5 Important Things to Know About Self-Publishing–Part 2 … by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Part 1 of Laura's post was published on Friday, January 27th.

The Work Has To Be Competitive.

There’s a common refrain, heard around writers conferences and discussion forums, that runs something like, “If I can’t sell it traditionally, I’ll self-publish.” While there are some perfectly legitimate uses of this phrase, quite often it’s either meant or interpreted as, If the work isn’t good enough to sell traditionally, it can be self-published.

Well, it can. But it shouldn’t.

A self-published book should be indistinguishable from a traditionally-published book in quality, from cover to editing to layout. You know how you can spy the self-published book in a roomful of books for sale? That’s not good.

I will be among the first to say that self-published books can be just as amazing – or perhaps better, since they don’t have to be edited to a lowest-common-denominator committee – as any traditional book lineup. But the truth is, the off-cited tsunami of crap does exist, and we’ve no one to blame but ourselves.

The first time I made a piece of clothing, it wasn’t good enough to sell at a mall retailer. My early music lessons were in no way good enough to press an album. And my 5k time will never earn me a spot on the leaderboard. So why do we think early, developmental, or subpar writing should be published?

Imagine a boy, maybe 17, who isn’t sure he likes movies. He had to watch a few for school, stuff that never really caught his fancy and just didn’t connect with him because it was not his style or because the teacher made too much of the symbolism and camera angles and he hated writing the papers, but now he’s hearing from his friends that movies are really good. But he doesn’t want to drop $15 on a theater ticket to start, he’s going to try something cheaper first to see if it’s worth the investment, right? So he goes to Amazon Video to find a free or $2 flick. And he finds somebody’s basement-shot action wannabe with party-store costuming and bad sound obscuring the lame dialogue and whatever fight stunts their sixth-grade kid brother wanted to do before Mom got downstairs. (There are some… striking self-published movies on Amazon streaming video.)

Maybe that fledgling filmmaker will be the next Spielberg. But his current work isn’t impressive. And not only is he turning off his current audience (and setting up a hilarious retrospective to surprise him during his big talk show interview once he’s a household name), he’s probably just convinced our kid that movies really aren’t worth his time.

Okay, I know it’s hard to imagine anyone not familiar with movies in today’s society. But the truth is, a lot of people think they don’t like to read, because of bad school experiences or because reading was never valued in their family or whatever, and when they finally go to pick up a cheap book, they get something which just turns them off further.

Put out work which creates more addicted readers. Have a good critique group which constantly pushes you to be better. Make sure your stories are well-edited – both for structure and for grammar/typographical errors.

We Don’t Have to Be Competitive.

Look, we authors are not competing against each other. We’re really not. We’re competing against television and streaming movies and phone games.

No reader buys just one book a year; getting a reader hooked on another author just creates a bigger market for all of us. Promote other authors whose work your audience will also appreciate. But note that last phrase – I don’t promote just anyone I want to owe me a favor, I share stuff I think my readers will also enjoy. That does everyone good – other author gets a boost, my readers get something they like (they can’t spend all their time just waiting for my next release), and I gain a bit of additional reader trust so they’re more likely to stay with me. Pushing unrelated genres at readers will just confuse and annoy them. (And while I may or may not tell another author when I’m enthusing about their work, I never do it in anticipation of a favor owed. That’s not the point.)

I do several live book fairs a year, and I always if possible do a circuit before it starts to find out who is selling what. Then if I get someone at my table looking for something else – a Western romance, perhaps, or a middle grade adventure – I can point them directly to another author. They’re happy, the other writer is happy, the book fair organizers are happy, and I don’t have to deal with frustrated or disappointed shoppers. Everybody wins. (Well, except I didn’t make a sale – but then, I wasn’t going to, anyway, if they weren’t looking for what I sell.)

Help other authors with their writing craft and their marketing. (And just as important – take critique and advice professionally, not personally.) And remember, there isn’t really a divide between traditionally- and self-published authors. In fact, many of us are hybrids, doing both! It’s all about creating readers, not outselling the guy at the table or website next down from yours.

Enjoy it.

Okay, this is sixth in a list of five, but it’s true – self-publishing is more work than traditional publishing, but it’s also much less constrained and carries a great potential of fun. If you keep your eyes open and your hand to the plow, you can create an enjoyable career following your dreams.

