Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Successful Series: 5 Lessons Learned

If you follow my blog, you know I recently attended a major writing conference. Writing conferences are powerful for writers. At a conference you not only make connections with other writers, editors, and agents, but the venue includes classes and workshops to help you improve your writing skills.

Today I want to share some of the information I learned in one of those classes: The Successful Series. The class was taught by Janice Thompson and Cynthia Hickey, both successful writers of a variety of books, each series linked together by common threads. (Click on their names to see their Amazon Author Pages)

Here are a few of their tips.
1. All genres lend themselves to becoming a series. Find the common link. For example, a cozy mystery may be solved by the same sleuth, historical romance may take place in the same time period while a contemporary romance series make take place in the same local town. I think you get the idea.

2. A successful book series should mirror a successful television or movie series in some ways. Each episode should be fully plotted and able to stand alone. The author needs to approach each book as “the best in the series.”

3. Stick to your brand throughout the series. Your readers should recognize your style and voice in each book in the series. You have a brand. When readers see that in a new book, they feel comfortable.

4. Make sure your book titles and book covers go together. If a customer walks into a bookstore, you want them to readily recognize the book they are holding is part of a series.

5.  And this tip is from me: Listen to your readers. If they’re asking you, “What happened to Beverly?” or “I wish you’d have told more about Laney,” you may have seeds for a series. Your readers will tell you if there is a possible series or follow-up book there.

I have always been a firm believer in giving each book your best. Write each book as if it is your personal best seller. I’ve talked with new writers who tell me they’re holding back bits and pieces of their first book in hopes they will write a series and reveal those elements in book two or three. As it turns out, the trend for publishers buying series is waning. If your publisher likes your first book and requests a second or third, trust me, you’ll be able to deliver. Get that first book published and then see if a series is in order.

What do you think? Do you enjoy reading books written as a series?
What do you like? What do you not like?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Post Conference: Mending Holes, Filling Gaps

I returned Sunday from the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Dallas, Texas. A most memorable event. Imagine rubbing elbows with some of your favorite authors (like Francine Rivers and Becky Wade), picking the brains of editors and agents, attending workshops to hone your craft, and meeting up with people you’ve only known on Facebook until now. Incredible.

I attended classes and workshops. I had appointments with editors and agents. The schedule was full from start to finish. I came home feeling as though I could sleep for three days. But….

The conference is over. Now the real work begins.

Networking: Don’t tear a hole in your net.
The conference has given me an opportunity to extend my sphere of contacts. Writing conferences are as much about networking as they are about honing your craft. My first task for the week is to email a thank you to each professional whose class I attended and each person with whom I had an appointment.
And those business cards I collected? Now is the time to connect with my fellow writers…while we still remember who is who. I’ll go to their author Facebook page and “like” them and I’m sure they’ll do the same for me. I’ll create a spreadsheet with their email address and other contact information. We’re in this together. We’ve shared experiences. Now we can support one another.

Networking: You can’t catch anything if you use a net with a hole in it.

Mind the Gap: Reflecting on holes in your business plan.
The conference has broadened my perspectives about writing. Though I recently updated my business plan, I will revisit it this week to include some of what I learned. For example, my current plan includes a section on using social media, but I learned a few tips on leveraging what I already do to use social media to be, well, more social… as well as expand my “brand.”
You heard it here. The most powerful strategy I can use to further my writing career is to write. Write more. Write often. Write another book. The conference offered me strategies and tools to use as a writer, it is up to me to come home and use what I’ve learned.

If you want to do it “write,” stop talking about it and do it.

The next couple of weeks I want to share some of what I learned at the conference. Get ready to take notes. Until then, answer this question:

What do you do after the conference?…and don’t tell me you get a massage! I’ll be green with envy…

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

5 Don'ts to Building Your Perfect Elevator Pitch

I am so pleased to feature Rebecca Barth on A Novel Creation today. We met through an online writing group. Rebecca is talented, funny, and smart (Must be something with the name, huh?) As I began preparing for the ACFW conference, I asked Rebecca to share her thoughts on developing the perfect elevator pitch. The result? This post for the benefit of all.  Enjoy.

