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Here are some upcoming writing conferences in the Connecticut/New York area:
This year, they’re hosting 11 editors and agents who will hear your pitches in all categories, YA, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal Romance and other genres too like Sci Fi and Horror. If you’re a fiction writer, you don’t want to miss this once a year opportunity.
Register by going to www.ctrwa.org and clicking on the Fiction Fest tab.
The price is pretty reasonable for members of CTRWA / CORW / CoLoNY Member $ 79.00 and $ 99.00 for non-members. And I’ll be there too!
The impressive schedule of events includes panels of Edgar nominated authors discussing YA mysteries, the reality of the writing life, and how to write a novel. The day ends with a cocktail party with agents ( you must sign up for this in advance).
The cost is $90 for MWA members and $125 for non-members.
In addition, MWA has scheduled a book signing for April 26th, a happy hour for April 25th, and the Edgar banquet on April 28th.
I’m planning to make a week of it in the city.
Backspace Conference: May 26-28th in New York, NY. Targeted at all aspiring authors.
This is a phenomenal conference for stepping into the publishing world. You get to meet agents, who give you feedback on your query letter and first two pages. Top notch panels including topics on the craft of writing, social networking, what agents want from authors, and how to write a query letter.
I have attended this twice and my abilities grew exponentially because of the informative panels, the agent interaction, networking with published authors, and bonding with other unpublished authors. This conference is a definite stepping stone to publication.
Attendees can choose to attend 1-3 days of the conference. Day 3 is a not-to-be-missed all day workshop with Donald Maass. Pricing ranges from $150-700. I won’t be here this time, but will be attending the November Backspace conference.
There are loads of other conferences out there. Many are listed in The Writer and Writer’s Digest magazine. These are three that I found very useful in the spring. You can also search my blog under the tag “conferences” for more info on conferences I attended.
In the summer, Killer Nashville is a favorite. But I’ll be in Asia then.
I got a good night’s rest and starting working on revisions…but I wanted to recap more from the Agent-Author Day at the Backspace Writer’s Conference.
The “Query Letters That Work” panel did a great job covering what genres they accept and what does and doesn’t work in a query. It helped to be reminded that they read hundreds of queries a week, which means the less said the less to critique. They like 1 page queries with 4-5 paragraphs at most. But reminded us to err on the side of brevity by keeping it short and sweet. They also reminded us not to send attachments.
As far as openings and closings, word count, genre and title are helpful in the first paragraph though some prefer it in the last paragraph. My advice? Check out Chuck Sambuchino’s blog Guide to Literary Agents and click on the Successful Queries section and see if the agent your querying posted there. Then you get a better idea of individual preferences.
They stressed the middle paragraph’s importance in creating a sense of story and CONFLICT. The query is to entice the agents to keep reading. One warning was that if you are going to compare your work to other writers in the query, make sure you deliver on it in the writing. Referrals by a published author are always useful too.
Most understood the need for simultaneously querying, but expect to be notified if a partial (part of your manuscript was requested by another agent after you queried them) is out to other agents. Also it is very important to keep track or what editors have read and rejected you work. Titles are frequently changed by the publisher–just an FYI.
Another question came up about querying a series–is it better to mention or not to mention in the query letter? Some agents like to know, others will ask if they like your book. It’s okay to mention briefly but keep in mind you are querying this book not the series.
By the way, writing up my notes, the comments start to click in my head and I have an Aha! moment. Hence the pic.
Onto the actual Query Letter Workshop. I was in the Mystery/Thriller Group. First off, my group rocked. Awesome people, great writers–big hello to Leon, Beverly, Susan, Nora, and Wendy–who also hung out with me throughout the rest of the conference.
