laube, of Steve Laube agency, sat at the same table as me for lunch one day. He asked the table about our writing and if anyone had an agent take a bite on their pitch yet. After a while he asked a grammatical question to the table. While everyone else declared yes to the answer (sorry, I don’t remember the exact question, but something to do with a title of a book), I kept repeating, “no, you don’t.” Laube asked me to explain my reasoning while he smiled in my direction. After lunch, he approached me and handed me his personal business card. He told me to keep in touch. It was awesome. At the Writer’s Advance Boot Camp, Lynette Eason wanted to see the first couple of chapters of book and wanted to help me write better since I looked like someone who was teachable.

I hope these suggestions inspire you to find a conference to attend. Personally, I had a blast at both conferences and can’t wait to return this year to the ACFW conference in St. Louis.

If you have attended a writer’s conference, do you have any other reasons for attending? Do you have any memorable moments that fall under my three categories that you want to share? Please do, I would love to read your funny conference stories. 

*This blog featured on my personal blog site (justicethroughsuspense.blogspot.com) yesterday, but I thought it was important enough of a topic to share on both sites, especially with the ACFW conference in one week. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Reflection of a Writer

By Darren Kehrer

How many reflections of yourself do you see each day? We see our reflection many times each day. What occupation is that looking back at you? Do you see the reflection of an accountant, a house-wife, a house-husband, lawyer, retail worker, nurse, doctor, a farmer, or perhaps maybe even a writer?

Maybe your reflection is one of being a writer in the past. Perhaps it's one who writes now (lucky as you are).  Just as significant, however, may be the writer you want to become? Is that who stares back at you when you look into the mirror? 

I would wager that most of you reading this do not have a primary profession of being a writer. There are several of you that are lucky enough to hold that status. But for the rest of us, it’s a dual role: you have a primary job first, then as a (perhaps hopeful) secondary profession, you put on the hat of a writer. Given this scenario, you are constantly striving to find enough time in your daily life to churn out a few words on a page.

Is your reflection the image of your primary occupation? Or, do you see the future where your writing becomes your primary occupation. In my opinion, that's a necessity. You must see your current reflection transforming into the author you want to be.

My point is this: if you are hopeful that writing will one day be your primary occupation, you must first envision the possibility of that event coming true. Yes, it might not be right now, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be at some point in the future. You must direct that reflection's evolution. Even if it isn’t your occupation right now, make the decision that it will be some day and focus to make that desire a reality.

In essence, you must see two reflections when you gaze upon yourself in the mirror: your current reflection and the one it's becoming: a full-time writer.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Story Starters

Steven James is a prolific Christian author from East Tennessee who's won three Christy awards and high praise from secular review media such as Publishers Weekly. I wasn't familiar with his work because he has focused on the thriller genre in recent years (not my cup of tea), but a friend recently introduced me to a book he wrote for Standard in 2002, entitled The Creative Story Telling Guide for Children's Ministry. Though it's slanted to children's church leaders, the book has some very practical guidance for storytellers of any kind, including novelists like us.

I was especially interested in Appendix B of the book, headed "385 Story Starters." His directions are:
  1. Think about people, places and events that have shaped your life. Consider milestones, turning points, and times of transition. (He lists 42 suggestions.)
  2. Look at significant objects from your life... (He lists 9 suggestions; you could think of many more.)
  3. Use the story starter as a springboard to think about related biblical issues..Or, think of related biblical images...Or, think of related biblical incidents. (He lists 385 possibilities in these 3 categories.)
These 9 pages are a treasure trove of story ideas. Any one of us could use Steven's list to come up with hundreds of story ideas, all different.

I won't reproduce his list here, out of respect for Steven's work (not to mention respect for the copyright laws), but you can make your own lists of these 3 types of things. Use these Story Starters the next time your WIP flags a bit. It'll encourage you to realize that the well of inspiration still has plenty of ideas based on your own experiences and the insights of Scripture.
__________________


Joe Allison and his wife, Judy, live in Anderson IN, where Joe serves as Editorial Director of Discipleship Resources & Curriculum for Warner Press, Inc. Joe has several nonfiction books in print, including Swords and Whetstones: A Guide to Christian Bible Study Resources. He's currently writing a trilogy of Christian historical novels set in the Great Depression.
Visit Joe's blog at http://southernmtns.wordpress.com

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"It's Not Quite There."

by Rick Barry

In response to a manuscript I once submitted to an agent, I received the following reply: "It's not quite there." The agent was polite. The note was even handwritten, which I appreciated. However, as I sat and reread those words, I wondered what my story needed to be "all the way there" instead of not quite there. The problem was, I'd already spent so many hours with my characters and their predicament that I could no longer view my own pages objectively.

After that experience, another writer requested that I take a look at part of a manuscript and give some frank feedback. (By the way, only frank feedback is helpful. Feedback that praises the writer when the quality is lacking actually hurts the writer by instilling false confidence and misleading him or her.) As I read the pages, I truly wanted to tell my acquaintance, "This is great. Keep up the good work!" Instead, the words that came to mind were "It's not quite there." And I understood what the agent meant about my own story.

You see, the draft I was reading simply lacked polish. At times the heroine did things that didn't make sense based on what the story revealed about her. She was also a bit of a cardboard cutout rather than coming across like a real person. For the most part, the grammar and punctuation were okay even if not stellar. Yet, sentence by sentence the story simply unfolded in a straightforward way from Point A to Point Z. There were no clever plays on words. No irony. No red herrings to keep the reader intrigued. The setting descriptions also lacked pizazz. Sure, there were descriptions of locale, so I knew where the heroine was. But those locations didn't come alive. There were sights and sounds, but little or no sense of smell, of taste, or touch.