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Laura VanArendonk Baugh writes fantasy (epic, urban, and historical), mystery, and non-fiction. She enjoys helping other authors and will be teaching on writing craft and self-publishing with Ireland Writer Tours in August 2017. Find her at her website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Lessons Learned from My First Writing Retreat

A few weeks ago I attended my first-ever writing retreat, organized by my friend and fellow writer Natasha Watts (of RMFW’s Writer’s Rehab). I spent a weekend in a cabin in the Rockies with five other writers, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing life. Here’s what I learned, and what I’ll be doing next time.

1. Have a plan.

To get the most out of your retreat, you should have an idea of what you’re going to work on. This can be a specific goal, such as plowing through 20,000 words of your first draft; or it can be more vague, like researching a new project. Just make sure you spend time before the retreat deciding what you’ll work on, so you don’t waste any of your precious retreat time. It’s also a good idea to have a backup project in case you get burned out on your work-in-progress. For this retreat, my main goal was to make a dent in the next round of revisions on my novel. I also had a couple of short stories to work on when I needed a break from the novel.

2. Disconnect.

One of the biggest draws of a writing retreat is the chance to get away from ordinary life—and all the responsibilities and distractions that come with it. Take advantage of this. This doesn’t mean going completely MIA, it just means scheduling your communications rather than being in touch constantly. Check your phone two or three times a day, and then turn it off. Skype with your family for an hour after dinner, then disconnect from the internet. Don’t get on social media, and certainly don’t stay on it while you’re trying to write. Minimizing these distractions helped me maximize my productivity, and contributed to the overall calm, creative atmosphere of the retreat.

3. Take breaks.

It’s easy to think you’ll spend every waking hour of your retreat toiling diligently on your work-in-progress. But in reality, nonstop writing is rarely the best strategy for your productivity, or your general well-being. Everyone has their limit, and it varies from day to day and project to project. After a few hours of feverish writing on my novel, I sensed when I was running out of steam and allowed myself to take a break—whether to watch a movie, socialize with my fellow retreaters, take a nap, or work on a different project. When I returned to the novel an hour or two later, I was refreshed and recharged enough to dive into it again. And guess what? I made huge strides in my novel revisions, even though I wasn’t working on them 24/7.

4. Be social.

Again, you may envision yourself locked in your room, writing away, for the entire retreat. But try to suppress this urge. One of the main benefits of my writing retreat was the connections I made with fellow writers. Loosely scheduled activities such as hikes, board games, meals together, and critique sessions helped us get to know each other and share valuable writing lessons. We discussed our works-in-progress, time management strategies, conference experiences, and pretty much anything writing-related—which really got our creative juices flowing and lent a great energy to the retreat.

5. Enjoy the view.

You can hole up in a room at your own home—so while you’re on retreat, take advantage of the change of scenery. My retreat took place in a cabin in the mountains, so it was perfect for hiking, hot tubbing, taking photos, and enjoying the view. If you’re in a city, visit museums, art galleries, libraries, and restaurants. Go for walks around a park, zoo, or botanical garden. Take a class or work on an art project. These things will invigorate you and get fresh ideas flowing for your next writing session.

The biggest thing I learned from my first writing retreat is that I have to do it again. I got a lot of writing done, as expected, but I also got so much more out of the experience. If you get an opportunity to do a writing retreat, take it—your muse will thank you.

What is it worth to you to be published?

Is it worth a Saturday and about $75? Is it worth having great food, sitting amidst lots of excited (and exciting) writers, and listening to interesting, informative, amazing presentations?

If it’s not, then you should stop reading now. And maybe think about how badly you really want to be published. Because on April 29, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers will be holding the Annual Education Event in Golden, at the Table Mountain Inn. The website has more info, but here’s why Pub-Con (catchy, right?) is such a fantastic opportunity:

We start with breakfast. Always a good sign.

The morning session has an Editor whose publishing house was just purchased by Simon and Schuster, the Owner/Agent of a multi-agent literary agency, and a multi-traditionally published author. This panel will give you tons of information, stuff you REALLY need to know, about getting traditionally published. The before, the during, and the after. The dos and the don’ts. The whys and the why nots.

Then we have lunch. Another good sign. And even better, we have an Editor-in-Chief of a small Denver-based publishing house to talk about the different publishing options out there and how you can determine what might be best for you.

