Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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August 6, 2014

Thirteen (Lucky) Golden Lines from RWA14

Fae's Sheila Finalist Badge I don't "do" poetry.

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.

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. A complex character has two emotions at war at the same time. This increases reader interest. (James Scott Bell)
  4. What would make your character throw a chair through a window? Find those moments and deepen the POV and emotional impact. (James Scott Bell)
  5. 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)
  6. Give your agent a list of what you do really well when you go out for a contract. (Eloisa James)
  7. 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)
  8. A writer's power is in her ability to evoke an emotional response in the reader. (Robin Perini)
  9. 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)
  10. 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)
  11. 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)
  12. How to keep your creative brain waves functioning at optimal levels: Write at the same time every day. (Kathleen Baldwin)
  13. 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, Fae's OTFS Finalist Badge
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 RowenFae 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.


35 comments on “Thirteen (Lucky) Golden Lines from RWA14”

  1. Fae, thank you for sharing not only these golden with us, but yours, as well! I Iove your method of gathering only that which resonates with you - thank you for sharing that!

    Though I was at the conference, I didn't make more than a half of one workshop. Now I feel like I attended them all!

    Wow! I'm saving this one - so much wisdom here!

  2. Thanks for sharing this Fae since I didn't make it this year. I do have a question regarding the Amazon categories. Is this just for self-published books or can traditionally published authors use these categories?

  3. Anyone with an author page (if you've got a book up on Amazon you can have an author page, but your publisher may have to "put it up" for you) can use the categories. In fact, Penny said to use the categories as your keywords, and if you can put them in your title even better. Her session was fantastic! If you go to her website and ask for the PowerPoint slides of her How to Sell a Truckload of Books on Amazon presentation she'll send them to you. I could write a whole blog on her session alone.

  4. Thank you, Fae. I was at RWA14 and learned so much from attending workshops and now from listening to the workshops I missed. But I didn't have a cohesive way to keep track of all I learned, Now I do! And I especially loved Robin's workshop and the SPICED concept.

    One thing that stuck with me was from Brenda Chin. She advised everyone to write BIG. She said as an editor she can reign you in but she won't know what you're capable of unless you do it first.

    1. Write big. What a great golden line, Carol. Thanks for sharing it. Are you holding my Shogun? You must be owned by his twin!

    2. Okay that's going on a sticky note by my computer! "Write BIG!" ... love it!

  5. Thank you for the shout out. One thing - we encourage folks to link to their other social media platforms, just not use the exact same content.

    1. Thanks for that clarification, Jana. Your session had such great content, especially for the social-media-challenged like me! It was great to meet you at the FF&P gathering!

  6. Not only do I love these golden lines/ sound bytes, but I really like that poetry advice. The most timely golden line for me is the one about 2 emotions battling at the same time. I think that will really help the roadblock I've been facing recently. Thank you!

    1. It's fun for me to see two emotions in armor spurring towards each other with lances. Thanks for reading.

  7. I love the idea of golden lines. They apply to novels, too. They're the quote you want to highlight and share everywhere.

      1. Definitely. The trailer for Zach Braff's (Scrubs and Garden State) new film, Wish I Was Here, is full on amazing one liners.

  8. Thanks Ro from all of us who couldn't make the conference this year. Great lines and information. I'm especially interested in the e-pub info.

    1. It was refreshing to see e-pub embraced at this conference. An e-pubbed author that I sat with at the Day of YARWA pre-conference (with James Scott Bell) won a RITA this year! So many paths to publication now.

  9. Fae, thanks for sharing.I loved the James Scott Bell talk, but I'm wondering how many pages he writes his chapters on that "only 3 sentences in the first 3 chapters"? Any idea?

  10. He didn't say and no one asked. If you've read DON'T LEAVE ME, his chapters are very short--rarely over 5-6 pages. My chapters are usually ten pages, but I'm going with the chapter rule, since my scenes are longer. No matter how you slice it, less backstory at the beginning is better.

  11. I liked Deanna Chase's advice to release frequently, putting out at least 2 novels and a novella per year, and making sure you release something every three months. (One release could be a bundle.) She also said to put buy links for your next book at the end of each one, and to hire cover work and formatting so you'll have time to write. Carolyn Rae Author - facebook, Romancing the Gold, coming in the fall from MuseItUp.

  12. Thanks for more tips, Carolyn. I didn't attend that session, but I heard the same advice in others. either release in a group or release titles in quick succession to build buzz between titles.

  13. Thanks Fae. I was inspired by the wealth of information for self-pubbed authors and their successes at this 2014 conference. Marie Force detailed how to treat your writing as a business. Courtney Milan & Hugh Howey - write long & short so you can have something new out there every 90 days. Howey revelation - there is no backlist online! It's all new to the Reader who discovers you. He also talked (as S Axelrod has) about how the publishing companies' business model is flawed. And how we writers have just accepted this as the only way. Now we have new information to digest!

    1. Thanks for sharing your golden lines, MaryTate. There were always at least two sessions during every hour that I would have liked to attend. I guess I was spoiled because before we were Writers in the Storm and "just" a critique group, we attended the RWA D.C. conference together. Between the (then) four of us, we "attended" every session we wanted to hear!

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