All posts by authoraemcauley

Antagonists and Their Pet Peeves

I am, without a doubt, a character driven writer.

Leave me alone with a character idea and chances are I’ll have their backstory, personality, and secrets the reader will never know in a couple hours. I even do unnecessary things like create quick aesthetic boards on pinterest and line up some music to write to.

One thing I love to do over all of this, however, is come up with tiny things that annoy the antagonist.

Whether it’s my main baddie in Flightess, Abram, with his annoyance at people bringing up his past faults, or my new antagonist (who’s also my main character), Colvin, who hates it when people start sentences with the word “Actually”, I think villain pet peeves need more love.

So tell me what annoys the hell out of your antagonist! What gets under their skin more than anything else?

Not writing anything with a baddie? Who’s your favorite villian, and what drives them up a wall?

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Godless and Writing Opening Scenes

Godless is a limited series released by Netflix in 2017. It didn’t gather the popularity of other “originals”, such as Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black, and when all is said in done, it’s not a particularly ground breaking show. I liked it fine, but it’s not the first thing that pops into my mind when someone asks for something to binge watch over the weekend.

So why can’t I stop thinking about it’s opening scene?

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If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. If you don’t have time to watch it, here’s a brief run down of what happens. But really. Go watch it.

Continue reading Godless and Writing Opening Scenes

Favorite Art of 2018

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I occasionally post up sketches of my characters on Saturdays. I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be, but I’m hoping 2019 will be my year to finally nail down this “being active online” deal I’ve been working on.

Here are some of my favorite pieces I did this year! Hope you like them.

 

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Dietrich & Zali – Warm up writing characters

I am a huge fan of “warm up writing characters”. 

I have a blog post coming up shortly that’ll explain what type of warm up this is, but for now, I’ll leave you with D & Z here.

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Ian – Flightless universe

Some quick Flightless lore to explain the feather earring/in hat (seen below)! 
Whenever an avian is dating, married to, or bonded with another avian, they usually wear that avian’s down feather in their hair, as jewelry, or pinned to their shirt. In the case of bonding, it doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship, as occasional bonds are formed due to a sibling-like dynamic, and is considered more of a “best friend soulmate”. They’ll still exchange feathers to show off who they’re the closest with

 

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Kaitlin – Flightless universe

 

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Dilan – One off character

This boy is just a character I got from another artist that I don’t really do a lot with writing wise, but that I love to write for. He’s a demon, I guess? I’m not really sure what he is, but I love his ridiculousness.

Hope you all are having a great December! I’ll be popping some more posts out shortly.

To Leave a Negative Review or Not?

As I learn more about the indie and self published market, I realize there’s something that can make or break your book release.

Reviews.

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Now there are a lot of other factors to getting more readers, some that I’ve mentioned in past posts, but reviews seem to be the life blood of keeping your head above the water in the indie business.

For someone who enjoys reviewing books, I try to slip an indie or self published work into my reading list now and then, but occasionally I run into a problem. Not all indie books are good, just like not all traditionally published books are good. How do you review a book without hurting the author, when it’s just not enjoyable?

Before I go on. Yes, I know “good” is subjective, but there are important fundamentals that can be missing in any book. Plot holes, poor dialogue, grammatical errors, and (my biggest sin) excess information when the story needs to be streamlined. These are all things that can hinder a reader’s enjoyment of a novel.

When reading a book by a more mainstream author, it’s easy to post a review pointing out these flaws, but what do you do when they’re indie or self published?

If you’re a writer, you know the struggle they went through to get to that point, and how they might not have a big company behind them to promote. Some writers can only get to the top of sites like Amazon when people leave reviews, but when a book is bad, what do you do? Should you understand that this writer is just trying to sell their work like every other writer, and hope the book they publish tomorrow will be worth the five stars you give them today?

Or should you be honest? If there’s a higher standard set for self published and indie authors, in theory the market will improve. If you’re not familiar with the publishing world, some people consider self published work to be “less than” traditionally published, and others are even iffy on the indie publishing route. I think there are great books in both markets, but that yes, they can be hard to find.

