Back From the La Jolla Writer’s Conference

ljwc-logoThis year I attended my first writer’s conference. In spite of missing the sessions on the first day (long story, you don’t want to know), I drove away Sunday afternoon with more enthusiasm than I know what to do with, and solid ideas and suggestions that mean I need to revise everything I’ve ever written, but the result will be improved writing. And that's the point.

Much of the advice I already know – the importance of building platform even before I finish a book (because no publisher will do the work for an author), the importance of a professionally done website and using social media. But Annette Kuritz’s presentation on Cost Effective PR tips included much more. Here are my top ten takeaways from that early morning session:

  1. Become an Amazon affiliate.
  2. Add something fun and interesting to your blog every week.
  3. Include a link to a sales page for your book in every blog post and every social media entry.
  4. Find someone who blogs on a subject related to your book and who has a large following and then interview that person for your own blog. Send the link to the person you interviewed.
  5. Include the first three chapters of your book on your blog.
  6. Know your audience and give them something they want, such as “5 Tips to Get Started Writing,” or “5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started My Novel,” or you get the picture, right.
  7. Be authentic with your posts. Tell you audience something about yourself because people pay more attention to people they know and like.
  8. Don’t waste money on bookmarks or flyers. Bookstore owners and managers will just throw them away. (My suggestion, not endorsed by Antoinette: If you have them already, find a Little Free Library and put one in each of the books there.)
  9. The only shelves the big bookstores own are the ones with bargain books. Every other surface in a bookstore is “rented” by the publishers (they call it “coop”). Every book on those shelves can be sent back to the publisher for a full refund.
  10. Good public relations and marketing are choreographed to drive people to your website where it must be easy to find a link to buy your book.

If you want more information about any of the above 10 tips, add a comment to this post to let me know.

I chose three sessions that dealt with character development. First, Marie Bostwick pointed out the importance of making the supporting characters well-rounded, even if they appear only once, – and how easy it is to do so. Then Andrew Peterson and Lissa Price addressed how to be sure the villain isn’t just a flat character who is 100% evil, a reminder that no character believes himself to be pure evil. Finally, Deeanne Gist rounded out the character development by showing how the hero of any story must change and how using the model of six stages, separated by five turning points, can move the character from lack of awareness of her true essence or identity through challenges that help uncover the longings, needs, wounds, and fears that have shaped her past and kept her from realizing her true essence or purpose, to self-awareness.

I sought out sessions about the challenges during the revision stage--finding those bits that don’t move either the plot or character development along quickly enough and might, therefore, cause the reader to stop. They need either revision or deleting (Lissa Price). Brennan Harvey’s presentation on world building was useful to help me realize my memoir should provide only enough information about a new place to ensure the reader can relate to what is familiar, at the same time as being intrigued by what is unfamiliar, so he will want to keep reading.

And I attended sessions on what to do once the book is done--the basics of query letters, again with Lissa Price, and metadata and subject codes, with Angela Bole. I was surprised at the number of people who were interested in the geeky topic of metadata, but Angela made it clear it is the heart of making sure books appear among results for the right audience. Martha Lawrence shared her experience on both sides of the author/editor divide (she is both but never for the same book) and addressed the full range of editing stages – macro editing, copy editing, line editing, and proofreading.

Since the La Jolla Writer’s Conference is held in November, which is also National Novel Writing Month, Marni Freedman’s session on how to use both plotter (outlining and planning in advance) and pantser (writing from the seat of one’s pants) approaches to writing was especially appropriate. Instead of choosing one approach, Marni recommends using both. She recommends two notebooks – one labeled “Plot” and the other “Pour.” As ideas come, she recommends writing them in the appropriate notebook until between the two, the storyline is clear.

I plan to be at the La Jolla Writer’s Conference again next year. Will you be there?

Early Bird registration which includes CDs of most of the 2015 presentations is open until December 15, 2015.

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