In my first writing class–a seminar style graduate-level class for English majors (what was I thinking?)–this math major freaked when I was handed a long poem and told I'd be leading a discussion about it.
The professor gave me advice that I still use for finding the significant takeaways from articles and conference sessions. In my notes, I highlight the phrases or sentences that I connect with, then I compile those golden lines into a shorter piece that means something to me.
Here are my golden lines from the RWA 2014 conference, from craft to marketing to building a social media platform. I've noted who gave the sage advice. I hope you get something from my take-away.
- For the first read through of your completed manuscript, print out a hard copy. Don't stop to fix problems. Use a check-mark to note where the prose drags. Put parentheses around horrid sentences. Circle sections needing more detail or emotion. Use a question mark for "What did I do here?" (James Scott Bell)
- At every juncture, look at the situation from each character's POV and have each make the best move they can from his or her own POV. (James Scott Bell)
- A complex character has two emotions at war at the same time. This increases reader interest. (James Scott Bell)
- What would make your character throw a chair through a window? Find those moments and deepen the POV and emotional impact. (James Scott Bell)
- Backstory rule of thumb: You're allowed a total of 3 sentences in the first three chapters. In the next three chapters you're allowed a total of three paragraphs--not all together! (James Scott Bell)
- Give your agent a list of what you do really well when you go out for a contract. (Eloisa James)
- The Six Goals of Online Book Promotions: sales, new readers, exposure, name/brand/book recognition, build relationships with readers, networking with authors, bloggers and reviewers (Laura Kaye)
- A writer's power is in her ability to evoke an emotional response in the reader. (Robin Perini)
- Details can take your story from melodrama to powerful. SPICED: Specificity, Powerful verbs, Image-making picture-forming words, Compelling dialogue, End hooks, Deep POV (Robin Perini and Claire Cavanaugh)
- The Care and Feeding of the Social Media Beast: Consistency is key. Blog two to three times a month on your website, Facebook one to two times a day, Twitter five to eight times a day, Pinterest one to five times a day, Instagram one to three times a week. Do not link all your social media! Each has a different job and a different audience.(Tyra Burton and Jana Oliver)
- Insurmountable odds make a book breathless. Your goal as a writer is to make the reader think, "How is the writer going to pull this off?" (Sarah MacLean, winner of the 2014 RITA™ for Best Historical)
- How to keep your creative brain waves functioning at optimal levels: Write at the same time every day. (Kathleen Baldwin)
- Tips for Upping the conflict: (Sarah MacLean, except where noted)
- Torture your character. Think the worst thing that can happen and do that. (Carrie Ryan)
- Use your characters' fears against them. Scare them into action.
- Any time your characters are close to getting together, throw them an obstacle.
- Don't write from a place of fear that you can't figure out the dilemma.
- Don't pull your punches. Put in all the emotion and action.
Bonus URL from Penny Sansavieri, a marketing expert who specializes in internet marketing: If you are selling your books on Amazon, this gets you to a "back page" with a drop down menu of all the categories. You're allowed two categories, but pick three to five and change them monthly. Find the narrowest categories you can. The algorithm kicks it when you're number one in a category. It doesn't matter if there are only five other books in the category. Your best chance to get Amazon to promote your book with its algorithm is to be number one in any category.
I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Lisa Wells who mentioned Writers in the Storm at her Blog Bites session.
And finally, the best advice of all:
You did really well. I was unhappy because last year I got asked for two fulls, and this year I only am sending two partials and a query. Bless you,
Laura Drake, for giving me a kind attitude adjustment. Sometimes I can be my worst enemy. You did really well, too. Congrats on that beautiful golden lady. (And thanks for letting me carry it!)
Want to share some of your golden lines from RWA14? Do you have advice to pass along? I don't know about you, but I freely admit that I need all the help I can get!
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than horrors of algebra lessons gone wrong. She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided undergraduate writing classes like the plague, she now enjoys sharing her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.