Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Would You Go Here?

7 bedrooms, 3 full baths, 3 half baths, 5,000 sq ft, small city environment

Motivated by the arts community Yaddo, I cooked up an idea some time ago that I’ve begun pursuing with some interest.

For those who don’t click on the link, Yaddo is an artists’ retreat located on a 400-acre estate in Saratoga Springs, New York, where artists of all stripes can apply to work for up to two months. They get a studio and room and board for free if they’re accepted. Collectively, Yaddo artists have won 74 Pulitzer Prizes, 29 MacArthur Fellowships, 68 National Book Awards, and a Nobel Prize (Saul Bellow, who won the Nobel for Literature in 1976). Notable Yaddo artists include James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Truman Capote, Patricia Highsmith, Continue reading

Jilly: Five Great Writing Craft Resources

What are your go-to references for improving your chosen skill–creative, mechanical, sporting, whatever’s important to you?

I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t spend any more money on writing craft—no books, workshops, courses or conferences—unless I come across something exceptional. It’s not that my writing is so good I don’t need it, but that I already have a great collection of resources at my fingertips and I’ve only scratched the surface of most of them.

Even if I write for another 20 years (and I intend to), I bet I could find the answers to 99.9% of my craft problems on my current bookshelf or the internet. My challenge is to digest all that great advice, evaluate it, select the bits that I need most in order to power up my strengths, bolster my weaknesses, and widen my skill-set, and apply those lessons until they become second nature.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in this post that I was surprised to discover how much I’ve absorbed about the process of self-publishing. I’ve also learned that some craft resources hit the spot for me, while other famous names slide through my brain and out again, leaving no trace. I had fun choosing my favorite indie publishing resources, so I decided to play the same game with the writing craft references. I found it surprisingly easy to pick the ones I believe will support my writing journey all the way to the pearly gates.

Your mileage may vary (I’d love to know!), but here are my choices: Continue reading

Kay: After the Conference—Now Comes the Hard Part

Unknown weight lifter competing in the 2016 Olympics, held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Jonas de Carvalho.

Along with others of the Ladies, I went to the RWA national conference in Orlando last week, and like everyone else, I seem to have returned home full of good ideas and better intentions. Elizabeth mentioned yesterday the workshop that Damon Suede presented and several of us attended, in which he described a technique for keeping your characters consistent throughout your manuscript: the power of a single verb. That was a great idea—and fun to see it in action. I’m revising with that in mind.

Several of the Ladies plan to embark (or have embarked) on an indie publishing career, and many of the workshops spoke to that. Resource ideas were everywhere. Continue reading

Kay: Back to School at the Writers’ Police Academy

“Pistol Pencil” by Liam Wolf, 2014. dribbble.com/neopeaks

I got derailed on my WIP this past week—a project turned up that needed my undivided attention, but until that happened, I’d been going great guns on my story. I was closing in on the finish, I know what needs to happen, I’m getting it down on paper. So that’s been great after that long period a while back when I’d write 500 words every day and delete 1,000. Those were dark times.

I want to finish this one soon; I have a third book planned in a trilogy and I’m ready to move on altogether, away from these characters, even though I haven’t finished book two and book three is barely in the planning stages. Until those three books are done, I’d decided that I’d take no more classes, attend no more conferences except RWA, and sign up for no more workshops. It’s not that I know everything, it’s that I don’t need another class to finish a book. I know what I have to do, and that’s sit down and write the dang thing. I have a couple of other books that have been patiently waiting to be written, all of which are a lot different than this current trilogy and include real FBI stuff, guns, and drama.

So you’ll understand my dilemma when I ran across the Writers’ Police Academy. It looks like fun. You get to drive fast! And shoot! And learn about forensics! And it looks like other fun stuff. And it’s in my home state, so I could visit people while I’m there. It’s filling up fast—they’re already booking into the overflow hotel. What do you think? Should I go?

Want to come with?

 

Jilly: Find Your Tribe

Who’s on your team?

About a year ago I had a discussion with a very kind US-based agent about how to find the best home for my UK-set contemporary romance. Among other things we talked about my writing process and my long-term goals. Several of her questions began: “Do you know anyone who…?” or “Do any of your writing friends…?” I managed to scrape up the occasional “yes,” but mostly the answer was “no.” After a while she said, “I see. You haven’t found your tribe yet.”

She was right.

Some of the other 8 Ladies have been at this writing gig much longer than I have, and their networks are much wider, deeper and stronger than mine, Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals, Part 3: Conflict (First Installment)

conflict wordWelcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. In Part 1, I discussed character goals. Last time, in Part 2, I covered a character’s Motivation…the “why” of what they want to do in your story.

This installment (the first of two) is about the Big Enchilada that ties it all together and makes for a good read: Conflict.

Before getting into the meat of this, let’s set some expectations about conflict:

  1. Conflict is necessary in commercial fiction. Period. No conflict? No story. People don’t want to read about characters who get what they want with no issues or impediments. They want to see characters suffer and earn their rewards.
  2. Conflict is a struggle to reach a goal and should have the reader wondering whether or not the character will achieve it.
  3. Conflict is bad things happening to good and bad
  4. Conflict must be clear, but not overwhelming. It can be too big/too much, drowning your reader in seemingly insurmountable problems.
  5. Conflict doesn’t necessarily have to be one person pitted against another. Sometimes the conflict is circumstances.

Debra Dixon, in “GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict,” makes it very clear:

“If conflict makes you uncomfortable or you have difficulty wrecking the lives of your characters, you need to consider another line of work. In commercial fiction you need strife, tension, dissension, and opposition. If you omit these elements, you won’t be able to sustain the reader’s attention. Even in romance novels – known for their happy endings, sufficient conflict must exist to make the reader doubt the happily-ever-after.”

The net-net? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Social Media for Writers

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere sign on white background.Today we’re taking a break from our usual discussions about the craft of writing to talk about the business side of writing.

At my day job, I recently attended a conference about the use of social media. It was aimed at small businesses, but a lot of the information that they covered is applicable to writers as well.

First off, there’s nothing to say you have to be on any social media platform.   Time spent on social media is time that you’re not able to spend on your writing. Depending where you are in your writing career, you may want to focus your limited time/resources on writing now and leave social media for a later time, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you do have the time however, and if it is managed effectively, social media can help you increase your visibility, connect with readers, network with industry professionals and, once you’re published, sell books.

  • The 55-64 age-group is the fastest growing social media segment
  • 81% of consumers are influenced by their friend’s posts on social media

If a social media presence is something you want to pursue, Continue reading