There you are, in an elevator randomly with the CEO from Big Company. You have 12 seconds to give her the pitch of your life! And you say…

“Floor 7, please.”
While short, succinct, and to the point, that elevator speech may not get you very far beyond, well, Floor 7.

It is a fabulous idea to be armed and ready with a short phrase about who you are. I know this because I have been networking a lot lately and, frankly, sharing a different elevator pitch each time. As my mother used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  
As I work on refining my message into a beautiful package wrapped up in a ten second bow, let me teach you what NOT to do. Being the analytical and scientific gal that I am, I have tested all of these ideas out for you in advance. You can thank me later.

5 Don’ts to Building Your Perfect Elevator Pitch
1.     Share your entire curriculum vitae in one breath: “One time, in 1st grade, I planned an entire play for my classmates. I cast everyone in various roles, leaving the star role for myself, naturally.” This little known but apparently critical fact on my speaking resume is best left to the second or third conversation.

2.     Forget what you do: If you are a creative type in any way (writer, presenter, adult coloring booker), you know what I mean (or maybe it’s just me?). “I’m a manager at ___ company. Oh yeah, and I write some on the side…” Impressive. I usually have fries on the side. The main course is the key. What are you serving up in your elevator pitch as your main course?

3.     Suddenly forget your thesaurus: “I studied the Bard in college. Billie and I, we are tight."  Here’s a picture of my fav mug of all of William Shakespeare’s best insults. Even though I can use the phrase “quintessence of dust” with the best of them, when you ask me what I do, I might say, “Write.” Or, “speak.” Or, my all-time favorite evil word, “just,” as in, “I just write.” Wow. Knocking socks off with that impressive elevator pitch, am I right?

Here's a picture of me with my fav mug of all of William Shakespeare's best insults

4.     Suddenly remember your thesaurus: “I furnish value propositions for aggregations with the wherewithal of capital fluidity but that lack congruity for employees.” While my Brainiac-to-English decoder ring translates that as, “I solve problems for successful companies with employee engagement issues,” your prospect may not be carrying the latest techie wristwatch.

5.     Go Mad Maxx and the Braggerdome: Ever meet those people who can brag more in 10 seconds that you have bragged in your entire lifetime? Strong and powerful are not synonyms for suffocating and prideful. (I Googled it, just to make sure. Nope. Not synonyms.)
What should an elevator pitch look like? I haven’t found one more practical than what my mentor Lois Creamer teaches. While geared toward speakers, her advice shared HERE is applicable beyond the naturally verbose crowd.

I have so much more to share with you, like the time I danced to Barry Manilow’s “Daybreak” on stage in front of millions (or perhaps it was only a crowd of 30 forgiving moms and dads?), but what to say after the elevator pitch is a story for another day…

Rebecca Barth is an expert at the business of fun. With 20 years of executive business experience, she inspires businesses and organizations to lead and engage by letting the walls come down. Nobody said business had to be boring! Follow Rebecca’s blog at or hire her to speak at your next event.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pre-Game Jitters for Author Type Athletes

Call it what you want: The Big Game, Opening Night, The Concert, The Playoffs. It is that big moment in your life for which you have been preparing. For me, it is a writing conference. Okay, I know that isn’t exactly like preparing for the Super Bowl, but there are similarities.

I know because I’m in training to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference in Dallas. It’s a big deal.

·     I need a game plan.
·  I need to know the players –the agents, editors, authors, and speakers attending.
·  I need my plays worked out.

My game plan? I am scheduled to meet with agents and editors. I have registered for workshops to help me strengthen my writing. I want to get everything I can out of those experiences.

The conference planners asked for volunteers. I volunteered to work an hour at the registration desk. I want to meet people. It’s part of my plan.

