Monday, October 29, 2012

Ninc Takeaway


No one puts on a conference like NINC.  If you attended and didn't return with at least fifty great ideas, you're either already doing all this great stuff or ... well, you were dead -- or sleeping during the presentations.

Honestly, I don't really know where to begin with information. I'd never heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but now I know enough about it to totally transform my website. I'd heard about Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, but under use them. Now I won't! (I also got to see Jen Talty!)

Liz Maverick talked about discoverability and discussed newsletters in a way that didn't merely help revolutionize mine, but also in a way that helped me to understand the real purpose of my newsletter. I no longer have to feel like I'm talking to a big black hole.

Julie Ortolon taught us a lot about marketing, including advanced marketing techniques. She and her lifeboat team also taught us how to create our own groups of friends, not just to like and tag our books, but also to be a sort of think tank for lifting our discoverability as well as a support group.

Guys from Amazon and Goodreads also demystified their processes. (Thank you, guys!)

I have 2 notebooks filled with shorthand. Which means in longhand terms I'd probably have 6 notebooks. I have 20 pages of action items...aka a to do list! (A long to do list)

Obviously I won't even have them transcribed for weeks. So what's the takeaway?

I think the bottom line for discoverability and navigating the new world of publishing is the same bottom line I have for writing a novel. It takes time. It takes a village. But most of all, you really have to want it.

I used to go to conferences and meet people who wanted "to write a book" as a form of entertainment.  This weekend I met my competition and they are fierce. But they are also generous. They shared their marketing tricks and tips as freely as I share my writing tricks and tips.

You need to go to conferences. You need to use all the tools at your disposal. But most of all, you need to somehow, someway love this processes. Not just the writing but the marketing.

This weekend caused me to love the marketing side, to see that it can be fun and every bit as creative as writing a novel.

But it also showed me what a fantastic, generous writing community we live in.

So, thanks NINC and thanks to all the wonderful presenters.

susan meier

Monday, October 22, 2012

Self Editing

My students and I are in the home stretch for our self-editing workshop this month. In every "editing type" class I teach, students are always grateful when I show them how to find the heart of their story, so that they can find their story problems BEFORE an editor does.

We ran through the whole shebang on scenes...learned to do a storyboard...again, so that attendees could spot pacing, tone, point of view, etc. problems BEFORE an editor does.

This week we're doing words. You know the drill. Are you giving readers the correct impressions of your characters in your descriptions AND actions. How's your grammar? How's your sentence structure?

At the end of the month I expect all my students to be exhausted. :)

Self-editing is a lot of work.

But it's all necessary work. If you want to go the traditional or epublishing or even small press route, you have to be one of the best of the best. Having a clean manuscript with a flawless story and scenes that create the edge-of-the-seat pacing puts you ahead of the rest.

But...if you want to self-publish and you can't afford to hire an outside really need to self-edit. You have no safety net.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Sisters in Crime!

Spent the weekend with 14 or 15 of the great ladies from the local Sisters in Crime Chapter. They rent a house in the little town of Confluence, PA and hunker down to talk about writing for three glorious days. For my part, I taught them the tricks and tips I use to make a story better, and to polish my scenes and pack them with more power.

In our downtime, we discussed the state of the industry and why it's a great time to be a writer.

Because it is.

Never before have we had the opportunity to reach and influence the number of people we can reach now. Never before could you be your own publisher. Never before could we take a rejected book, something an editor confidentially whispered was wonderful but she didn't know where to shelf it, and offer it to the public. And watch that book outdo the traditionally published books around it.

ePublishing doesn't have shelves. :) So we can finally, finally take a risk!

But with great power comes great responsibility.

The ladies from Sisters in Crime and I also lamented the lack of grammar skills of some authors...and how, without an editor, bad grammar is being passed off as good. :(  Poor sentence structure makes more than a passing appearance in some books. Some books don't have good stories...some books don't even have a story.

So while we're being treated to unexpectedly fabulous books that might not have made it passed the traditional gatekeepers, we're also seeing some real crap hitting the Amazon website.

I, personally, believe this will all shake out. But I also believe we have made ourselves the gatekeepers. And with great power comes great responsibility.

What was the last grammar book you read?
When was the last time you studied story structure?
When did you last seriously ponder what it means to be a entertainer?

I believe there is room for all of us...lots of room. But cream rises to the top. :) And with great power comes great responsibility.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Doing something Stupid...aka different

A few years ago, I listened to a motivational tape by the great motivational expert Tony Robbins. In the tape he talked about doing unexpected or unusual things to help yourself break a habit. If, for instance, you're trying to lose weight, he suggests you throw away all your fat clothes...except for one outfit...and wear that outfit every day. The thought is that eventually you will grow embarrassed enough or tired enough of the outfit that you'll get yourself to lose weight.

Sounds silly...but I think it could work. More important, I think the something silly idea actually works for writing.


Well, first off, if you get stuck and write the first silly thing that comes to mind...even if you can't use the scene, you've probably awakened your brain, broken your block or gotten yourself to think outside the box.

But what if you could use the scene? What if saying, What's the scariest thing that could happen right now...actually resulted in a good scene? Or what's the most romantic thing that could happen write now? The most emotional? The most thrilling? The most inspirational?

Sometimes we shy away from "the most." After all, we are building to a black moment...and you can't build by grabbing "the most" thrilling, romantic, scary, inspirational, emotional thing...Can you?

Why not?

I once heard Janet Evanovich give a speech at at RWA conference. She said, Don't save anything for the next book. Put everything on the table in this book. Make this book great.

But what if you put that really emotional scene in the middle of the are you going to escalate from that?

You may be surprised. And your book may be better for it.


Because everybody wants a great read. Not a mediocre read. A great read. So find your great scenes, the story's great moments and get them in. And work from there.

Putting yourself to the test in your book is sort of like throwing away all your fat clothes. Once you commit, you have no choice but to follow through! You might have to work a little harder, might have to think harder, might have to take your story to the next level...but what a book you'll end up with!

Happy Monday!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Getting Down to Business

The wedding is over and I am now getting down to business with book #50.

The good news is ... my editor LOVED the proposal.

The bad news is... my editor got promoted and I won't be working on this book with her.

When I wrote for the New York office, I worked with one editor for 13 years. When she left to raise her children, I shifted to another editor. I had two editors in probably fifteen years.

Then I was transferred to London and I've been shifted around four or five 6 years.

It seems pretty jarring...but...

Interestingly, being shifted so much forced me to understand my line better than just what "my" editor was looking for. I had to learn the ins and outs of what made a Harlequin Romance a Harlequin Romance and then I had to figure out what makes a GREAT Harlequin Romance. ;0

It's good to please your editor. :) But understanding what makes a great story and being able to please everybody is better. I don't have any angst over this switch. I was also blissfully happy for my editor's promotion. She is a smart woman who deserves to move up the ladder of success.

Why am I telling you all this? In the past five years, I've learned some great things about writing romances. (I've written some new workshops to prove it. LOL) This after having published thirty or so books.

You're never too old to learn. Brian Tracy, in his tape series THE MIRACLE OF SELF-DISCIPLINE, says we should be learning all the time and that one of our goals should be to be in the top 10% of our field. I'm not sure I can aspire to the second half of that's kinda lofty...but I love to learn. I love researching new subjects and potential careers for my characters. I love to study grammar. (I'm currently rereading WOE IS I!...a grammar book that isn't boring.) I love to read and analyze every book I can get my hands on (and have time for).

I think we shouldn't just be focused on our current projects. We should see ourselves as a work in progress. How much can we learn? How good can we get?

Because learning is fun. Getting better is fun.

Happy Monday!