How to Get the Most from a Writing Conference

If you are interested in getting your book published, writing conferences are the place you need to get yourself to. A conference is where industry professionals gather.  You’ll find agents, editors, published and aspiring authors in the mix. To get the most from writing conferences it is important get organized in advance.

Most conferences have a tentative schedule available for you to see when you register. I review the schedule months in advance to see if I can submit to a contest or send in pages for review by a panel of authors or in a written critique. Some submissions might be addressed at a workshop anonymously, but at other times you must face public critique. Read the directions carefully and don’t submit if you’re uncomfortable standing in front of a room full of people who are pointing out flaws in your story.

Offer in advance to volunteer at the conference. It not only gives you an opportunity to meet new people, but it shows potential agents and editors that you care enough about the industry to give your time.

Writing conferences are business events, so dress professionally. Hotel conferences halls are notorious for being freezing cold so plan to dress warmmmmm. If you don’t have a business card, have some printed. If you’re not yet published, you can put freelance writer as your title. You can give your card to other authors and if you pitch your manuscript, you can leave a card with the agent.

Before you leave for the conference, print out the schedule. Circle the workshops and panels you would like to attend. Make a mental note of people you would like to meet and books you would like to purchase.

Once you arrive, search out people who write in your genre and make new friends. Absorb all the fascinating new information being offered and be inspired to take your writing to the next level.

Sleuthfest is March 1-4 at the Embassy Suites in Boca Raton. It’s known to be the top conference in the southeast for writers of mystery and thriller. If you go, I’ll be wearing a pink boa around my neck to show that I’m a volunteer who is selling raffle tickets. Stop me and introduce yourself, I love to meet new people.

Tuesday Writer Blog Under Construction

We’re under construction here at the Tuesday Writer blog. Next week we will be starting a new format.

  • Tuesdays we will talk about new books being released on the market.
  • Themed Thursday will continue in the same manner with each of us contributing our thoughts on a weekly theme.
  • Fridays will be for anything book related. It will include book reviews, conference information, as well as interesting things about books and writing like: My novel, Rager, is a finalist in the thriller category for the Florida Edgar Alan Poe (Freddie) award. Rager is about a college freshman who parties like he’s possessed and the girl next door exorcist. The winner will be announced at the Sleuthfest writing conference in Boca Raton, March 1-4.

We are excited for this new format and look forward to bring you lots of fabulous information about books and writing. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday!

Wrap-It-Up Wednesday for the Tuesday Writers

The Tuesdays had a nice post-holiday meeting yesterday, with everyone contented from time with family and friends. Stacie was back from her out of town travels for her MFA work. We missed Melody, who was helping to run the book fair at her son’s school.

Faran had a great rewrite of a chapter in his novel about the struggles of two high school boys that plays out alongside their favorite sport of baseball. Faran really tightened up the chapter. He was able to bring out a lot of emotion in his characters with a scene on the pitcher’s mound.

Cathy is working on a rewrite of her novel about a girl in the circus. Cathy is meticulously reworking her plot and reduced it to a synopsis to submit at an upcoming conference. This helped her get a better idea of the plot’s overall flow. Cathy wanted to compact her synopsis so that it was only one page. Faran had a great suggestion to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” He suggested keeping the juiciest parts to make it easy for an agent to read.

I brought in a chapter I had reworked. We usually read our work out loud to the group since it brings a different dimension than just seeing it on the page. I made copies of my chapter because I had included a lot of italics and wanted to see how that all played out.  Cathy offered to read so that I could get a different perspective. Hearing the chapter definitely helped me catch places where the pace slowed as well as phrases and word choices that needed to change.

Stacie is working on a new novel with two point of view characters. She’s is working out their voices in first person and third person. Stacie’s writing is always very fluid. It’s interesting to see how she’s incorporating the knowledge she’s gained from her MFA classes.

Our anchor, Jonathan, did not disappoint with the hilarity of his current story. The only critique was a question about where an object fell when thrown into the back seat of a car. That was all we could find to critique in his entire read.

I can’t wait for next Tuesday!

Halloween Character Archetypes for your Novel

Halloween is a fun time where we can wear whatever we want and party. I’m sharpening my characters in this layer of revision of my work in progress. I want to make sure the character arcs pan out and that my character’s roles with each other are well defined. In the course of that process, I revisited Carl Jung’s archetypes. With them fresh in my mind, I went off to a Halloween party and had to laugh at how the costumes and personalities frequently matched the archetypes.