 The afternoon session will include a multi-self-published author, a best-selling author who started a publishing house and works with self-publishers, and a graphic designer who specializes in book cover design. They will give you as much information as you’ll be able to absorb on the process of self-publishing. They’ll help dispel notions of how hard, or easy, it is and you’ll have the advantage of knowing the mistakes they made and shortcuts they found, to save you from yourself. And we all need that, right?

So, is it worth $75 give or take? Can you give up 8 hours of your precious time? Only you can decide, but if you want that WIP to see the light of day, this might be the best time and money you can spend to make that happen.

I hope to see you there. Here’s the link to the page on RMFW site: http://rmfw.org/pubcon/ . Seating is limited and I do expect to sell out with this kind of presentation lineup.

In the meantime, Write On! and get your WIP done. You’ll want to take lots of notes at Pub-Con so you can get that puppy published!

 

Beginnings

Good News.

I'm finally DONE with the second book in my new international thriller series, RED SKY. I've done two revisions, looked at the first page pass, the second page pass, and just turned in the final page pass. The ARCs are in the hands of a couple of reviewers, the launch date is set (June 15 at the Tattered Cover-Colfax). Now is the time for setting up signings, figuring out blog tours AND...STARTING A NEW BOOK.

The fact is I've been working on a new book since I first sent RED SKY to my publisher. The past two months I've been in what I call the "Thinking and Planning Phase." This is when I test my latest idea. I play with the characters. I brainstorm different ways to tell the story. I make sure I have enough story to write a book.

Raise your hand if you've ever started a book to discover halfway in that you don't have enough story or that your plot idea won't work?

Okay, so maybe you're smarter than I am, or a better writer, but my hand is up. Hence, I decided to heed some advice and emulate a few masters.

Writing like Mary Higgins Clark.

Experience tells me that I can't contrive story. Readers notice! This means, I need enough twists and turns to fill up 400 pages. The only way I can figure it out is to test the waters. Mary Higgins Clark once told me she writes the first 100 pages of her novels, figures out what her story is, and then throws away the pages and starts again. Writing helps her figure out where the story is headed. So, taking her message to heart, I write until I find the story, then pitch the pages and begin again.

Researching like Francine Mathews.

I've learned that research is the key to a novel that rings true, and I love to research. Once I have an idea, I research the heck out of it. With RED SKY, I researched Ukraine. Once I'd learned all I could about country and its people, I realized I had to expand my research to include Russia, China and Poland. Eventually, I felt the need to visit Eastern Europe in order to better understand the people. While I was there, the idea expanded more, and I added things to my list that I needed to research. I read, I talked to experts, I browsed the internet (always finding at least three sources to verify collected information). In doing all of this, I continued to collect precious kernels of information that sparked new ideas and set me off in different directions. But, it was Francine Mathews, one of my fellow Rogue Women Writers, who taught me when it's time to stop. Her rule of thumb, when you find you know the information, when you're rereading things or listening to stories about things you already know, you've researched enough. At that point, you can move to the next phase and research only new things that require additional Intel.

Plotting like Mark Sullivan.

For my genre, plot is crucial. At the very least it's important to know where you're starting and where you want to end up. Mark taught a great workshop at a Colorado Gold Conference years ago called "The Controlling Premise" (CP). In that class, he detailed how he crafts the "elevator pitch" that we all attempt to create. Done properly, it gives you two sentences, no more than twenty-five words that guide you from start to finish. It can take days to get the CP right. Then, from that moment forward, everything you write must in some manner pertain to your premise.

Developing characters like Robin Perini and Laura Baker.

Every now and then you can find a "Discovering Story Magic" (DSM) being taught online. It's another Colorado Gold Conference gem, a course developed years ago by two authors, Robin Perini and Laura Baker. This method takes you to the heart of your characters and then—by using a step-by-step process—helps you to build three-dimensional characters and draw out your story. It's not that different from advice you'll be given by other writers at other conferences, but Robin and Laura roll it all up into one package and make it easy to understand. Using their character worksheet and putting must-have scenes into a storyboard while staying true to my controlling premise, I come away with a plan every time. I've been using this method since writing my second novel, DEATH OF A SONGBIRD, in 2000.

Ready. Set. Go!

Sound like a lot of work to get to the starting line? It is. But it's worth ounce of effort. Once I've done the above, I have a clear road map for my novel-in-progress.

