understanding

mini writers conference

First off I’d like to say thank you to everyone who reached out to me after my last post. I’m amazed at how many Internet friends I have. In times like this you guys show more compassion and care than even some of my IRL friends. It’s part of the reason I’ve bounced back the last few days, so it bears repeating… thank you.

Even though I still had the sneezes from the back end of a cold I went ahead and attended a local writing conference over the weekend. I tweeted and Instagrammed about it afterwards, but I’d like to blog about it too, as I’ve had a solid track record when it comes to blogging about the conventions I attend.

whatilearned

It was a free(!) day of workshops at my local library, with talks given by hybrid and self-published authors as well as a literary agent. I’d like to share with you some of the best things they said, which I either tweeted or wrote down in my notebook.

From Idea to Manuscript

Chudney Thomas made me feel real nostalgic for those first draft days. She spoke to the importance of just getting words on the page, with an emphasis on, “It doesn’t matter if you over-write.” I’ve heard many authors say this about the first draft. I wish I had had that problem with my first draft of Janus, the skinny thing it was.

She also spoke to motivation and where ideas come from, which are two topics that are slippery as a silver fish. I really liked her take on these things, though. She advocated for living while writing, a kind of mindfulness approach whereby you’re not sacrificing your family or fun time to write. I agreed with her that living and experiencing begets ideas and that the time you carve out for writing shouldn’t cut into that “living” time too much.

But mainly what I appreciated was her absolute positivity. She acknowledged all the things that are difficult about starting with a blank page and advised everyone to remember why they love writing despite that.

Is this your first book? This is a learning process. Commit to keeping yourself on track, but don’t be too tough on yourself. – Chudney Thomas

If you’re into romance (or are like me and have no idea where to start with the romance genre), I got some book recommendations from her as well:
Nalini Singh & Patricia Briggs.

Editing Your Manuscript

I was the most excited for this workshop because my novel is going through its first major edit right now. Technically it’s going through its first major revision, Heather Startup clarified for me.

For many early writers, the words “edit”, “proofread”, “revise”, and “re-write” are all synonyms. When they actually start researching those words, they’re quick to discover they stand on their own in a variety of contexts. There are a ton of editor blogs that go over what it means to revise vs edit, line edit vs developmental edit, copy edit vs proofread, etc, etc. I had to learn all that stuff back when I was a freelance editor for a time post-college. And rehashing all that would make this post exceedingly long, TBH.

So instead I’ll share some introspective questions I wrote down in my notebook. You can ask yourself these things at any point in the writing, revision, or editing process…

  1. What does this character want?
  2. What can be added to give the narrative what it needs?
  3. What can be taken out that may be redundant? Does this detail enrich the story, clarify the tone, or provide emotional context?
  4. What order are things happening in? Is there a better order you haven’t thought of?
  5. What info can be substituted?

Choosing a Publishing Path

Many authors are simply way too biased to put on a good workshop about this topic, but the two hybrid authors who gave this overview of the publishing industry truly nailed it. They’d chosen both traditional & self-publishing for themselves, so they had the smarts to give an honest overview of the pros and cons of both. I was already thinking of pursuing the hybrid author path, and these ladies–Aria Kane and JA Souders–solidified that goal of mine.

Choosing a publishing path all comes down to KNOWING YOUR MARKETS. If you don’t know where your kind of book (genre and style) is selling, then you don’t have the tools yet to choose trad vs self-publishing. THAT is the main thing I learned from them. All the pros and cons are available on a million blogs, but THAT ADVICE–KNOW YOUR MARKETS–is what’s not said enough and what those ladies really helped me understand.

I added a #MSWL column on Tweetdeck and am happy to say they were perfectly correct to say that VAMPIRES are out the door, at least in the traditional market. More and more agents are requesting diverse characters that throw the tropes on their heads. If you have something like that, you have a good shot at getting an agent and a book deal right now.

They even gave some talking time to traditionally publishing through a small press rather than one of large publishing houses (lovingly known in the industry as THE BIG FIVE). That isn’t a topic I’ve seen touched on often enough, and it gave my heart a flutter; it’s the route I’d like to take with Janus if the big five aren’t interested. While you’re likely to get higher royalties and more control with a smaller press, you’re also likely to get less marketing assistance and worse placement in the bookstores. There’s also the risk your small press might fold, so ensure there is a reversal of rights clause in your contract with them; that way you’ll be able to sell your book again.

I’m not planning on going this route with Janus, but if you’re interested in self-publishing, be sure to know the difference between self-publishing and assisted self-publishing. Also research the difference between vanity presses and assisted self-publishing companies; there are a lot of scams out there. If I were to ever publish romance (thinking about it!), I might go the self-publishing route because there’s a HUGE romance e-book market. Janus’s genre–young adult fiction–isn’t a hot e-book seller like romance is; that’s actually why these ladies went with different publishing routes for different books; they knew their markets.

Basics of Traditional Publishing

Literary agent Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency taught this workshop, and I learned SO MUCH from her.

Her Reading List for Us Writers:

There’s no way I can summarize the amount of info she provided. I will say that most of it can be obtained online by researching (1) the intricacies of the slow-moving machine that is a traditional book deal with one of the big five and (2) the many, many rights that are sellable along with creative content.

The perspective she provided was what was the most valuable to me. Her approach to writers was way more financial than I’d expected, in a good way! A big part of her job is something that self-published authors have to get very good at doing themselves–checking royalty/income statements for errors and recovering any missing income. She seemed to take the income of her authors very seriously (indeed, the income of her authors is directly proportional to her own income!) and, with that in mind, actually suggested that authors negotiate a lower advance in favor of higher royalties. It’s less money upfront but potentially more money in the long run. Those are two business savvy pieces of advice that I felt worth sharing, even though there’s probably people out there who would have something to add to that discussion. If you do, please comment! I appreciate varied perspectives.

Overall…

Overall I got a lot out of the Mini Writers Conference at the Orlando Public Library. If you’re local, check out the library’s online writer’s corner for any future events. I signed up for their email newsletter. πŸ™‚

Posted in blog, inspired, instagram, intertextual, janus, metaphorical dreams, novel, orlando, places, publication, states of being, states of motion, thankful, twitter, understanding, writing |Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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