Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Do’s and Don’ts of Attending Writing Conferences


The fourth week of September is a week that over seven hundred Christian editors, agents, authors, (and author wannabes) are eagerly anticipating. Why? Because it’s the annual ACFW conference in St. Louis, Missouri. This conference is a time to meet new friends, listen to great speakers, meet with agents and editors, and possibly garner serious interest in our work.


After attending a great writing conference last year, and gearing up for this one, I’ve come up with some Do’s and Don’ts for writers to keep in mind when attending conferences. So here goes:

Meeting Agents And Editors
DON’T: Compare yourself to other authors and suggest you write better. If your new and just starting out, your not the next Tracie Peterson.
DON’T: Monopolize their time and stalk their every move. Just because they hold the power to publish your novel doesn’t mean they’re not people too, and like everyone else need some down time. Show them the same consideration you would want to be shown, if the roles were reversed.
DO: Have a succinct 30 second pitch, a professional looking one sheet, business cards, and an open mind.
DO: Send out thank you notes after the conference to those agents and editors you spoke to.

Packing and Attire
DON’T: Forget your laptop and thumbdrive in case you need to make extra copies. While I don’t know about other conference faculties, the Hyatt is equipped with a full business center.
DON’T: Wear high heels if you’re not accustomed to walking in them. Falling at the feet of an agent and editor might not be the best way to pitch your book. Unless that is, you want to leave an impression they won’t soon forget.
DO: Dress for success. Comfortable business casual for the conference, and a nice dress or suit for the gala. While everyone is different, I feel much more sure of myself if I’m dressed as professionally as I can be.
DO: Make a packing list before you go and check things off as you put them in your suitcase. That way you’re not frazzled because you forgot your toothbrush or worse yet your business cards.



Nerves And Introvert Writers (of which I am one)
DON’T: Be shy. Stepping out of your comfort zone to meet new people is well worth the effort. They're all writing fanatics like yourself so it should be like writers heaven!!~
DON’T: Stay up late. Getting as well rested as you possibly can regenerates and refreshes you, thus calming your nerves.
DO: Make new friends. Ask people to sit with you and stop to talk with people you’ve never met. Who knows what great friendship might ensue.
DO: Smile. Smiling works great to relieve tension. Not to mention it’s fun to pretend your smiling for the picture on the back of your book cover.

Workshops

DON’T: Try to do everything. Skipping a workshop to take a break and socialize is worth it if you are getting bogged down. Most conferences tape each workshop so you can buy what you miss.
DO: Pick workshops that reflect your writing goals for the coming year. At ACFW there are many great workshops on all sorts of various topics: dialogue, characterization and even some genre specific classes like a workshop on writing YA, and another on writing romance.
DO: Take time afterward to talk to the instructor. I’ve made a lot of great friends this way. Most instructors will love answering your questions and getting to know about you and your writing.
DO: Take notes, notes, and more notes. I still re-read my notes from the last conference I attended and it’s always a great refresher.

These are only a few tips, and I’m sure many of you could add more to the list. As Christians probably the most important thing we could do is cover the conference in prayer. The ACFW is my second writing conference, and as the event approaches I’m both excited and nervous! I pray that God will direct me to what He would like me to gain by attending.


Tune in next week for another post on the conference and a chance to win a Starbucks gift card which can be used at either the Hyatt or in your own hometown. This is a great giveaway so spread the word!!


Your Turn- Is there any conference do’s and don’ts you’ve found particularly useful? Please share!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I don’t have time!!! - Time Management For Writers


A typical trade paperback can range from 90,000 to 100,000 word. Randomly typing that many words would take an experienced keyboarder (typing at about 75 words per minute) about 20 hours. And that’s just typing random words. Typing words that make good sentences, paragraphs and chapters can take upwards of 200 hours (assuming we can write twenty well thought words per minute) to complete a 90,000 word novel. And that’s only draft one….whew!

So how do we write a novel and not have it take years and years? How do we fit it into our daily schedules while not neglecting any of our other obligations. They say if a person really wants to do
something they will make time to do it. But here are a few tips that might help getting there become a reality.


1) Establish a writing schedule-
When doing this there are several things to evaluate; when your creativity is the freshest, when you have the most free time, and when you can find the time and place to work uninterrupted. In the summer my writing time is when I first get up. The house is quiet and I can get some work done before starting the day. Of course, this means I have to get up earlier than everyone else, so if you like to sleep in, this might not work for you. During the school year I have a block of time I schedule to write during the afternoons, and I sometimes work in the evenings. I try to devote at least two hours a day to my novel, and I have a time scheduled on Saturdays to write my weekly blog post, and do critiquing. Finding two hours a day is not a necessity to completing a novel, however. Any amount of time, large or small, as long as you’re putting words on the page, can bring you closer to your final goal.

2) Establish a daily and weekly word count goal -
When I’m in first draft mode my daily word count goal is 1,500 to 2,000 words a day with an average of 10,000 words a week. Some weeks I write more, some less. But I do try to keep to my goal, without driving myself crazy with it. Goals are guidelines, not deadlines. I do find however, that having a goal helps keep me focused on how my time is spent, and if I’m spending too much, or too little, focusing on my writing.