 

Hero: Wants to change the world. He fears internal weakness.

 

 

Jester: Seeks fun and yet fears  boredom.

 

 

 

Creator: Wants to realize her vision. She hates mediocrity.

 

 

 

Care Giver: Loves to help others and deplores selfishness (so she shares her jello-shot).

 

 

 

Sage: Seeks knowledge and is afraid of deception

 

 

 

Magician: Wishes to alter reality which can sometimes lead to inadvertent results.

 

 

 

Innocent: Wants happiness and doesn’t want retribution. It is said that if you want a great costume, go for the reverse of your personality.

 

 

Explorer: Wants freedom and fears entrapment

Revolutionary: Is the rebel who fears having no power.

 

 

Ruler: Generally wants prosperity and fears being overthrown (by the UPS man).

Lover: Wants connection and detests isolation. A friend, who really is a connector and therefore great at sales, dressed as the UPS man.

Every-man: Wants to belong and not be excluded from the group, yet not stand out. Wearing a hat with skeleton face on it took care of that.

 

The next day, in thinking about my characters, I wondered what they would have worn to the party. The fun visuals helped me to better identify them and the behaviors I want to portray. This Halloween season, ask yourself what costume would your characters wear?

What do you read when you travel?

I flew to Winnipeg, Canada last week to visit my parents for Canadian Thanksgiving. There are no direct flights to Winnipeg from South Florida, so getting there is always an all-day affair. I’m a book-in-hand kind of person. I always make sure that I have a new novel or two so that I have at least twenty hours of reading.

Looking around at fellow passengers, I noticed that many of them were on their cell phones in the airport, but pulled out books once they got on the plane. As many of the books came from the airport vendor, I wondered what is the most popular read during air travel?

While killing time in the airport, I did a brief survey of

airport vendors for the dates of my travel. I found that David Baldacci, last year’s Sleuthfest key note speaker’s new novel, The Last Mile, was most popular at the Winnipeg airport. Dan Brown’s Origin was a favorite at Ft. Lauderdale Airport, and Liane Moriarty’s Truly, Madly, Deeply was the bestseller in Toronto.

 

 

 

Some of the passengers I talked to want a short read they could finish in one flight, but most wanted something that would last throughout their entire time away from home. I noticed an equal number of e-readers also, but a book in the hand always gets more attention from me. What will your new read be the next time you travel?

Interview with Deb Sharp, Author of the Mace Bauer Series

Florida author Deb Sharp is like the main character in her “Mace Bauer Mysteries,’’ Deborah Sharp’s family roots were set in Florida long before Disney or Miami Vice. As a native and former reporter for USA Today, she knows the spots not found on maps: Molasses Junction. Muse, and now, Himmarshee, her own tiny slice of “Authentic Florida.’’

To create Himmarshee, Deborah borrowed from the present-day ranching town of Okeechobee, and from the south Florida of her family’s past.

Not far from Ft. Lauderdale, her dad used to walk to town, leading the family cow. A generation later, Deborah rode her horse over the same citrus- and ranch-dotted terrain. Now, it’s all interstates and strip malls.

The difference between Mace’s hometown and hers: Deborah will never let Himmarshee be spoiled by sprawl.

Q. You’ve written a number of hilarious mystery novels in your Mace Bauer series. How did you come up with the concept for your novels?

I wasn’t a fiction writer. I was a journalist, but I always wanted to write a mystery. I saw so many sad stories as a journalist I wanted to write a funny mystery. I saw a full page ad of a woman in a turquoise convertible in the Miami Herald. I started to think about the type of character who might be riding around in a turquoise convertible and what could happen. That woman is MAMA and I decided to write a story about where she goes in the convertible. From there I figured she would be from an obscure part of Florida and that she would have three girls. The book started with MAMA discovering a body in the trunk of the convertible. That started the whole series.

 

 

 

Q. You spent a number of years as a reporter for USA Today. Was the transition to novel writing a challenge for you?

It was a lot harder than I thought. I figured I’d been a professional writer for twenty-five years, how hard could it be? Journalism teaches you to leave out what the people you interview are thinking or feeling. I had to learn to put emotion in my fiction. It actually took me a couple of years to get it right. I took a lot of workshops, went to Sleuthfest conferences and joined a critique group. All of those things helped to become a fiction writer.