In other words, as I proofed this manuscript, it certainly was complete as far solving the mystery and uniting the boy and girl. But was the tale polished to the point where a publisher would say, "We'll offer you a contract for this"? Regrettably, no. The story wasn't quite there.

With the input of a professional writing coach, I attacked my story with hammer and chisel. I knocked off rough portions I'd left in the story, injected fresh elements where needed, then grabbed sandpaper and started polishing. The end result is an improved manuscript that caught the eye of a literary agent. Now she is shopping that story to publishers.

What's my point? Try to scrutinize your own words with a professional eye, not with your author's eyes. Step back. Be objective. Compare your style, your phrasing, your everything to the writing of your favorite authors. When you can see why your story is "not quite there," you will have taken the first step toward improving it!



Rick Barry has freelanced hundreds of articles and short stories, had two novels published, and has more projects in the works.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day -- Win a $25 Gift Certificate from Amazon!

http://karlaakins.com/the-most-excellent-back-to-school-giveaway-win-a-25-amazon-gift-card/
Click to enter!
 I'm hosting a Back to School Giveaway on my blog. No, I'm not launching a new book. I like to treat my readers to unexpected surprises now and then. I also hope to acquire new readership. This is one reason authors hold contests.

Click for a chance to win!
 Contests are a fun way to help build your on-line platform. I've held several and they are tons of fun. My favorite contests were when I was launching my first novel, The Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots. I held a Facebook Party and gave away gifts all throughout the evening to those attending. It's fun to go back to the transcript of the party and read it! If you want to know how to do it for yourself, feel free to explore the page for yourself.

Click to view Facebook launch party
Online platforms are becoming an important part of the author package writers must present to prospective publishers. The first thing a publishing committee will do when introduced to a new author, or even a published one, is Google the author's name. Does your name bring up any social media results? Do you have a website? Some publishers won't publish authors who don't have a healthy online-presence.

Karla's website header
I'm like a lot of authors in that social media isn't my favorite thing to spend time on. I'd rather not have the distraction. But, I look at it this way--it's beats digging ditches. And it's basically painless. Like scrubbing toilets, it must be done, and it won't kill me.


If you don't know where to start, here are the basics:
  • Build a website. It doesn't have to be fancy. I used Wix.com when I first started and later I used Weebly.com. There are other free platforms out there. Use the one that is the most user-friendly for you. I didn't spend money to have someone design one for me until after I had my first novel published.
This blog interacts with the history books I write
  • Blog. You don't have to blog every day but it makes sense that the more you blog the more people will visit. What to blog about? Do a Google search for blog topics and you'll have more than you'll ever have time to write. Also, I started my first blogs on Blogger, but now I use WordPress because that's what my web designer used to design my site. There's a learning curve to WordPress, but I love it. However, if you're new to finding your way around the Internet, I recommend Blogger. Many successful authors use it and it's what I use for my interactive ebooks.
Click to follow!
  • Facebook: I have a "friends" page with about 3300+ followers, an author page with a little over 500, a page for my book and several groups. But really, you don't have to do all that. You can simply use your friends page if you wish. However, once you reach 5000 followers, you have to stop accepting them and direct them to your author page. So it's a good idea to go ahead and build your author page. The nice thing about an author page is that you can host your giveaways on it.  
Facebook Author Page Giveaway Tab
  • Twitter: for me, this is the hardest platform to build relationships on. But I am learning!
Click to follow me!
  • Pinterest: I have almost 3,000 followers on Pinterest and it was super easy to build that following. Pick a popular subject and start pinning! (To keep numbers in perspective, most best-selling authors have followers in the five digits. I'm still working toward that!)
http://www.pinterest.com/karlaakins/boards/
Click to follow me!
  • Google+: I'm fairly new to Google+ but as more people learn to use it, I'm gaining more experience and developing relationships.
Click to follow me!
  • LinkedIn: I post here every time I have a blog post. 
Click to follow me!
  • tumblr: I have about 800 followers on tumblr. I admit that tumblr is one of my guilty pleasures. I enjoy the people I follow there and I actually get the news before it's published in most other forums. It's a lot like twitter that way.
Click to view
  • Goodreads: I have about 1300 followers on Goodreads. I'm not very good at checking in there, but while I was promoting my book, I did give books away and I believe it was well worth the expense and time. 
Click to follow!
Those are the basic platforms/applications that most writers use to build their online presence. Many do not use all of them. Others use more. I have my twitter and tumblr hooked together so that when I post on tumblr it posts on twitter. It helps me build relationships on tumblr, but it doesn't help much on twitter because to build relationships on twitter you need to interact and respond to other people's posts. 
As you can see, I'm not yet in the mega-following status and I'm still learning. A platform isn't built in a day, or week or month. It takes time to build relationships, and that's what successful authors do. No one likes to be bombarded with "buy my book" all the time. People want to connect with people, not products. If you build relationships, you'll gain a faithful tribe. And making friends, loving one another, and caring about others is what life's all about in the first place.
http://ctt.ec/WPfnO
Click to tweet: What are you doing to build your online platform?

Don't forget to go to my website and enter the giveaway! Today's the last day! Have fun!

Leave me a message below and let me know how you're building your online platform!