Do I deviate from the plan? Yes.

Do I go off-road? Yes.

Do I go back and tweak the plan, tweak my CP, and rethink my characters? Yes, yes and yes.

There are always different ways of getting from the start to the finish. And I know authors who have taken every shortcut and side-road known to man. Some of them are still working on the same book now as they were when I met them. That's why I explore different routes of getting from Page One to The End, but I don't wander far off path. Why? Because once I'm done with doing the hard work laid out above, I know I've constructed a pretty solid route from here to there.

So, where am I in the process? Currently, I've started writing pages to explore the idea, I'm deep into the research, and I'm working on my controlling premise. Through writing, I'm learning quite a lot about my characters. I'm nearly ready to discover magic.

All you need is #love … by Rainey Hall

All you need is #love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
Charles Schulz

How exciting. That time of year where I buy my own chocolate, and one exotic looking flower.

However, unlike my cousin who fancies a direct line to 1-800-SEXPERT, I am truly in love with a real man.

The MOST important definitions of romantic:

adjective

• stressing or appealing to the emotions or imagination

noun

someone who is not realistic or practical (ouch)
• a writer, musician, or artist…

I guess I’ve known my guy for almost 20 years now. We were introduced by a mutual friend.

But alas, he doesn’t really exist.

Estoy en amor con un hombre que no existe. Je suis en amour avec un homme qui n’existe pas. Jag är kär i en man som inte finns. No matter which syllable the accent is on, nothing changes.

Who is this tall, strong, stranger?

#Ranger. He’s “walking sex,” wears the best smelling cologne, great with electronics, and rich enough to buy Stephanie Plum a new car all the time. And yes, he’s concerned about Rex, Stephanie’s hamster becoming an orphan. Long live sensitivity! Plus, I always fall for a man in a uniform, even if said uniform consists of 1) a taut T-shirt worn over well-developed bicep and pec muscles, 2) black PDU (patrol duty uniform), and 3) guns. Real guns.

Oh sure, there’s Morelli and well, you know what they say about Italians. The down side to Morelli? His grandma is always giving people “the eye.” Frightening enough that I opt out on choosing him to love.

Anyway, thank you, Janet #Evanovich for the 23 fun reads in the #StephaniePlum series although you leave me with mere memories and rereads of Ranger.

Yeah, you figured right. I’ve moved on to other men.

Jack #Reacher. Even though he has no uniform, he used to wear one. Besides, Reacher can tell time without a watch or clock, lives by intuition and isn’t in a contest for the most materialistic possessions one man can collect. He’s a man’s man. And a woman’s man. My man.

Gabriel #Oak. I thought my imagination outdid itself when I read Hardy’s 1874 classic, Far from the Madding Crowd. Then I saw the 2015 movie version. BE. STILL. MY. HEART. Those eyes! That face! That voice! That honesty and humor. That…that manly, outdoorsy, confident way about him. Sheesh!

(Excuse me, I need to taste a pound or two of chocolate and get some fresh air, but mostly cool air. Or cold.)

Hey, sex sells.

Moving on...

Oh, the sensuous tension that writers like Diana #Gabaldon (thanks Judith) creates. OOOO!

Since Ranger and Gabriel are reruns now, I’ve decided to invent yet another gentleman. My own guy. But to do so, I plan on attending the Colorado Gold Conference (September 8-10, 2017) to learn a thing or two from Diana!

Come on, pleeeeease share the names on your list of fictional hotties.

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A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

A special thanks to #LindaHoward wherever you are. I hope all your designs were built.

Upcoming/Deadlines RMFW Events

February 2017

March 2017

How to Identify & Avoid Some Common “Bad” Publishing Deals

Business-savvy authors must learn to recognize and avoid a wide variety of scams and legal but inappropriate publishing deals. Some of the most dangerous ones remind me of my law school contracts professor’s warning that a person can make as good a deal, or AS BAD A DEAL, as (s)he is able.”

Some publishing offers are very bad deals indeed. 

Not all traditional publishers are out to take advantage of authors, but sometimes it's difficult to tell the "good" from the "bad" (not to mention the "ugly") unless you know specifically what to look for:

 

BEWARE OF “WE PUBLISH, YOU PAY” OFFERS.

The publisher, not the author, should be responsible for all the publishing costs in a traditional publishing deal. Author-publishers (aka, self-published authors) bear the costs - but also receive most (if not all) of the profits. 

