Category Archives: About Writing

Write Club DFW Submissions Open!

Hey all! I’ve been super busy lately, but I wanted to let y’all know there’s a new writing contest going on where you can win a chance to attend the 2020 DFW Writing Conference.

Write Club Soap 2

“Here’s the ABC’s of how it works. When the submission period opens (Mar 18-Apr 14), you simply send in a 500-word writing sample using a pen name (details on how to do that below). Once the submission period closes, all the entries are read by a panel of twenty volunteers (I call them my slushpile readers). The slushpile readers are a diverse group of avid readers and they each will select their top samples. Their selections narrow down the contestant pool to the thirty writers picked by the most judges. Over the course of the next eight weeks, we’ll hold daily bouts (M-F) right here on this blog – randomly pitting the anonymous 500-word writing samples against each other. The winners of these bouts advance into elimination rounds, and then playoffs, quarter-finals, and then ultimately a face-off between two finalists to determine a single champion. The writing sample can be any genre, any style (even poetry), from a larger piece of work or flash fiction — the word count being the only restriction. It’s a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, receive a ton of feedback, all without having to suffer the agony and embarrassment of exposure. How cool is that?

~ D.L. Hammons

Check out DL Hammons’ site for more information!

 

 

 

 

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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?

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

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.

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.

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.

Write Fight Club Reflections

When I first started writing, I wasn’t scared to submit to contests more than I was to submit to agents.

Agents are less intimidating to me. While people consider them the gateway to getting published, I always saw agents as people who are looking to create a business partnership. Submitting to contests, however, was someone actively judging my work. And not just judging. In my imagination, the organizers were gods, scrutinizing every word, looking down on my poor unfortunate writing and laughing as they sang a song about how stupid I was to even consider submitting.

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Then I found Write Club, and my thoughts on the subject changed.

What is Write Club?

As a quick explanation, Write Club was started by D.L. Hammons, loosely based off the movie Fight Club. You anonymously submit a 500 word story with a pen name into a slush pile. From the slush pile, it gets narrowed down to 30 writers, and then other people online vote for their favorites in 15 bouts. Over time it’s narrowed down to finalists, and the winner’s announced at the DFW Writer’s Conference.

Write Club Soap 2

This is a very bare bones definition of Write Club, and if you want a better idea of it, check out the link above.

Why did this contest change my mind about submitting to contests?

The idea that no one would be able to associate my writing to me took some of the stress out of it. I always saw contests as being judged as a good or bad writer. Instead it turned into “this work isn’t as enjoyable to me”. If someone didn’t like my work I didn’t think it would reflect on my abilities, it was just a matter of taste.

Then when I saw the entries, I realized it really WAS a matter of taste. I would read a piece and think, “This person is clearly the winner!” but then I’d see other people voting for the other person. I was baffled at what they saw in the other piece, but that was just the nature of the game.

And that’s when I realized that ALL forms of submissions were a matter of taste. There are some books I can’t stand that get published and hit top of the sales charts, and there are some books I love that never get noticed.

Write Club cured me of my submitting to contests fear, and I have to admit, I’m already editing my piece for next year’s contest.

Write Club
Host, D.L. Hammons, with a few participants /raffle winners at the 2018 DFW Writer’s Conference. (From Left to Right, with Twitter screen name) Mike Hilton (@5hourninja), Wanda Woodworth (@wandawoof), D.L. Hammons (@DL_H), Dannie Olguin (@DannieMOlguin), and myself (@aemcauley)

Would you like to join in Write Club?

Submissions are open March 12th until April 1st or just check out DL Hammons’ page and follow his blog.

Writing Conference Reflection Month – July Schedule

It’s been three days since I went to the Dallas-Fort Worth Writing Conference, and the more time that passes, the more I look back and go “Wow, did I really just spend 48 hours surrounded by other writers?”. It went by way too fast.

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To make up for missing the time I spent with my fellow writers, I decided to turn July into a “Writing Conference Reflection” month. Since this was my first conference, I’m going to talk about what I learned, what I wish I knew, and what I’ll be doing differently for my next conference.

I’ll be making posts every Monday, but will also be adding up one on Friday for suggested topics, if I find the time.

 

Here are some things I’ll be posting about. If you have anything you’d like me to talk about, feel free to ask me to add it!

  • Talking to Agents
  • Making New Friends (suggested by JoAnne Turner)
  • Your First Pitch
  • What Classes Should You Take
  • Importance of Self Care

 

Look for these topics and more this July!

Know How to Market Your Novel

In 1992, Batman Returns hit theaters to an audience that had, to some extent, no idea what they were in for. This in part was due to the marketing put out at the time, both in content, and the lack there of.

The limited marketing till the last minute, decided by Robert G. Friedman, Warner’s president of worldwide theatrical advertising and publicity at the time*, was meant to build hype. Instead of promoting the movie’s plot, they sold merchandise in the form of toys, t-shirts, and Coke cans. This youth based marketing lead parents to believe that this would be a movie for children.

Then it hit theaters.

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They seemed to have a bit of a miscommunication as far as just how dark this movie was going to be.

The cheerful toys put out by McDonald’s were a far cry from Tim Burton’s version of the Dark Knight, and many believe this caused him to lose his credibility for the next Batman film.

In many ways, because of the poor marketing done by higher ups and misleading the audience, Burton fell from grace in the eyes of the movie goers for a short time, and we wound up with Batman Forever and *shudder* Batman & Robin, both directed by Joel Schumacher.

So what does this have to do with your book?

Too many times, especially with independent and self published authors, bad marketing is done in one of two ways. Spamming social media to the point where followers lose interest, and/or lying to the audience.

Now, of course, this goes without saying that this isn’t what ALL independent authors do, this is just what I notice as a trend in those who don’t know how to marketing works.

Lying to your audience, in my opinion, is the worse of the two. While spamming is annoying, deceiving your audience for the sake of hype discredits you as a writer. If you say your book is a fun fantasy, with promotional products featuring flowers and singing birds, when really it’s a dark story filled with adult themes, the next time someone sees your name, they’re less likely to trust your book.

In Burton’s case, he didn’t have a say in marketing, as he was just the director, but he still suffered for the choices made by higher ups. This is another lesson you can take away from the Batman Returns debacle.

If you hire someone to do the marketing for you, know what they’re putting out.

Burton didn’t have a hand in how his movie was presented to the world, as he answered to Warner Brothers, but you, as an independent author, do. If you hire someone to create your cover, make a video, or do any promotional items for you, you have the right to say the product doesn’t convey the tone of your novel.

This is extremely important. The ability to chose how and what in a novel is put out to the world is why many people are leaning more toward independent publishing vs traditional. If you don’t exercise your right to veto ideas presented by people working for you, you can wind up in the Burton boat.

You should always be polite when working with others, but remember, you need to stand up for your work. Also know that you get what you pay for. Paying someone to design your cover for only $10 is great, however remember that they might not have the best quality product.

All in all, marketing is extremely important. It’s the business side to writing that some independent authors overlook all together, but this is crucial to your sales. Learn from Batman Returns and create a marketing campaign that’s an honest representation of your novel.

Have any marketing tips that work for you? Disagree with anything I said here? Comment below and let me know.