I don’t think we should rip authors new ones, or try to completely shatter their love of writing. A review shouldn’t come from a bitter or mean spirited place. However, I don’t think praising a book that’s fundamentally lacking is a good thing, either. By telling a writer everything they do is great, you’re also stopping them from learning from their mistakes. In fact, one of my favorite critique groups I was in was a little hard on each other for this very reason. Yes, it is a hard pill to swallow, but you’re learning and you get better.

Then again, reviews are all subjective. Maybe it doesn’t matter what you think of that book, because even if you don’t like it, someone else could love it and leave honest praise. At the end of the day, you’re still leaving a review for an author who needs it, and positive or negative, it’ll help them grow their readership either way.

What about you? Do you leave “negative” reviews on indie/self published books? Or do you soften the blow? Comment below, and let me know.

Upcoming Forgotten Book Review Series

A while back, sitting around a table with Robert Ashcroft and Alexandra Burt, Robert got to talking about old books left forgotten in second hand bins. To paraphrase, he said something close to, “These authors put as much time into their books as we do, but their novels are almost forgotten. I’d like to find them and review them so they’re getting some attention.”

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I have a habit of holding onto things people say, and after close to four years of sitting on a probably butchered quote, I got to asking why don’t we read these forgotten books?

After getting Ashcroft’s blessing, I decided to take his idea to review old or forgotten books and post them up here to all of you.

 

Here are my rules for my personal reviews.

  • The book has to be over 20 years old.
  • It can’t be a classic, cult or otherwise.
  • I have to find it in a second hand store or library.
  • I can’t have heard of the author, or have read it before.

 

I’ll be going off of my normal rating system, but I’ll also add if it’s still relevant and how has it held up over time.

 

My Rating System

I’ve been using this system for my past book reviews, but let me take a second to explain it. 

Wouldn’t even read it if it were a free digital copy – Worse review I can give, this means don’t waste your time or money.

Would check it out at a library, but wouldn’t buy – Worth the read, but definitely not worth the money, chances are I wouldn’t even suggest this book to a friend.

Would buy it but only if it were a cheap paperback, or a quick digital copy – Not bad, but not great. I’d loan out my copy to a friend if they needed a book to read, but wouldn’t push them to get through it.

Would definitely buy it in hardback – This is a book worth spending money on and keeping in good condition, because it’ll probably go through a few reads.

Would definitely buy it in hardback, and would go out of my way to get the author to sign it – This means that not only did I like the book, I loved the author’s voice and would love to meet the person behind the page.

 

I do my reviews like this because stars can be subjective, and everyone does stars. If I think of any more subratings later, I’ll add them to the list, but for now, this is how I base how much I enjoy a book or not.

 

 

My first book is a fantasy horror novel called “When Shadows Fall”, by Brian Scott Smith, and I’ll be posting my first review at the end of the month. If you’d like to take part, please let me know! I’d love to see what forgotten books you find and review.

DFWCon Reflections – Guest Author Mason Carroll

Today’s guest author, Mason Carroll, is the final in this series, but he wraps up with a bang. We’ve spoken off and on since DFWCon, and I’m happy to feature his work here on my blog. I hope you enjoyed his writing as much as I have. 

 

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DFWCon Refections

by Mason Carroll

It’s been over a month since DFWCon and I’m still processing all that I learned.

Yet, that’s just it. The more I think about it, the more I realize I didn’t really learn a ton. It’s not that there was nothing to learn, it’s that the things I learned were things I already knew.

Call it a reeducation or a reminder. Call it a reawakening.

The truth is, I was scared to go to this convention. In his book On Writing, Stephen King seems to have what I would describe as a negative opinion of conventions or writer’s gatherings. I, for my own reasons had similar thoughts. “Seriously, how many famous authors ever went to a convention and suddenly became the great authors we all know and love?”

No matter the answer, regardless of the truth, I went. A slight nudge from a dear friend helped me make the choice, and I’m truly happy that I did go. Despite all my apprehension, despite that I really didn’t learn anything -new-, even if I never get published, what I discovered at DFW Con is worth more than the couple hundred dollars I spent on the ticket and gas.

I met some wonderful people. To name but a few, Krystal Sanders and Gregory Attaway, with whom I now meet once every other week for a writing group. We read each other’s works in progress and offer our criticism and praise. (My first submission will be read this Thursday and I’m a nervous wreck.)