Beware of any contract that claims to offer a "traditional" deal but requires the author pay for some or all of the costs to produce the book. Often, the costs are not stated, outlined, or detailed up front, leaving the author on the hook for undisclosed (and often enormous) sums. Even where costs are listed, they usually exceed the amount the author would have to pay to self-publish the work - in which case, the author is better off publishing the work himself or herself, as an author-publisher.

Remember: a contract that calculates royalties on “net receipts,” defined as “amounts received by the publisher less the costs of editing and publishing the Work or less the Publisher’s actual costs to publish and sell the Work” is actually requiring the author to pay the publishing costs. This is not a traditional publishing deal.

A potential exception to this is an up-front, disclosed, properly drafted “hybrid” publishing arrangement, where the author and publisher understand and accept the cost-sharing terms.

In a hybrid arrangement, the author does share the publishing costs, but also receives an equivalent share of the benefits and increased control over cover art and other parts of the publishing process.

However, legitimate hybrid publishers are always up front about the fact that the author isn’t being offered a “traditional deal.” Anyone who tries to tell you that the “author pays” model is a “traditional publishing deal” is trying to take advantage of your ignorance.

 

BEWARE OF “WE PUBLISH, YOU BUY” OFFERS

A publishing contract should never require the author to purchase copies of the finished book.

Traditional publishing contracts often permit authors to buy finished copies, usually at a discount. However, traditional contracts don’t ever require the author to purchase books at any price.

One publishing “offer” I seeing a lot requires the author to purchase several thousand copies of the finished work—and to pay for them in advance!

Consider: if you contract to buy five thousand copies of the finished work, how many copies does the publisher have to sell someone else to make a profit?

NONE

Unsurprisingly, these publishers generally make no effort to sell the books they publish to anyone other than the authors.

NEVER sign a contract which requires you to purchase copies of the finished work. 

 

BEWARE OF CONTRACTS WITH MANDATORY PAID MARKETING COMPONENTS

These contracts include a “mandatory marketing agreement,” requiring the author to pay the publisher (or an affiliated marketing agency) thousands of dollars to market and advertise on the author’s behalf.

This is not a traditional publishing deal, and it’s not a good deal, either.

Once again, the author pays thousands of dollars, up front, for normally-unspecified “marketing.” Where services are specified, they usually include only in-house press releases, trailers for the publisher’s own YouTube channel, writing Facebook posts, and other things the author could do for him-or-herself for free.

As with “We Publish, You Buy,” this type of publisher doesn’t make the bulk of its money from selling books. They make it from unsuspecting authors.

 

So: Never sign contracts requiring you to pay the publisher out of pocket, and if you suspect your publishing deal isn’t quite as fair as the publisher claims—don't be afraid to walk away.

The publishing "life" you save will be your own.

Voices in Your Head: How Audiobooks Can Improve Your Writing … by Richard Rieman

Do you hear voices in your head while writing? It can be a very good thing.

As a veteran audiobook narrator, I am always impressed when the writing just flows smoothly without choppiness or a staccato pattern.

Write Music

The late, great author and writing coach Gary Provost says reading your written words aloud will make you a better writer:

“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words.

Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and

I create music. Music. The writing sings.

It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony.

I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length.

And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with the energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

So, write with a combination of short, medium and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.” *

Audiobooks Bring Your Words to Life

Good audiobook narrators are actors. They don’t just read the words aloud in a pleasant voice. They are giving different voices to the characters on each page.

The best writing helps the actors and avoids repetition. For example, the “he said, she said” scenario.

“He whispered, she fumed, he rasped, she commanded.”

The basic rules of music, including rhythm, tone, and volume apply.

Not every reader or audiobook narrator will hear your words in your head exactly as you wrote them. In fact, “but that’s not the way I wrote it” is a common reaction from authors when hearing a narrator’s interpretation. In almost every case, you don’t get to direct an audiobook or movie version of your manuscript. It is the actor’s interpretation – in the case of audiobooks, self-directed interpretation. That does not mean it’s wrong. It’s just different.

“I want to leave now.” Five words, four ways you can emphasize each word.

I want to leave now.”

“I want to leave now.”

“I want to leave now.”

“I want to leave now.”

