Category Archives: Writing Conferences

Marketing & Brand: Tips from Philly Writer’s Conf.

Still hot writing business and craft tips to report on from the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference this month.  Here is more of what I learned during that weekend from a round of excellent presenters.

Creating Your Brand and Marketing Your Work presented by Don Lafferty and Marie Lamba.

ID your reader and market
Are there special qualities, issues or setting in your book that appeal to certain groups? Hikers, teens, mountain climbers, veterinarians? Find those groups on Twitter and listen to their conversations. Mention your book when relevant.

Do you offer readers something they need in your book? Can you do a workshop or talk? For example, is your book MG or YA? Hook up with Scout organizations to do a workshop on your book so they earn a reading badge and your earn readers (for your sequel too).

Does your book feature a certain locale? Post photos of those places along with mention in your book on a blog post.

Who are the gatekeepers to your book? Librarians, parents, bookstores, conventions, etc. Find a way to access.

Connect and be found
Be on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, LibraryThing, IndieBound, LinkedIn.
Start a blog.
Add tags (keywords) to bottom of your blog posts so they can be found in a web search by keyword.
Keep blog posts to 300 words.

Brand look
Create author bio/photo/brand image/press release templates

We all know what brand this is

Create one look for yourself (photo, image) and carry over into all marketing pieces to create “your brand”.

Create a short and long bio, with photo.

Create business cards you can change as needed to print out for special events.

Band together with other authors
Start a blog with a group of authors and expand your publicity. Good example is here and here!
Collaborate with your author group to do  community outreach together related to literacy.
Do signings together.

Share the love
Don’t let your social networking be all about you. For each tweet about your work/success post 12 tweets  about the success of others or valuable information.
Post reviews of book similar to yours online and email the author your reviews.
Find authors similar to you and check out their blogs, blogs they’ve been a guest on and any published articles.
Write articles for industry publications/blogs sharing your knowledge.
Always include your bio in any post/article so folks can link back to you.

Build brand through family/close friends
Invite family and close friends to be your “street team”.
Have them:
Attend signings
Do online reviews
Request your book from local library
Hand out bookmarks
Plant your book card in similar books in the bookstores positioned halfway through the book
Face your book out on the shelf (publisher’s pay for that space)

Constantly re-evaluate your marketing!

Download Don Lafferty’s marketing guide!


Filed under Book Marketing, Social Media, Writing Conferences

More Hot Tips from the Philly Writer’s Conf: On Character

Still lots of good stuff to report on from the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference June 3-5!

More notes on character – presented by Gregory Frost, Author of ShadowBridge and many more works.

Grab readers in your first para with the MC’s voice. Create image of MC in our mind from the get-go.

Don’t rely heavy on character description. We need their voice to build character in our mind.

Don’t give reader everything in building character.

Don’t stop the “movie” to explain. Avoid all urges to explain. STOP. Repeat. Again. Avoid all urges to explain!

Present events and let them pass before reader’s eyes so they can judge what is going on.

Characters must show reactions to situations, not reactions by the author.

Don’t lead reader by the hand. Let them find out.

TIP: Write first draft of few pages to explore characters. Start out intuitively to write these first pages of your novel. Stop so far in (20+ pages). If it seems to be working then stop and outline entire book.

Element to characters:
Desire. All that happens in the novel occurs because of desire.
MC wants something bad enough and will do anything to get it. Your MC must yearn for something. Show us early on in the book what your MC wants, yearns for.
Not sure who’s story it is? Pick the person who suffers the most, hurts the most. Make it that person.
Decide who tells the story best.

Exercise to do to create a detailed character:
Choose a container, wallet, jewelry box, laundry basket, any etc. and make a list of what your character(s) keeps in this place. Choose the right items that ring true for each character.  Make it detailed to create a unique an identity from this list. Can you find elements for narrative thread from the list?  (ie. Theater stubs, what happened before/during or after). If so, add them in to book.

NOTE: Get Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction (book). Used as textbook across campuses. Expensive. Try locating on EBay.