Andrea McAuley, a fellow fantasy writer who provided the impetus for this piece and with whom I spent two hours writing word sprints just weeks ago. (The words were terrible, but I credit her asking for a writing partner and those two hours with getting me past a rough spot in my novel.)

I met several other people, all of whom were wonderful but I feel I should give a special shout out to literary agent Lauren Spieller. Despite it being late in the evening and the end of the mixer on Saturday, she took a moment out of her night to listen to some awkward geek share his idea for a story. After my sputtering attempt at a pitch, she seemed genuinely interested.

“I’ll tell you what, whether it’s six months or two years from now, contact me when you have a full manuscript. Just remind me it’s the fantasy story with the bad ass, dress wearing lady.”

I am scatter brained. Absent minded, even, but I’ll still remember those words until the day I die. She handed me her card, which I still have taped to the left side of my desk. I remember it well.

And that leads me to what I discovered. Beyond the self-doubt class and the distancing words class and all the others, I learned more about myself than I did about writing.

I’ve always considered myself a ‘self-taught’ writer. I didn’t take many classes on literature or writing, I just wrote. I took what was in my head and put it down on paper. When I was at my best, it came from my heart.

When some big-time agent showed just an ounce of interest in my story idea, when she gave me a hug when I told her about my mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, I understood. Just write.

Write.

Let me write that again.

Just write.

Sometimes, my anxiety tells me that it’s pathetic that I needed some random person to like my idea for me to understand that I’m not as terrible at writing as I think. Sometimes, my anxiety tells me that my few beta readers are just telling me I’m good to make me feel good.

At DFW Con, I learned to tell my anxiety to shut the hell up.

I learned that I just need to write. Every word, sentence, paragraph and chapter makes me a better writer.

Even if Lauren gets my manuscript and decides it’s not for her, or not good. I’m still going to write. Even if my novel/story idea does suck (and let’s face it, how many novels get published?) I’m going to write.

I’m going to write because how many people do you know have finished writing a novel?

I’m going to write because the more I write, the more I fall in love with my characters.

I’m going to write because the more I do, the more real my world, the cultures, the people and the history becomes.

I’m going to write because I want to share my story ideas with people.

I’m going to write because the more I write her, my main character (her name is Flavia) reminds me more of my mother before dementia robbed the world of her brilliance. She reminds me of my sister, my aunt and a hundred other strong women in my life who don’t get the respect and credit they deserve.

I’m going to write because the other main character (who has yet to appear) reminds me more and more of myself, in ways I love and despise. He’s what I aspire to be, what I hate about myself, what I wish I could be, and most importantly he represents my hope that all good people deserve a happy ending.

I’m going to write because I love it, because I believe that’s what I was put on this earth to do.

I’m a story teller, and that’s what DWFCon taught me.

 

 

Self Care for Writers

Writing is almost exclusively a solitary act.

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While yes, some writers collaborate with others, some rely on the help of family and friends, when it gets down to the nuts and bolts, it’s usually just you and the page.

For many, this is a blessing. Many authors are okay with spending hours at a time alone, but sometimes we forget that humans need a break from their work and take care of themselves.

Here are some ways you can refresh yourself before heading back to your novel.

  • Check your posture
  • Take a five minute stretch break
  • Go outside first thing in the morning, and take a deep breath.
  • Eat breakfast before you start working, make sure you’re full.
  • When you get to a stopping point, make a cup of coffee or tea and just sit to enjoy yourself while you drink it.
  • Already drank something caffeinated? Drink a glass of water instead.
  • Set your manuscript aside and pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read.
  • Go for a walk or run, take up yoga, or start lifting weights.
  • Close your eyes for thirty seconds and clear your head, try and maintain this “clear head space” for five minutes.

Have any other tips? Comment below and I’ll add them with a shout out to your blog.

Small Touches – Guest Author Daniel Link

I met Daniel at the DFWcon mixer, and hit it off right away. I had the pleasure of listening to him do a reading during a read and critique and was blown away so I knew I had to introduce myself to him. A month later, I’m still in touch and am very pleased to have him featured on my blog. Enjoy!