Q. Do you consider writing an art, or a craft, or a mixture?

Some people are artists when they write. I always thought of it more of a craft. For me it was a profession with the journalism. I felt like saying “I’m an artist” didn’t describe the kind of writing I did, so to me it was more of a craft. There can be artistic feelings that go into writing, but I believe it’s a craft. People have a talent for observation or expression, but to put it all together is something that you have to develop. You can’t just sit down and paint a masterpiece. You have to cultivate your talents and work at them.

Q. You’re really good at marketing. What do you feel are the most important aspects of marketing?

I got a lot of reviews from newspapers in the beginning. The platform has changed since then. Physical newsprint has scaled back and social media has increased. I think something that a lot of people overlook is just being a nice person. Helping out and volunteering gets the word out that you’re willing to give back and that opens people up to you. A lot of people think they need to work to build their brand. I think you can build your brand by being kind to other writers even though it’s old fashioned and low tech. I’ve always felt more comfortable helping someone else rather than pushing ME-ME-ME on social media.

Q. You are good at asking questions on social media that draw many responses from your fans. How do you go about it?

I think it’s because I’m curious. I’m interested what other people think, and I guess it’s easy for me to formulate questions because I did it with the journalism.

Q. What are you reading now?

HaHa! The mystery writers out there might be disappointed that I’m reading chick lit at the moment. I like Jennifer Weiner and I just got something by Sofie Kinsella. I do have a new Michael Connelly novel that I picked up, but I’m enjoying the chick lit right now. I don’t know that I’ll ever do anything in that genre, but it’s light and it’s fun for me at this point.

Q. As you know, we are a critique group. Do you participate in one?

I’m not in a critique group at the moment. I am a huge advocate of critique groups. I was in the Thursday night critique group run by Joyce Sweeney. What was beneficial to me, was hearing from other writers who didn’t have a journalism background. They could pinpoint exactly where I needed to punch things up on emotion or description, things I was scant on from my previous training. In a critique group I think a person should find something nice to say, not be a slash and burn type person. A good critiquer can tell you what’s wrong in a manner that helps you learn and that is so beneficial.

I laugh and say I’m the Goldilocks of critique groups. The first one I went to was too hard, the people were mean. They said they didn’t like my writing, but they really didn’t care for the genre. The next one was too soft. They liked to sit around and drink wine rather than critiquing. Not that drinking wine is bad, but I wanted feedback. Then I found the Thursday group and it was just right. I don’t think I’d be where I am if it weren’t for the Thursday critique group helping me. I am a big fan of critique groups.

You can find out more about MAMA and her antics at DebraSharp.com

 

Using Isolation for your Novel Characters

Waiting out Hurricane Irma with no power, and no phone service got me thinking about isolation. Humans are inherently social creatures. We seek the company of others. I was fortunate to have my husband with me so there was plenty of conversation, but also time to contemplate. We as humans need conversation, we want to be included in groups, whether it’s a sports team or a religious group or even a fabulous critique group. I thought about the long term effects of isolation to a person and how it could affect one’s character.

Psychologists say that socialization is critical for the mental health of children and seniors. There are two types of isolation: social and physical. Social isolation occurs when someone feels they don’t fit in. Bullying is a prime example as is the archaic practice of shunning. Physical isolation occurs if someone is tangibly prevented from interacting with others like in a kidnapping. People can both mentally and physically isolate themselves from intense fear like a survivalist who lives in the woods.

Social isolation has been used as a tool in many thrillers. Children who are bullied can become serial killers as in The Wilderness of Ruin, a true crime novel about Jesse Pomeroy, a boy who at the age of fourteen became a serial killer.  Adults can be bullied at work, leading someone to ‘go postal’. The Shunning by B. Lewis is a story about a bride shunned by the Amish.

Think about how isolation would affect you. If you suddenly ended up alone in a desperate situation would you shrivel up and cry or organize your thoughts to figure out a necessary strategy? Would you become increasingly depressed until you couldn’t function, or would you be so anxious you’d have a heart attack?

 

Studying how isolation affects human nature can be useful in plotting or as backstory for one of your characters. The effects of isolation can enhance your characters actions and motivations. Use isolation to increase tension, and heighten suspense to keep your readers turning the pages as fast as a hurricane.