Filed under Characters, Writing Conferences, Writing Techniques

Hot WritingTips from the Philly Writer’s Conf: On Plot

Kelly Simmons, Author of Standing Still & The Bird House on Plot

Kelly gave us great ideas on how to prepare the plot of our book BEFORE writing it so we don’t get 80 pages in & have to re-write it all.

On Plot: Ride the 7 C’s
Tip: Combustion and Coordination are most important

Most plot problems from beginning. Creating a premise with such interesting characters and high stakes will automatically inspire interesting plot and things to happen with combustion. Start properly vs. revise. Build tension. Create combustion plus conflict as it relates to premise. Look at your plot and see where you can add those what-ifs and extra high stakes.  The engine of your plot is your premise. Then combust it. Then add higher stakes.

Your book’s premise must answer these questions.
1. Where are we?
2. Who is the lead?
3. What do they want?
4. Why should we care?
5. Where are they going?

Example: Jason and Joshua are brothers who attend the same high school and learn of a Columbine-esque plot about to go down the next day. The novel unfolds over 24 hours when they must save their classmates. Now we have possibilities for more conflict. Make better:  Jason and Joshua are twins. They are in love with the same girl. Their Dad is a cop and comes to the scene. Jason doesn’t know Joshua has a gun. Mother committed suicide by gun. Twins have an invalid sister in a wheelchair and both want to save the sister. Com-BUSTED!

Action + Voice + Setting + Premise must all be coordinated together for your story to flow. Before writing, experiment with POV to see if a good fit for your premise. Exercise: Write down plot premise. Then write down opening scene in different voices.

Stuck in the middle? Add some conflict. This can get you out of that sagging middle we all dread. Change locale, add excuse for an argument, add a surprising situation. Kelly echoed Gregory Frost in emphasizing here the 3Ds of writing conflict: Desire + Danger = Drama.

Look at your characters voice. Strip out all prose/exposition and just look at their dialogue to see the beat of their voice. Flow their beat throughout the book. Step outside of your outline to listen to your characters as they grow through your book as they may change from your outline. Ie. Would this character do this or that? Is that true to them and their voice? Maybe it was in the beginning but not now.

Give the reader a character they enjoy. A character you sympathize with, a character who longs for something and then take away what they most want. Give the reader a character to enjoy – but not necessarily like.

Wrap up your novel in a satisfying way that serves the premise and reader anticipation. Tie up loose ends.

Know when to end. Is your book too long? Then look at where there is overwriting. End sooner if need be. Too many plot points can be too much – know when plot is done.
Tip: Where should novel start? Write the synopsis and elevator pitch first to find out.
Tip: To make your writing stronger brainstorm more and (over)write less.

What quadrant of writer are you in? Dreamer * Outliner * Non-Outliner * Doer.  Find a good combo of two. Ie. Combo of being a non-outliner and dreamer might need more of the “doer” in them to get the writing done. For me, I am an outliner and a doer but I need more of the dreamer in me to sit and “think outside the box” and be creative.

Different plots = Different Styles Some plots demand a particular type of writing. Ie. Thriller/suspense should have action first, scare readers early on, fast pace, punchy dialogue. Exercise to do: Write opening paragraph or page in different voices. 1st person, 3rd person, 3rd person limited, Omniscient, even 2nd person (very difficult! Hard to write)

Now plot on!


Filed under Plot, Writing Conferences, Writing Resources

Hot WritingTips from the Philly Writer’s Conf: On Character

Back from the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference June 3-5. Lots of good stuff to report on! I will post hot tips and techniques over the next week on what I learned during this past weekend from a round of excellent presenters.

On Character – presented by Gregory Frost, Author of ShadowBridge and many more works.“You paid for this pain” – quote on his critiquing our work.
Darn right.

All good fiction is 3D
Desire + Danger = Drama
The danger part is the impediment – add it. Get your MC out of their comfort zone.

Dramatize it, don’t tell it
Show drama through dialogue and action. Have the characters reveal things as they go along, don’t just tell us.
Exercise: Imagine scene. A married couple is fighting. One wants to divorce, one doesn’t. At the end of dialogue one has convinced the other of their argument. Write 1 page of dialogue only for this scene. Now write 1 page of exposition only of this scene. Find a way to combine them.