You can read the sentence slowly or quickly, angrily or happily, whispered or shouted. The narrator interprets how to play the music based on the character, the scene, and the hints you have given in your text. Readers interpret your writing the same way, playing the words in their heads the way they hear them.

Audiobook narrators should prepare by pre-reading your entire book and taking notes on characters prior to giving each a voice. Are they from Georgia? Boston? Originally from New York City? Are they shy, angry, grizzled, outspoken, edgy? How old are they? I create short sample audio files of each voice, so I can be consistent if a character appears in Chapter 2 and returns in Chapter 18. It’s a terrible feeling when you reach Chapter 20 and find out Johnny has an Irish accent!

Writing with Performance in Mind

Not surprisingly, the easiest books to turn into audiobooks are those written when the author had a screenplay or movie in mind.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, Social Network, Steve Jobs) told a writing Master Class I attended, “I’m not writing something that’s meant to be read; I’m writing something that’s meant to be performed. Just having written a screenplay is no more satisfying to me than if a songwriter handed out pieces of sheet music.”

Sorkin says it’s the difference between painting and a photograph. You are not just describing a scene, you are creating it, bringing it to life, letting it flow in both the dialogue and the surroundings. “Writing is painting,’ he says, “not photography.”

Writing with Audiobooks in Mind

Thinking of an audiobook performance can help your writing if you have well drawn, believable key characters. Paint them as real people with likes and dislikes. Give them dialog that makes them authentic, saying things real people say. Make them active, moving the story along. Don’t fall into the “this happened, then that happened, then that other thing happened” writing trap. It’s how the characters feel, how they are affected by events, that makes them more real, and makes your readers care about them.

So, pay attention to those voices in your head when you are writing your next novel and you may find yourself creating music, painting a picture, and telling a story that will be a great audiobook!

*Reprinted with permission from Gary Provost’s “100 Ways to Improve Your Writing"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

RMFW member Richard Rieman of AudiobookRevolution.com is an audiobook self-publishing consultant, a top Audible narrator, and in-studio producer of authors narrating their own titles. Richard is author of “The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation,” Gold Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award in Writing/Publishing.

You can learn more about Richard and his projects at his website Audiobook Revolution Productions. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and You Tube.

It’s Not All Hearts & Flowers – History Sucks Edition

First off, happy, happy Valentine’s day!

Now let’s quit the mushy stuff and focus on writing.

How does what happened yesterday affect your story?

 

I’ll give you two examples to consider.

Example #1 –

You based a story in Southern California in 1979 with a teen girl as your protagonist. A coming of age story. Something light and filled with girlish dreams and meandering around the sunny beaches.

Sounds like a nice tale, right?

Now through the lens of history. What was happening at that time and place?

Well, a team of serial killers were trolling for young teen girls in the Southern California area.

Therefore, the actions and reaction of the protagonist might be different. Maybe she’s less open to strangers. Maybe her parents aren’t as free with her. Maybe she’s not allowed at certain places.

 

Example #2 –

Not his example actually happened to me. I wrote a book based on my protagonist looking remarkably like Heath Ledger, who was alive and well at the time.

A week after I finished the book, Heath Ledger died of a drug overdose.

Both his death and how he died impacted my novel. People would have assumptions about my character. Or the time and place of the novel. And an emotional response to the tragic ending of Heath Ledger.

 

My advice when writing is two-fold.

First, keep your eyes on current events and climate. Do your research, even if you don’t think it will matter in the long run. Better to know than to be sorry about a factual error.

And secondly, understand that every reader comes into your book with a e=wealth of knowledge, experiences, and views. You aren’t going to make everyone happy. But seeing as your job is to keep the reader entertained, you should consider who said reader just might be and the events that impact your narration.

 

Has something like this happened to you? Have you used an icon, or a place, and then learned information that changed the perspective of your story?

Volunteers Make it Happen At Colorado Gold

We're seven weeks into the year, and workshop proposals are rolling in. Our selection committee is keeping busy reading through all the outlines, doing their best to decide which proposals will make it onto the schedule in 2017.

Like the rest of the conference staff, the proposal selection committee is made up of volunteers. And if you read any of our emails, or spend any time on our website, you know we're always on the lookout for new people to get involved and be a part of the action.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' mission is simple:

RMFW is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in commercial fiction.

