Besides all the wonderful people I saw at conference, besides the fantastic roomies and the terrific luncheon speakers and the marvelous fun of watching the Golden Heart and Rita awards ceremony (though afterward it got to be way too much for my sense of balance, sigh), there were, first and foremost, the workshops.
This year there were a LOT of workshops on self-publishing. Of which I took, oh, um, none. But I’m not worried, I know the information is out there and I have some very good friends to lean on if I decide to go that route. But the point is, RWA is changing. Yes, slowly, but they’re changing. So huge props and kudos to them.
Of the workshops that I did take, well, I just flipped through my notebook full of notes. I learned so much, and reading through it refreshed my memory – but there’s far too much to share! So I’ll just do snippets.
Christyne Butler did an awesome workshop on the “Soapy Way to Writing Category”. In a nutshell? Watch the soaps. THAT’s how to write category. Each character’s voice is distinctive (which should be true no matter what you write); don’t waste words on places that aren’t a big part of the story. Plus she quoted Jenny Cruisie’s 2003 keynote speech – “don’t be a writer, be a storyteller”. It was the last workshop time of the conference – and I won a “Save the Cat” book by Blake Snyder! Very pleased, as I’ve been wanting that book. But I REALLY enjoyed Christyne’s presentation.
Tamara Hogan and Susan Sey gave a workshop on writing villains – they urged us to “embrace our inner sociopath”. “A great villain forces you to create a great hero.” This resonated with me, seeing as how I’ve got to really ramp up my villain in my Demon series. This one wasn’t recorded, but they were very funny and I learned a lot.
Erin Quinn gave a wonderful workshop on the Simply Organic Structure, which I’m definitely going to use in my next book. She highly recommends daily goals, and to keep track for a week or so to see how much, really, that you write in a day. Because as she put it, “if you don’t know how you do what you do, how can you replicate it?” Good question. This is definitely a workshop to listen to if you have access to the CDs from the conference.
Harlequin Blaze Author Tawny Weber (one of my FAVs) and Blaze editor Brenda Chin gave an excellent workshop on “everything I learned about writing I learned from writing category romance”. The important stuff in category? The Foundation. Hooks, Plot, Character and Pacing. First, know what line you want to write. Next, character and voice are paramount – everything else can be fixed. The Blaze books are about 50/50 in both the hero and heroine’s POV. Plus, the reader must love the hero right off the bat. Remember, the heroine is just like you and me – connect with the heroine’s fears quickly. Plus the love scenes MUST move the story forward. (Okay, here my notes degenerate into scribbles. But trust me, this is a MUST LISTEN if you want to write for Blaze in particular.)
I’ve been reading a LOT of Blaze books lately, and I can tell you they are similar in one area – they are highly charged, emotional, sexy books with main characters you fall in love with. But that’s it. The field is wide open there as far as story lines go, which makes me very happy. The voice that sells the best is a light, humorous, snarky one, but they accept other voices as well.
As a side note, I got to spend some time with Brenda at conference – it felt like those first two days, we kept bumping into each other, which was fun. We chatted about kayaking and camping (neither of which I have done in too long, drat it anyway) and all in all, my editor-crush is still in full bloom. I also had a formal pitch session to her (my pitch sucked, and she called me on it, lol) and she helped me wrestle out a plot. I can’t wait to dig into it and am doing research on the sly, in between words on the current book (which MUST get done by the end of August). Seeing both her and Tawny so soon after Desert Dreams was too cool. I also got to meet Blaze author Rhonda Nelson, and I really enjoy her writing so that was neat!
I was absolutely delighted to sit in on a workshop by Yasmine Galenorn, an online friend and the author of the Otherworld series which I love. Titled “From Witches to Dragons”, she made a clear delineation between paranormal romance and urban fantasy. The goal in PR is saving the relationship. In UF, the goal is saving the world. That, right there, was a big ah ha! moment for many in the audience.