I don’t know exactly with whom I’ll be meeting. When I registered, I could choose three agents, three editors, and so forth. I think the way it works is I will get an appointment with one of each. So I’m reading their blogs, visiting their websites, learning what I can about them.

I have a first choice for an agent. I’ve been following his blog for a long time. (I don’t know if he’ll be the one I get to meet, but I’m praying that happens.) I currently don’t have an agent. I had Tom and God and figured that was enough.

I’ve prepared a synopsis for works I have in the mill.

I have my business cards ready. (Thanks Danielle)

I’m preparing my “elevator pitch.” By the way…next week I convinced the invincible Rebecca Barth to write a guest post on preparing the elevator pitch. She works with businesses and creative people all the time in presenting their ideas.

Oh, and I need to figure out what to wear, of course.

No this is not me. But I feel like it!

But mostly, I need to make sure I’m writing and not just talking about it.

The conference is a little over a week away and you could say I have the pre-game jitters.
What do you do to prepare for the BIG DAY?
Comments welcomed, prayers preferred.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

He Said, She Said--Writing Compelling Dialogue

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about pacing. (SeePace: The Vibrant Rhythm of Storytelling) I had comments posed to me via email and Facebook about the helpfulness of remembering to shorten chapters or edit superfluous details.

Those are editing issues.

But one brave soul actually left a comment on the post itself—I’m doing a happy dance!!! Love it when my readers leave a comment!!! This reader admitted that sometimes writing compelling dialogue is a problem. Constructing dialogue is a writing issue and one I want to address here.

The first critique I ever received at a writing conference came from author +Jack Cavanaugh. After telling me to lose the first two pages of text and jump in with the action, he wrote on my manuscript that my dialogue was great. I treasure that note.

I think in dialogue.

So for today’s blog post I researched writing tips on using dialogue. I offer them below with my comments about what I view as the big takeaway from each article.

I have also included a couple of exercises you can use to strengthen your own writing. After all, that’s what this blog is about: writers helping writers.

Top three sites I like on writing dialogue:

1. The 7 Tools of Dialogue by James Scott Bell 

I like all of the hints shared in this article, but the two I want to point out are numbers 3 and 4.  Tip #3 suggests we sidestep the obvious. Eliminate the everyday banter –it’s boring. Number 4 tells us to cultivate silence. Silence is powerful in dialogue. I’ve often wished it would happen more often in real life. It’s true. Sometimes what is not said provokes more thinking than trying to find the clever comeback or watering down a scene or argument

This is a guest post by Eleanore D. Trupkiewicz There is a part II dealing with attributions (Who’s talking) If you need that piece, you can access it from this first article.

The big takeaway here is the notion of not allowing your characters to speak in complete sentences. Listen to people around you. Rarely do people speak in full, formal sentences in everyday conversation. Using cryptic, punchy phrases helps keep your story moving at a quick pace.

3. 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Dialogue
The author of this piece points out why dialogue is powerful:
·      Dialogue helps you SHOW instead of TELL
·      Dialogue helps you build tension and drama
·      Dialogue reveals the speaker’s character
·      Dialogue creates white space on the page (very appealing)

All of that is true, but the tips offered here are excellent. Particularly if you are using accents and tips on giving your characters distinct speech patterns.

Remember I promised a couple of exercises you could use to strengthen your own
dialogue delivery?

1. You’ve seen it in the movies. Observers from afar watch the interaction between two individuals and “put words in their mouths.” They construct dialogue. Two quick examples The Italian Job and an episode of M.A.S.H. where  Hawkeye and BJ speak for Margaret and Frank who appear to be engaged in an argument across the compound. Try it for yourself. Go to a public area such as a restaurant or shopping mall…but be careful to not take this too far, you don’t want to be arrested for stalking.

2. Listen in on conversations. You aren’t worried with the content. You are interested in the structure. You’ll find people taking grammatical shortcuts when they speak. Including some of those will make your dialogue sound more natural. Make sure you sprinkle enough reality to make your dialogue believable.

What other ideas can we try to help us all write better dialogue?