3) Learn to say no -
During the school year, when I have less time to write, keeping my goal often means giving up things I’d rather be doing, such as watching movies, taking on extra hobbies, talking on the phone, etc. Although there are times when I give into the temptation of watching an hour of Pride and Prejudice, rather than writing that extra 1,000 words, I try not to let it happen too often. I’m constantly re-evaluating how I use my time. I also try and make sure I’m not neglecting things that really matter, such as time with the Lord and spending time with family. But lets be realistic, if we say yes to one thing we have to say no to another. Writing a novel is a large endeavor and it will mean saying no to things.


4) Don’t Say You Will Make Time Later -
We may think we’ll have time later, but we won’t. Busyness is a plague in the culture we live in today, and we often get caught up in the “do more” mentality. However, any amount of time devoted to something, no matter how small, does matter. I also find that when I work on something consistently it becomes important to me and I want to see it through to completion. Later may never come. So if you really want to accomplish something its best not to put it off with the thought that you will do it when life slows down, because it never will.

Author Jody Hedlund wrote an excellent blog post on this topic. She says, “It’s not always about how much time we have, but rather how we use it.” We all have the same twenty-fours in a day. Unless we take the time to write that sentence, paragraph, chapter and complete manuscript, lets face it - it just won’t get done!


Your Turn - How do you make time for your writing? Do you find making time is easy? I look forward to reading your comments!


Happy Writing….
Amanda
 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Winner Of "The Doctor's Lady"

Congratulations to Michaela the winner of "The Doctor's Lady"!!!! She has been notified
and will receive her copy shortly.

A big thank you to all who entered!!! Keep checking the blog for more giveaways and writing advice!

Blessings!
Amanda

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Book Review: "The Doctor's Lady" by Jody Hedlund

When an author releases a new novel, they must be wrought with anxiety. If the previous books were well received, they hope the newest one will resonate with readers just as much. And readers are filled with this same anticipation and wonder. Will this new book be just as good as the others? Will it contain multifaceted characters, an intriguing setting, and a well thoughtout plot? Will it keep them interested from beginning to end?

I’m excited to announce that author Jody Hedlund doesn’t disappoint in any of these areas. Her second novel, “The Doctor’s Lady” is just as riveting and engaging as her first, “The Preacher’s Bride,” which won the 2011 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. From the gorgeous front cover to the very last page,“The Doctor’s Lady” kept me entranced, inspired, and intrigued.

Twenty-six year old Priscilla White, believes she’ll never be a wife or mother. Thus, her greatest desire is to become a missionary to India. But when the missionary board makes an announcement that only married couples are allowed on the mission field, she is given two choices: give up her dream of missions, or marry Dr. Eli Ernest. She chooses the latter, setting the stage for this story of a marriage of convenience.

Throughout the story, Priscilla and Eli become as real to us as if we knew them personally. We continually sympathize with their longings and desires. Priscilla says of Eli:

Even from the furthest row of the classroom, (Eli’s) winter blue eyes caught hers with their intensity. For a long moment she couldn’t breathe. Nor could she look away. He was a flame, and she was the little girl who had been warned not to touch. Only she couldn’t remember why she ought to stay away, especially when every nerve in her body urged her to reach out.

“The Doctor’s Lady” is filled with historical details of the period, and about life on what would eventually become, the Oregon Trail. It gives an accurate depiction of the struggles early pioneers faced, plus beautiful descriptions of the places they traversed. Traveling west in the 1830’s was a true test of determination and courage. Many trials could, and did, ensue. Priscilla and Eli endured many such trials on their journey. We read:

Priscilla glanced at her lap and recoiled. Thousands of black dots were swarming over her skirt. They skittered into the folds of the linen and made haste for the bare flesh of her hands and wrists.
She jumped to her feet and screamed. Frantic, she brushed at the fleas. They clung to her and laid siege to her neck and ears……….She fought them off her skin, her screams growing shriller. This was it. She was going to die, devoured by fleas.


The romance in the story is also well developed. The tension is kept high to the very last page. Will the couple eventually realize their love? (You’ll have to read to find out!)

The dialogue between them, while filled with bantering, is still very sincere. The following scene, where Eli has just cut his hand, and Priscilla is the only one who will consent to stitch it up, was one of my favorites:

She hesitated and then perched on the edge (of the bed), taking care that she didn’t brush against him.
“You’ll have to scoot closer than that.”
She inched nearer.

“A little closer.”
Her body shifted a fraction, and her shoulder almost touched his.

“And just a little more.”
She gave an exasperated sigh. “I suppose you think it would help if I just sat in your lap.

”Well now that you mention it, that’s not such a bad idea. Hop on up.”

Throughout the novel, Eli and Priscilla are so wonderfully portrayed that, at times, you feel you are right beside them on the journey. The other characters in the novel are also well developed and add to the richness and depth of the story.


Congratulations Jody!!  
While I could go on and on about this wonderful novel, (like tell you the true story it was based upon) I don’t want to give away any secrets!!! Suffice it to say, Jody Hedlund is once again a master storyteller in “The Doctor’s Lady”.

