I’m just back from the Surrey International Writers Conference, known by attendees as SiWC: the best writing conference in the world! And so it is.
Still reeling with the hangover, I feel energized…so electrified with new ideas, I don’t know where to start. Those of you who know me have seen this before when I talk writing. It’s passion courting possibility. Four days away from the cave, mingling with the story tribe and receiving injections of inspiration, tools, solid craft techniques, kindness, and brilliance, can have that effect.
So, this post is a short debrief. As I flip back through my notebook and memories here are a few highlights:
Thursday. Manuscript Critique Class with Jack Whyte. Not only did I discover that I have weak noun-pronoun relationships and miss details (Hallie Ephron confirmed this later in a Blue Pencil) but what’s happening in my head doesn’t always make it to the paper.
Cardinal Rule. Do not confuse the reader.
Fixes. Practice the craft. Hire an editor who doesn’t live in my head with the characters.
Good news: These were first draft pages. There is hope. There is always hope.
Other Rules. Never commit boredom, start with the weather, break the spell, or f*ck with the formatting formula.
Always remember the ideal reader is sitting in “Stygian” blackness and knows nothing. The story must make absolute perfect sense and you must provide all necessary detail.
Thank you Jack Whyte for telling the truth and making us better writers.
Friday. Holy Smokes! I stand up and turn around after the opening keynote and there stands a friend from Ontario that I have not seen in twenty-two years!
Let the magic begin! Lynne Murray, I can’t believe it’s you!
Lynne and I shared some crazy times in the early nineties in Ontario, and both found our way west.
We were writing then and we’re writing now.
Thursday. Query Letters with Nephele Tempest, Genevieve Gagne-Hawes, Carly Waters, Kari Sutherland, Gordon Warnock, and Laura Zats. Imagine sitting in a room with agents who tell you exactly what they want in a query and how to create it step-by-step. These very approachable and supportive professionals provided specific information related to attitude, approach, formula, and detail. Where else can you get this kind of information? I took notes. If there’s anything specific you want to know, contact me.
Advice from agent, Dongwon Song: “Ambition is the inciting incident of your career.”
Advice from agent, Laura Zats: Voice is what makes a reader connect and fall in love with your work. Style is Craft (words, cadence, technique) but Voice is Personality.
Friday: Literary Masque. Such fun! These are some of the women from my dinner table. I have no idea what the women at each end of this photograph actually look like.
Saturday. Self-Publishing Virgins with Meg Tilley and kc dyer
Self-publishing is complex and tricksy.
These lovely women shared their personal stories and passion.
Important points. Get your cover professionally created. Pay for a professional editor (both copy and line) and formatter. Make sure your book looks pro.
Saturday. Writing the Body (How to Use Physicality and Sex in Fiction) with Jen Sookfong Lee
Everyone likes a sex scene. Unless it’s bad. Use visual cues so the reader can follow without cocking their head to try and sort what’s where. Limit sex scenes. They can be energy suckers. Use sensory detail, setting, pacing, and break it up;) Lack of sex or yearning for sex can be as intense as an actual connection. Twitter users, follow Jen BLOODFANG Lee @JenSookfongLee
Saturday. Making a Living Indie Publishing with Angela Ackerman, Elena Aitken, Steena Holmes and Eileen Cook
What happens after you write your book? You have to sell it. How? With all the books out there, how do you break out, get visible, and make sales?
This workshop was SO useful. Personal stories plus industry strategies, tips, and resources. Start by clicking the links in this title. They will lead you to fantastic resources offered by four successful Indie authors/publishers. Connect with Angela Ackerman for writing resources. Just wait until you see her thesaurus lineup. Check out Elena’s Indie Romances; Steena Holmes, who offers online writing courses and a free branding course; and writer/freelance editor Eileen Cook.
I came away with a list of websites and percolating ideas…like this:
Join my STREET TEAM. You will get an advanced reading copy of my next book (Hollystone Mystery #3: TO RENDER A RAVEN) in exchange for honest feedback. If you’ve read TO CHARM A KILLER and TO SLEEP WITH STONES, what do you think will happen in Book Three? What would you like to see happen? I’m writing it now, so I’m open to suggestions;) Contact me.
Sunday. How Do They Do That? with Diana Gabaldon. No, this was not a workshop on writing sex scenes. Diana offered techniques for creating clear lyrical writing. Style. And if anyone has style, it’s Outlander creator, Diana Gabaldon.
P.S. Diana does offer an ebook on writing sex scenes: I Give You My Body…How I Write Sex Scenes Just sayin’
Sunday: According to Plan with Eileen Cook and Crystal Stranaghan. These two savvy writers lead us through writing a business plan. I now have a list of SMART goals, and learned that I must invest as much time and effort into marketing my work as I do creating it. Whether you are an Indie author/publisher or have a contract with an agent or trade publisher, you still need a plan.
Marketing is not an INFP thing. It requires conversations outside your head. It’s left brain work. But, along with Donna Barker, Eileen and Crystal run The Creative Academy so there are support groups for authors like me. Bookmark it.
One of the most amazing things about conferencing is meeting up with old friends and making new friends. You never know who you’ll meet. In the last workshop, the woman sitting beside me gave me her card and invited me to her writer’s retreat beside the sea in Nova Scotia. Yeah, that’s right. Nova Scotia. That little province that tops my list of preferred places to live. Phew.
Monday October 23…The Day After SiWC