Identify the gap in characters
Make characters rich in symbolic self. People act on the basis of how they see themselves and who they think they are. Ie. Priest lives one life, then is a pedophile behind public life. Ie. A politician rails against homosexuals, he is one himself. Find the gap between character’s actions and how he sees himself. Symbolic self is very powerful and drives character to do what they do.

Cool character names
Names evoke a visual. Names matter. They can be found walking through cemeteries. Names of long ago can be unique and not mainstream now.

Character Chart
Create a character chart that list in detail their physiological, sociological and psychological traits. In doing this your character will come alive to you and can be referred back to as you write. They may reveal new things about themselves.

Characters have a life before your book
This is true for your multiplex characters not simplex characters (nameless/faceless characters such as delivery person, etc). Get to know them by interviewing your multiplex character asking 20 questions or free write about who they are.

Create a triangle of characters
Triangle keeps characters from agreeing with one another and adds conflict. Don’t forget siblings – they make great secondary characters.

Check filtering words
When revising, eliminate words like ‘realized’, ‘noticed’, etc. Keep reader in the story through eyes of the character. Ie. Change “Ben noticed the fire burned fierce in the wind” to “The fire burned fierce.”

Get to action from the start
Don’t start your novel with the character sitting around alone in exposition. Need action! If he is sitting around, then skip and start at Chapter 2 or 3 –  wherever the action finally starts. Get right to it. Ie. Read Accidental Tourist intro scene.

No backstory in the beginning
Don’t add in all the backstory in the first scene. Wind it in later. Don’t inform the reader of all that is going on, the characters know. And they don’t need to tell each other what they already know. Character development is delivered as you go along through the book. Tip: Find a way to start at near the end of your story and then go back.

Check out: Lajos Egri’s book The Art of Dramatic Writing.

Watch for more hot tips and advice over the next week! Now to working on my MS from this workshop. I like pain. Pain is good.


Filed under Characters, Writing Conferences, Writing Resources

Passion in writing and business

When it comes to passion in our writing, the same principles apply whether it’s achieving success on the creative side or the business side

I came out of my writing hole just 6 weeks ago. It was a dusty place, filled with a year and a half of writing two books. That’s 547.5 days of typing, flicking away stink bugs and peering through old farmhouse windows that stay up with a thick Robin Cook book placed under them (sometimes I alternated the titles). I had no writer pals. I belonged to no writer groups. I had no membership in any writer organizations. My characters had left me and I suddenly felt very alone. I despaired.

And so I joined the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and quickly began a whirlwind of social events that drove me into a vast and wonderful community of writers. I had no idea. Oh, what a camaraderie there is that exists between us. People like me! Out there. Writing. Editing. Agonizing. Learning. Wanting more! I had come home.

I soon realized how privileged I was to be sitting at my first writer’s conference attending the workshop “Writing the Breakout Novel” led by the author and literary agent, Donald Maass. Not one word did I want to miss. He fed us lobster and linguini as we furiously scribbled away his notes, chairs perched on tippy toes. He didn’t skimp on dessert either. His words dripped down to us in a rich cheesecake goo as A-HA! moments whizzed through our tired brains and we raced to get it all down. To build better stories. To move and inspire our readers to keep turning the pages. To just do it better.

A week later now (my brain deflated and running on regular), I realize how his words on the creative part of writing also apply to the business side of writing. Here are some major points I took away from Donald Maass and how we can apply them to both the Jeckyll and Hyde inside us – the hidden writer and the social writer.


IN WRITING:  Focus on details. Find the details that bring the moment alive. Watch your scene in your mind as a movie and freeze frame it. See what is there that is not apparent in the action. See the small pieces your protagonist sees. In a recent workshop with Developmental Editor Kathryn Craft we looked at still photos of professional dancers and wrote a scene about it, using details pulled from that one still shot. We created a story from that one moment. Do the same in every scene for your reader.