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Small Touches

by Daniel Link

 

DFWCon was not my first conference, so I thought I knew what to expect.

There were some pleasant surprises, things I hadn’t seen before. For instance, the sign-up slots for the Read and Critique, or Fix My Manuscript. Then there’s the ten-minute agent sit downs. The laid-back Texas vibe made talking to people easy, and that was most evident at Saturday night’s gala, which may have been the biggest surprise of them all.

First, the special sign-up opportunities. Fix My Problem was great, but my favorite was the Read and Critique. Those were fantastic, and I hate to say, underattended. I sat in on a Read and Critique Sunday with only five people there to read their work.

I get it, we’re introverts. We don’t like people all that much, and the idea of reading to them is terrifying. What we do love, however, is words. You have a chance to read your words to other people. How many chances to do that do we get? To walk into that room and see it empty, with two hundred and however many authors outside, some of them spending their whole conference in the lobby talking about getting to work on their book instead of doing it, that got to me.  If we won’t champion our own words, who will?

Sure, it’s important to touch base with people. It’s important to build that platform. It’s good to have a social media presence and a website and all that cart-before-the-horse nonsense.  Don’t get me wrong. When you’ve got your book in hand and you’re ready to promote it, when your baby is as polished as you can make it and it’s time to find an agent—that’s when it’s time to put on your business hat. Before that, though, there’s the all-too-important business of writing your best work. Don’t overlook that.

Another surprising aspect of DFWCon was the ten-minute sit down with an agent. I’ve attended conferences where the whole weekend is centered around pitch writing, pitch polishing, then group pitch practice, until you’re so pitched out you don’t even like the premise of your book anymore. The whole experience funnels you toward a fifty-minute speed dating session, three minutes to pitch an agent. It’s a whirlwind of shoving and flying elbows and an overall vibe of competition that I never felt at DFWCon.

The luxury of talking to an agent for ten minutes was a strange experience. I got to shake his hand and tell him my name, and I didn’t have to boil a year of my life into a ninety-second commercial or use cross-comps like Game of Thrones meets When Harry Met Sally, or Flashdance meets the Godfather. The downside, of course, was that I only got to talk with one agent. Then I got my biggest surprise—the gala.

The idea of the gala is nothing new. Another conference, one I will not name but takes place in a city in California by a bay, has a gala. Meet the agents and editors, the program said, so I put on my shiny shoes and got ready to mingle. It was in the bookstore downstairs, and the place was packed. A quick scan of the badges revealed that everyone in attendance was either a writer or a conference volunteer. The agents were all tucked into bed or out on the town laughing at everyone fooled into attending the gala. When I asked a volunteer where the agents and editors we were supposed to meet were, she disappeared in a puff of smoke like an 80’s movie ninja. When word spread that people were looking for the agents, the rest of the volunteers fled, leaving a hundred or so writers holding plastic cups of wine while tumbleweeds rolled through the bookstore.

The gala at DFWCon this year was the opposite. I arrived as it was starting, and the first person I ran into was Marisa Corvisiero. We talked for a few and she never used a smoke bomb to escape. Then I met Uwe Stender in the corner by the bar, where I talked with him for ten minutes or so. I moved on and mingled with other writers and geeked out properly for a while, then ran into Kevin O’Conner and Patty Carothers, both of whom I talked to at length. By the end of Saturday night I’d spent more time talking to agents than I had in two years at Unnamed City by the Bay Con combined. It was a great environment to try on that business hat—a pressure-free place to practice pitching and see what others think of your ideas.

As well as things went for me at DFWCon, I didn’t get everything right. I didn’t take enough pictures, didn’t post a single one to social media. I didn’t exchange numbers and business cards with all the wonderful people I met. The weekend got away from me, as it’s sure to do. If I’d been more on the ball, I’d have recorded my ten-minute sit-down with my agent. He gave me a lot of advice that I sort of remember. They wouldn’t let me take note paper in, but I did have my cell phone. We’ll try that again next year. And as for the people I didn’t connect with on social media, I hope they signed up, too.

My experience was a positive on a number of levels, enough so that I took advantage of the early enrollment for DFWCon 2019. The people were so pleasant and the price so reasonable that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Next year, I’m going to try to sit in on as many of the special classes that I can. These small touches are what set the conference apart.