As a volunteer-run organization, RMFW can only remain beneficial to members through our volunteers’ contributions. Volunteers strengthen our community and nurture an environment of members helping members. Are you thinking about getting involved, and volunteering with RMFW? Listen to what some of our volunteers have to say about their experiences:

"Volunteering is more rewarding for the volunteer than the organization."

"[Through RMFW] I've learned how to find and build my community."

"I've learned how to speak in public, organize big events and, from hanging out with talented writers, I've learned much about writing. RMFW has helped me find my voice, both in the real world and on the page."

The success of our Colorado Gold Conference is dependent on the critical services provided by our volunteers. Each person who helps out keeps our costs down and makes a difference. Also, volunteering doesn't require huge time commitments; even the smallest jobs help us provide an exceptional experience for all attendees year after year.

"The more you put into something, the more you’ll get out of it. I credit RMFW as the one organization above all others that helped me get published."

"My first attendance at the Gold conference thoroughly impressed me, and I knew then that RMFW was the place to be if I was serious about my writing. Volunteering was a way of showing my commitment to the organization and a great way to meet people."

"...if you’re an introvert, serving as a volunteer is a wonderful way of stepping outside your shell."

Volunteering is all about giving back. Remember when you were new and nervous at the conference? Think about the people who helped you. Think about the impact they had on your conference experience. By volunteering, you bring that same experience to others. A win-win for you and the recipient of your goodwill.

"As writer I have benefited from what I have learned at the Saturday workshops, Gold Conference, and critique groups and I wanted to a way to give back."

"Honestly, I've met great people who have become valued friends and I have had a ton of fun."

What would the conference be like without volunteers? Everyone at conference needs something, be it guidance or just an extra pencil. Volunteers bring people together and ensure that everyone has a great time.

"First and foremost, meeting other writers is a great benefit to volunteering. It's a good feeling, too, to know that the volunteer work we do helps other writers on their journeys."

"The Colorado Gold conference is an important part of what RMFW does to support writers and helping the conference run smoothly results in a more valuable experience for everyone!"

Studies conducted on the effects of volunteering have shown that giving time to nonprofits makes us healthier. Boost your own self-confidence through volunteering at this year’s conference. With a sense of well-being, you’ll have a greater focus on learning.

"I want to give back to an organization that has helped me become a better writer. From the critique groups, to the free Saturday programs and even the yearly conference, my writing skills have improved because of my membership in RMFW."

"Being a volunteer allows me to expand my tribe. I am convinced that to be good at anything, you need to be around other people who do that skill better than you... If you want to grow in the craft of writing, don't just join RMFW, volunteer!"

Volunteering promotes personal growth, and your volunteer service adds to your professional experience. You are guaranteed to learn something new while you give your time.

Need an opportunity to come out of your shell and improve your social skills? If you don’t know many writers, volunteering at conference gives you an opportunity to meet people at a reduced stress level.

"Without the support of RMFW, and the friends I've made there, I'm not sure I would be a published author today."

"Attending the conference is fabulous from an educational perspective, but if you want to make the most of the time, and make more friends, you need to get involved."

"Volunteering takes you off the sidelines and helps even shy people get to know the other authors and participants much better."

Any time is the right time to volunteer for RMFW because we always need volunteers. We are one big community of writers helping writers. The more involved you are in our community the more you will receive in return.

"Volunteering is an excellent way to meet people and expand your network of writers. You'll discover that writers come from all paths and roads and freeways of life--the creative mind knows no limits."

"Volunteering is also a way to share your passion in a different way, and give back to an organization that offers so much to every person who asks for support or assistance."

"Whether you spend a few hours once a year, or a few hours every month, volunteers are cherished and appreciated at RMFW, and you'll feel the goodness."

We want your help, but before you join us, ask yourself what you want to get out of volunteering:

What skills do you bring to the table?
How much time are you willing to commit?
Are you looking to do something new and different?
Do you want to work behind the scenes or with people?
Would you like to try something outside your comfort zone?

Volunteering with RMFW is a valuable opportunity to support fellow members, learn new skills, and form friendships. Contact Angela La Voie at volunteer@rmfw.org and include 'RMFW Volunteer' in the Subject line to join our community of volunteers. Not sure how you want to help? Send an email to Angela for suggestions. RMFW has lots of opportunities that meet your expertise, even if your expertise is limited to stuffing envelopes! We thrive on volunteers and want your help.