She had something to say about villains, too – she said the most interesting ones are the intelligent tricksters. And sex scenes? She says to get comfortable saying the words out loud. Make the sex scenes emotional, find that connection between the two (or more) and make the reader feel it.
Plus use the magic of “What if”!
So that’s all for now…my brain is exploding again with all the good info. Sorry there aren’t any pretty pictures. I’ve sworn off them for now while I figure out the new WANATribe picture sharing stuff.
On a SIDE Note – a book club organizer has contacted me about coming to speak to their club – they’re going to be reading DEMON HUNT next! Yay!
Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for your patience with me – I promise to get back to the wine blogs this week. Pinky-swear!
Great post Christine! I had such a great time, too, my brain is STILL processing the endless social media and marketing classes I tended to stick to. Interesting stuff!!!
Thanks, Sasha – it was great to see you there!
I’m glad they’re changing. There are a lot of talented people who are self-publishing.
Marian, you are absolutely right, there are a lot of people self-publishing. I personally don’t want to work that hard (yet), and I also don’t have the money. Some folks think self-pubbing is free – well, not so much. But I do admire the folks who do it!
I hate to be a rabble rouser here, but I honestly think everyone contemplating a career writing category romance should read this first: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/05/harlequin-fail.html
I will say, however, that the publishers seem to be moving quite rapidly – for them! – in the direction of being more author-friendly.
Good post! Thanks for sharing your RWA thoughts!
Thanks for the link to Konrath, Diane. I have read this. But you see, for me, I’ve wanted to be a Harlequin writer since I started reading them at the age of 12.
Harlequin as well as RWA will be forced to do some changing, I expect. In the meantime, Entangled Publishing is also putting out category-length novels, so that’s a good way to go as well. Just because HQ has been the dominant leader in category doesn’t mean they always will be….and learning to write short and heartfelt is not a bad thing, in my opinion.
The thing to remember is that category-length fiction and Harlequin are no longer interchangeable – especially with the self-pubbing option now available.
Thanks for the thoughtful post!
If HQN is your dream … go for the dream. Because nothing else will be quite so satisfying. Good luck to you!
Mmm…not sure I’d call it a dream. A need, maybe. But then I come from a family of writers. I’m happily pubbed elsewhere, but yeah – I hope I can crack HQ. So many talented authors are writing for them, lots of whom had gone on to single title careers with other houses and are now back at HQ. I have to think that means something.
But we shall see.
I also had a great conference, but it seemed to flash by in a second. I didn’t attend nearly enough workshops this year so very much appreciate your tidbits. And yes, I’m proud that RWA is addressing may of the changes and continuing to move forward.
Dear Roben, you had far too many other exciting things to do this conference! I plan on giving the conference CDs a good listen to when I get a chance.
This is awesome, Christine! I love when writers share what they learned at a conference. It sounds like RWA was a treasure trove of information and insight. Enjoy applying it all to your writing now!
Hey Julie, thanks for stopping by. Did you get my tweet last week about Flock wine for the wedding present?
Yeah, I could have shared more, but it is all so overwhelming.
Thanks for sharing, Christine. I intend to buy a few of the recordings to listen to. It’s good to know which ones were useful. I have the Save the Cat book. It’s excellent.
Shelley, good to know about the Save the Cat book – I’ve heard it’s awesome. Haven’t had a moment to crack it, though!
thanks for sharing! Love your impressions and tidbits. Makes me feel (almost) that I was there.
Jenna Bayley Burke also has some VERY detailed notes on her blog from the workshops she attended. I’ve been skating around learning from all of you.
My pleasure, Cathryn! I’ll have to check in on Jenna’s posts. I’m always in learning mode!
Conference was amazing. Now, I didn’t attend any workshops on self-pubbing either, and possibly not enough workshops in general, but for me, just watching the show was vastly educational. Thanks for sharing.
RWA conference can be so overwhelming. It’s crazy busy. I’m glad you were able to go this year and enjoyed it.