There’s no better place to share your ideas, make contacts, and learn about trends in book marketing than writer’s conferences. Everyone should go to one. Then after you’ve been to one, been overwhelmed by the constant information and handshaking and notetaking, you need to do another one, then maybe one or two more for good measure. Do one of the Read and Critiques. No matter how scared you are, you’ll be glad you did. Then, once you’ve gotten over your fear of reading your words to strangers, you need to do it again. You’ll get better at it. Things will slow down. Until then, keep writing, keep championing your work, and getting it ready for next year.

 

 

Want to learn more about Daniel Link? Check out his website!

JK Rowling is Wrong (and so are a lot of other people) – Guest Author Rebecca Paddock

Today’s guest post is continuing my theme of writer’s conferences but I decided to host a few other writers’ opinions. Rebecca Paddock attended the 2018 DFW Con and wanted to share her experience. Enjoy! 

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JK Rowling is Wrong (and so are a lot of other people)

By Rebecca Paddock

 

JK Rowling is wrong. That’s my takeaway from DFWcon 2018. Not on everything, she’s undoubtedly right about a great many things. Maybe even most. But she’s definitely wrong about one of them. During an interview, she described writers as “observers.” I disagree. Writers are engagers. Or maybe questioners.

Other people are wrong too. That’s part two of my takeaway. Prior to the conference, I heard (and, via Facebook, saw) a whole lot of noise about writers being introverts. No way. No how. Not at DFWcon. At least, not from what I experienced.

You want to experience introverts at a conference? Go to one of the International Council of Systems Engineering events and use your ears. They’re half the volume for twice the people.

One step into the venue and the overall lack of introverts was apparent. Before I even made it to the credentials table, I’d been greeted (with smiles, no less!) by every person I passed. Anything from a simple “Hey, there” to a hearty “Howdy!” People were talking everywhere. If these folks were introverts, they were really loud, really animated introverts. People stood in small groups, twos and threes. Maybe a group of four, here and there. If these were introverts, they were introverts with a lot of very deeply established cliques.

Only people moved from one place to another. Which isn’t very cliquish at all. It’s not very introverted either.

No one had their face buried in a cell phone, laptop, or any other form of electronic distraction. No one was standing alone. No one had that wide-eyed get-me-out-of-here look. No one.

Might as well have been a cocktail party.

I would have done some more research on the phenomena, tested a theory or two, but I was waylaid by the person next to me.

“This is my first conference. I’m so excited,” she said, practically bubbling over. “What do you write?”

That was the common refrain: what do you write. Kind of like being in college and folks beginning every conversation with: “what’s your major?”

What do you write? And, the thing is, these folks really meant it. They really wanted to know. It wasn’t a polite lob into a conversation they’d rather not be having. It wasn’t an excuse to fill an uncomfortable void. It wasn’t trying to eek through a stressful situation before finding solace in some alone time. Each word was filled with interest.

“Satire. I write political satire,” I’d respond.

Then the questions came in earnest.

Which is not usually the case. If I tell the average Joe that I write political satire, they usually get that deer-in-the-headlights terrified look, take two steps back, and do their best to change the subject post haste – preferably before limbs are lost. Not these folks. They’re writers. Writers dig in.

Is there much of a market for that?

How do you handle the biting humor?

Is there a specific format (or set of rules) for satire?

What’s the expected word count for that genre?

Questions. Lots and lots of questions. Even when the person wrote Romance. Or Thrillers. Or Suspense. Or even Westerns. No matter their genre, people were interested. Even better, they were fascinating in their own right.

No one word answers to be found. Everyone was happy to share, explain, and provide insight into their perspective. I ran into a couple folks who write Science Fiction. Asking questions about how they develop their backdrop netted me some great tips for worldbuilding. Asking questions of Romance writers got me a neat little trick on establishing the closeness of an emotional connection without ever having to talk about it directly. And one of the Suspense guys was a hoot. He gave me some interesting insight into how he weaves comedy into suspense. Which means I could use the same technique to weave suspense into comedy.