Hurricane Irma Madness

The Tuesdays met yesterday before hurricane Irma headed our way. Melody is moving along with lots of emotion in her current WIP. Faran started a new story, sure to please all sports fans. I read a revised edition of the last two chapters of my WIP. Jonathan entertained us all with the wit in his next hilarious middle grade novel.

We are all in the midst of hurricane prep or driving out of the state to avoid Irma so the Tuesdays will not be postingfor a while. We hope those of you who live in Irma’s path stay safe and that your electricity returns quickly.

 

 

Wrap it Up Wednesday for the Tuesday Writers

The Tuesdays met at Jonathan’s house shortly after the rain stopped in West Broward. Parker, Jonathan’s dog, trekked down the stairs to greet us all and spent an extra amount of time checking out Faran who is back after a hiatus at summer camp.

Faran read the climax of a Y/A baseball novel he’s been working on. The pacing and tension were amazing. We were on the edges of our chairs feeling a whole range of emotion for the main character, his best friend, his girlfriend and the entire baseball team.

Cathy has a new character that just showed up in her novel. He’s wreaking havoc all over the place. The Tuesdays love the chaos he’s creating.

Melody’s chapter had her main character grappling with issues about a boy she likes. It related concepts regarding money and morals. Melody reflected the morality beautifully with a slimy smile on a character’s face.

I read a scene that I added to the climax of my work in progress. The Tuesdays liked the addition, but suggested relocating it.  We discussed moving it forward and adding to an existing scene to maximize the ramping up of tension for the grand finale.

 

Jonathan is cranking out another hilarious middle grade novel. Even though he has a short deadline with his publisher, he manages to continue to ace the funny stuff. The Tuesdays were excited to find a small fix for Jonathan’s WIP. We know it was only because he’d had a busy week hosting his launch party.

Stacie didn’t join us this week. She’s spending quality time with her daughter before college starts. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone next Tuesday.

Do you use a Checklist for Revision?

I’m in the process of revising my work in progress. I love revision because it gives me a chance to catch weak areas and deepen what I’ve written. I’ve always been a checklist person as well. I find them efficient and time saving. Here’s a revision checklist I’ve created for myself from the classes I’ve taken and how-to books I’ve read.                                         

Opening:

  • Does the story start with momentum or too much backstory?
  • Mood of Chapter 1 where I want it?
  • Strong first line and first page?
  • Is the main character likeable?
  • Is the hero in a situation that shows the conflict or what needs to change?

Plot and Structure                                                         

  • Do the main plot points fall at about ¼, ½, and ¾ of the way through the book?
  • Does the plot escalate?
  • Can I raise the stakes?
  • Does each scene have an arch?
  • Is the chronology correct?
  • Is there any point where a reader might feel like putting the book down?
  • Is there a symbolic death in the middle so the hero can rebuild?

Language

  • Watch for clichés in sayings or action that is too typical.
  • Check for dead verbs. (I use ‘moved’ way too much)
  • Look for boring, non-specific nouns that can jazz things up with better description.
  • Watch for accidental alliteration or places to use alliteration to intensify a situation
  • Check the exposition. Does it enhance mood or tone?
  • Does the dialogue have conflict with very little stage direction?

Characters                                                                    

  • Do the most significant characters each have an arch?
  • Can the reader feel the character’s emotion?
  • Is my main character’s dilemma too strong for him to quit?
  • Is there a strong reason the characters have to stick together?
  • Does the villain have the ability to kill my hero or crush his career, his health, his family?
  • Does my hero’s voice have substance? Does it fit the age, gender? Does it draw in a reader?

Theme

  • Is the theme evident?
  • How have I brought out theme? Recurring patterns, viewpoints, messages?
  • Does the theme come out organically? Does it feel lectured?

Endings

  • Does each scene end in the right place? Could it stop a paragraph or two sooner?
  • Can I split a scene to create a cliff hanger?
  • Can I make the ending of a scene stronger with more worry, a big decision, a strong statement?
  • Is the climax a do or die situation?
  • Does the resolution wrap up all loose ends and feel satisfying to the reader?

First drafts are a blur of ideas arriving on the page as fast as you can get them there. Revision is a calculated process with lots of checking and re-checking all the components that make up your novel. Slowdown in revision and enjoy the world-changing power and privilege of writing.