We had Natanya Wheeler and Jeff Kleinman as the agents reviewing our queries. Some of the tips/comments they made during their critiques included:
- No passive voice in the query letter (e.g., she is xyz)
- There is no necessity for a log line. It can be worked into the pitch paragraph
- The query should have a clear distinct voice and be to the point
- There is no right way to do it, but you have to get the agent to want to read the first page of your manuscript
- Get in fast and dazzle people
- Agents are desperate for great stuff
- Keep adjectives to a minimum
- 60-85K is a good length for a mystery
- Writing is rejected usually because the writing isn’t strong enough or the premise isn’t interesting
- Agents want tight brief letters
- A 100,000 word manuscript=scary in a first time author
In the afternoon session, we read our first two pages to Lois Winston and Kristen Neuhaus. General comments included:
- First time authors make the mistake of thinking in terms of movies, having a panoramic scan of the landscape and then zooming in on the character
- You do not need to engage all five senses in all scenes, only have the senses that are important to the scene
- Only describe what is important to the scene
- Writers don’t finish manuscripts they abandon them
- Don’t have info dumps/backstory
Then it was on to the next panel: The Wow Factor
Every agent talked about the need for brevity and directness in the queries and also the importance of doing your homework to know what the agent represents. Check the query guidelines on the website. Agents want to be drawn into it. Agents read literary journals as another source of potential clients to represent. Becoming a referral is also another good route to an agent.
Next was the Keynote Address by Lorenzo Carcaterra. Highlights included:
- Make it your business to know your business
- Research editors–know their hits and flops
- Be well read because it all feeds into the process (books, blogs, publishing industry magazines/websites, etc.)
- You get rejected 95-98% of the time because “No” is the easiest thing to say. “Yes” sets things in motion and can require money (especially if it’s an editor “Yes”)
- Pitching is like a military maneuver. You only need 1 “Yes” for an agent and a book
- If you believe it is a good idea never ever give up on it. Eventually it will sell
- Timing is everything–you need the right guy at the right time in the right place
- Getting the first agent is harder than falling in love
I stayed for the optional Polish Your Pitch workshop. This is specific to an oral pitch. Here are some things that were discussed:
- Pitch=what your book is about
- Pitch should be clear, concise and compelling
- Pitch length=3-5 sentences
- Pitch goal is to tell and sell it to an audience. Talk about the protagonist, the basic plot and the catalyst
- So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me?=3 main questions answer in pitch=who was it about? what happens to him/her? what is at stake?
- They recommended reading How to Write a Mystery by Larry Beinhart
- The recommended thinking about old TV shows like the Odd Couple or Brady Bunch–the theme songs functioned as the pitch
- Tell what the story is about, show what it’s about. Use very few adjectives
- Pitch=premise and plot
- Oral pitch should have short punchy sentences, so it can be immediately taken in by listener
- Think Nightmare on Elm Street pitch–Do Dreams Kill?
Stayed tuned tomorrow and Wednesday for summaries of the next two days of the conference.
That got your attention, right?
Sex scenes are fun to write until you realize who will be reading it. Like your parents. Cringeworthy. What got me thinking about this? A post on the Backspace Blog by Randy Susan Meyers. I think she is very on target about how a sex scene can add to the book and give you insight into the character’s psyche if done right. I love the reference to avoiding the format of ”insert Tab A in slot B.” Priceless. The example she uses is awesome for how a sex scene need not be a blow-by-blow description yet can evoke all the emotions involved.
In The Curse of the Radcliffe Rubies, my characters have romantic entanglements, there are some steamy make out scenes, but I faded out for the rest.
Was it a cop-out? I don’t think so. I didn’t feel the sex scenes were necessary for the story. That’s not to say that they won’t be essential in my next book. But they have to be a part of the story.
I love the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton. She writes amazingly steamy, passionate, sometimes painful sex scenes. The sex is key to the character development and the complicated relationships Anita has with everyone in her life because of who she is and what she is becoming. I would argue every sex scene is absolutely necessary in that series.
With The Curse of the Radcliffe Rubies, however, I hesitated to go there. I tried anyway and it felt awkward. I scaled back and let the scene unfold and flow and nothing went beyond making out (onscreen anyway). Bottom line, I felt like I was true to the characters. I also found for my characters sometimes the scene was a description of sensations, other times more about their emotional responses to it.
So tell me what do you think makes a good sex scene in a book? And what makes it feel completely unnecessary/not enjoyable as a reader?