IN BUSINESS: Freeze frame yourself in your writer life. Stop for a moment and see all the details of what you do. Your notes, your workspace, your numerous projects – blog, novel, short story, book review for an author friend.  Appreciate it. See it. Pat yourself on the back. Then add more. Who else can you reach out to for support? Can you get up 30 minutes earlier each day to write? What is a challenge you face in your writing that you need some help on? See the joy in the details of your life as a writer. See the unique place you are at during this moment in time being a writer. Visualize where you want to go and add the “stuff” you need to get there.


IN WRITING: Know WHAT your character wants to do and WHY they want to do it. Keep it true until their personal stakes change and their wants and needs change. Then the WANT and WHY change too.  Then add more motivation and reasons for why they do something. It connects us to them through our humanity. We can relate. If we can’t relate, we won’t want to read on.

IN BUSINESS:  Know what motivates you to write. Be confident you can become published and successful at it, even if you have to try and try again. What has been holding you back?  Fear of never being published, fear of being a bad writer? In discovering WHAT you want to do (become published) and WHY you want to do it (personal satisfaction, money, fame, have a story to tell, etc) you set your personal stakes to succeed in the business of writing. Without personal stakes you can’t take your writing to the next  level of selling you and your work.


IN WRITING: Add sub plot players.  Yes, you can have multiple plots going on at one time.  Give your protagonist another challenge. And then another. More is better. Add stories to your secondary characters, don’t just make them two dimensional. Give them a quirk. It may reveal things about your protagonist too.  If your protagonist has a problem – give them another problem and another. Rivet the reader.  Make them want to turn those pages.  It just makes it darn more interesting.

IN BUSINESS: Give yourself another challenge, and then another. Join a writing group, go to a writers conference, start a blog, sign up for a writing or social media class, join an online forum, reach out to other writers for advice. Give yourself one thing to do and you may find another, just like a subplot layer. I crawled out of my writing hole to connect with a writing group on a whim. Because I did I then attended my first writer conference, met fascinating people, joined a workshop series, sat in on Jonathan Maberry’s Writer’s Coffeehouse, pitched to agents for the first time and created a new network of writing peers. And it continues every day. In making one thing happen I made several sub plot layers spread out in far reaching tentacles taking me to new places. Just in the same way we take our readers to new places. What’s wonderful for us is that our story never ends. Our sub plot layers keep spreading to new and exciting shores where we can rivet ourselves every day.

I was paralyzed by fear of failing for 10 years to write the book inside me.  In acknowledging your personal stakes you will find what motivates you each and every day.  And then find more stakes to make it even more compelling to keep moving forward. Without personal stakes your writing career is as empty as the page you leave blank.


IN WRITING: Give us those high moments in your book. Make it so we want to follow your protagonist when their heart is broken, their loved one dies, their husband leaves them and their child is diagnosed with a fatal disease. Make us follow them because they are transformed or have done the opposite of their beliefs or have sacrificed the thing most precious to them.  Is there an instance where their life changed in a moment where your reader says ‘Wow’?

IN BUSINESS: In putting ourselves ‘out there’ we can create those high moments in the business part of part writing.  We validate ourselves and are validated by our peers.  We are transformed. It can hurt at times but we can learn from that hurt and become better at what we do. If we don’t put ourselves out there our writing will stay just as words on that paper to us and no one else. In doing all the things I spoke here, we can improve our writing craft and start building our writer brand.  As I’ve heard many times, we are selling US not just words on paper. Give yourself a ‘Wow’ moment.

And don’t forget to measure change…

Donald Maass told us to measure change in our characters. Flash forward one year to your Protagonist and have them return to the main setting.  How do they feel now? Have their motivation and goals changed? How has their life changed since then? We can measure this change in ourselves too.  How have we changed since writing our book? How have we changed since putting ourselves ‘out there’ in the social world of writing? Measure it. Acknowledge it. Reward yourself.

I also learned to take our characters to the point of failure and beyond. I think that’s good advice for us as authors to take in our hidden and social writing life. Whether it’s in the creative or business process of our writing, we can push through that failure to go beyond. And succeed.



Filed under Writing Conferences, Writing Resources