Congratulations go to her on this second great achievement!

Look for "The Doctor's Lady" at your local Christian book store, on-line book stores, and Amazon.com. It will become a much loved addition to your personal library!

Win This Book!
I’m giving one of you blessed readers the opportunity to win a copy of this exciting book so you can fully experience the story of the doctor and his lady, for yourself. All you have to do is leave a comment with your name and email address, and I will draw one lucky winner. Deadline for the drawing is this Friday, August 19th. The book will be mailed out that day as well. So leave your comments so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to win a copy of this exceptional novel, by an equally exceptional author!




Join the blog for more exciting things coming up. The ACFW Conference is right around the corner. In a future post, I will cover conference topics and offer a giveaway for a Starbucks card to be used at the Hyatt’s Starbucks shop, or in your own hometown. So stay tuned!


Once again, happy writing!
 
Amanda

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Critiquing 101

Beep.

My inbox is telling me I’ve got another email. Probably one of those spam emails I’ve been trying to permanently delete for the past month. Oops, better not delete this - it’s a submission from one of my critique partners. This will need special attention.



Belonging to a critique group is a special privilege for a writer. Critique partners help us perfect our novels with input and suggestions. But how do we critique another writers work? There are several steps I take to provide feedback for my critique group. If you don’t use a process for critiquing, these tips might help you create one.

1) Read Through Number One:
When I open the document the first thing I do is read the submission like I would any other novel. I make no notes on the document initially, but at the end I jot down any major problems that caught my attention. This might be head hopping, character inconsistencies, plot holes etc. These are things that I as a reader will notice regardless of whether I’m their critique partner or not.


2) Read Through Number Two:
Now I mark up the submission using my notes from the previous read and go more in depth with minor issues. These can include technical errors, historical inaccuracies, etc. Then I set the manuscript aside for a while and come back to it later when I can look at it afresh for a third time.

3) Read Through Number Three:
I’ll take another look at the submission and re-word my rough notes. I try to make every comment as positive as possible while still remaining constructive. My desire is to help my partners by being both kind and “tough.”

4) Read Through Number Four:
I’ll take a quick look at my comments one last time, making sure I have been thorough and considerate. Once I am sure I press send, then wait with trepidation hoping it is well received on the other end. Occasionally, I receive an email back asking why I said such and such, or informing me they will make certain changes that I noted, as well as saying thank you.



Things To Look For When Critiquing A Manuscript
*Point Of View/ Head Hopping
*Character believability - Does the character’s actions match up with their personality, and the era they live in
*Clich├ęs
*Cheesy dialogue
*Narrative vs. dialogue
*Grammar problems
*Spelling errors (things the spell checker might not pick up like those annoying words like their/there)
*Historical Inaccuracies (This can also apply to contemporary novel such as car models, brand names etc)
*Amount of tension
*Things that don’t line up to what was previously wrote (such as having your heroine have brown hair on page 10 and red hair on page 50)

This list is by no means definitive. Its just a few of the things I look for when critiquing.

Sharing manuscripts, is always something writers worry about. What if they don’t like my work? What if I say something wrong? While this might be the case, the benefits are invaluable. Belonging to a critique group has been one of the most rewarding and inspiring experiences in my career as a writer.

Your Turn- Do you enjoy critiquing? What steps do you take when looking over submissions?


Question for Y’all. Is there any particular topics you’d be interested in me blogging about? I write for you and am open to any and all suggestions!

---Amanda

Monday, August 1, 2011

You Know You’re A Writer When…


Any doubts as to whether or not you’re a writer? If you answer yes to anything below, you can safely assume you that you ARE a writer. Either that or slightly insane.

You know you’re a writer when:

1) You think of music in terms of soundtracks.

2) You hear “voices” and must write down what they say.

3) You know the phone numbers of agents and editors (even if you don’t call them) but you fail to remember your own.

4) You think of every vacation in terms of doing research.

5) You analyze the writing style of everything you read and then make mental notes of how your own writing compares.

6) You know how movies will end before everyone else does, and you tell everyone how the screenwriter could have done things better.

7) Your family can identify with this scene from “Becoming Jane.” A movie about the life of Jane Austen.


          Lady Gresham: “There seems to be a prettish kind of wilderness on one side of the                 lawn. Perhaps the young people would like to take a turn in it?” 

         Upon hearing this, the expression on Jane’s face changes and she walks quickly to a bench, pulls out a notepad, and begins scribbling.

          Lady Gresham: “What is she doing?”

          Wesley: “Writing.”

          Lady Gresham: “Can anything be done about it?”

8) You evaluate everyone as a potential character and consider carrying around a tape recorder to record dialogue.

9) The librarian can tell what your next story is about just by looking at the stacks of books you have special ordered. Some of the titles make him more than a little nervous.

10) Your kids and spouse know about POV, CP’s, and CBA, just from hearing you talk about them 24/7.


11) Your family thinks your laptop is an extension of your arms.

And lastly,
12) Every time your phone rings you just know it’s your future agent.

Hope you’ve enjoyed a laugh!




Happy Writing….
Amanda