That’s just the attendees. The classes were much the same. People breaking things down. Not spending an hour talking about why something was important. They spent five minutes on the why, maybe another five on the what, and the remaining time was spent on the how. Giving specific techniques for actually making a manuscript come to life. Practical. Expedient. And, even better, something for everyone. Even experienced/published authors came away with useful techniques to tackle their tantalizing terrors.

The instructors didn’t go away and hide either. They talked to anyone who came up and asked a question. Or they tracked you down and ask a question themselves. (I heard you write political satire…) They  attended classes. They participated, offered advice, listened, asked questions … you know, do stuff that non-introverted people do. Only … drum roll please … they’re writers.

There were even translation classes. Where knowledgeable agents and authors got together to translate rejection speak into actionable bullet points. Not something the average introvert would sign up to do especially since there was no way to prepare. The best part was, the non-observers did more than translate, they gave tips on how to approach the modifications. A couple of which helped solve an issue or two in my current manuscript.

And so, in spite of all the hype prior to the conference, I found that writers aren’t different. Writers are like any other group of passionate people. They engage. They might not engage by stepping up to a mic, kicking a soccer ball, or screaming at a ref, but they engage nonetheless. They ask questions. They pursue information. They search for cause/effect. And they consider.

Writers are always considering. Is there a better way? Can I be more succinct? How do I make this passage come alive? What’s the best way to increase the tempo, change the cadence, or create a flow? What would happen if…

Writers aren’t introverts. And they aren’t observers.

Sorry, Ms. Rowling. You’re wrong. You didn’t observe, you engaged. You tested. You pursued knowledge, built a world, played with the tension in relationships, explored cause/effect, questioned humanity, and discovered unplumbed decency in someone thought to be irredeemable. You, Ms. Rowling, are an engager. A questioner. Maybe even an explorer.

And so are the people who attend DFWcon.

What I Wish I Knew About Writing Conferences

Back in 2016, I made a shift. I decided if I was ever going to become a writer, I needed stop buying “how to” writing books, fancy pens, and themed journals and actually write. I know. Revolutionary idea.

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Don’t get me wrong, “writing swag” is great, but at the end of the day, the supplies gave me the illusion of productivity. I needed to write to become a writer.

Now in 2018, with one completed novel under my belt and a net of query letters out to a sea of agents, I decided writing wasn’t enough. I needed to learn more about the craft of writing that books couldn’t teach me.

That’s where the Dallas Fort Worth Writer’s Conference came in.

Now, I thought I was pretty prepared for my first conference. I picked out what classes I wanted to go to, signed up for special discussions, and headed out at 5:30 in the morning to be there by the time the doors opened. But here’s what I wish I knew, that I didn’t see anywhere online.

Writing conferences are less about the classes and more about the connections.

Maybe this isn’t true for all people, but it was extremely true in my case. While the classes were amazing, I realized I was woefully unprepared for the amount of networking I was going to be doing.

How do you make the most out of your networking and socializing experience? 

 Get a hotel near the conference center. Mine was 30 minutes away, to save money, and I missed out on so many fun get togethers.

If someone’s planning to do a dinner, go eat with a group.

If you find one group, don’t be afraid to go and hang out with other people, but know you might feel left out if your first group you hit it off with goes and does something else.

Order business cards and keep in touch with people after the conference is over. I’ll talk more about this in my “making friends” portion of this conference series I’m doing, but definitely do this.

Reach out to people before the conference. I met some wonderful writers online through facebook and online contests so when I got there, I already knew who to touch base with. In fact, if I hadn’t had so much fun talking to D.L. Hammons I probably would’ve been lost for the first hour.

And lastly, if you can pitch to agents or editors, DO. I was only going to use my free agent pitch but decided to buy two, and I learned more in those 20 minutes about the pitching/agent process than I did reading any book. Both people I pitched to eased me into the situation and asked me to email them my work. Come to find out, one of them was only accepting work through that conference, so trying to pitch to her online would’ve been impossible (or at the very least rude).

 

These are just a few things I wish I knew about the whole networking deal. I’ll go over what I learned about classes, making friends and the downsides to conferences (there are some, albeit small ones) in other up coming posts, so keep an eye out.

 

Is there something you want to know about writing conferences? This was my first one, so I’m not all knowing but I can definitely give you tips if you’re a newbie! Comment below and let me know.