Monday, November 17, 2014

Notes from the 2014 Indiana Writing Workshop

The workshop was run by Chuck Sambuchino who works for Writer's Digest and edits the Guide to Literary Agents, besides writing his own books. It was full of great insights, and I've put a few together for everyone. Please pardon the fact that the tidbits jump all over the place and are in no particular order.

And don't miss a chance to see Chuck Sambuchino in person if he comes to your area. He is both informative and hilarious. The day flew past! Please follow him and check out Writer's Digest for so much more advice and information.

Tips and Information about writing, agents, and querying:

-Wattpad and other internet services which allow you to put up parts of your manuscript are okay. But take down that information when you start to query and avoid putting it on your blogs.

-Write for love and for money. Meaning do some projects specifically because they are commercial.

-Your publisher should help with getting the rights to use song lyrics or quotes in your manuscript. They can tell you what has to be taken out of your manuscript.

-Agents form a partnership with you and their job is to be the bad cop. (I really like this analogy.) They deal with any problems you have with your publisher or other source so you can stay on everyone's good side.

-Italics and exclamation marks are crutches in a manuscript that writers use to convey intensity. Let your writing convey the urgency and avoid a flood of !!!

-Telling in dialogue is used to lead the reader. Dialogue still needs to be something a character would actually say. For example: Mom, have you seen my lucky pen that I took when visiting my favorite tourist attraction and that won me my Pulitzer?  Wouldn't Mom already know all these details and putting them in the sentence is merely to inform the reader?  

-Seven parts of query: introduce the main character, something unique about them or their motivation, inciting incident, basic plot of the book, how does it get complicated, unclear wrap-up, and stakes.

-Make your query full of specific details. This is so important and several examples were given from movies. Avoid cliche. After reading much query slush in contests, I totally agree with this one.

-Chapter one traps- starts too slow, lacks tension, conflict or a problem/trouble, avoid information dumps, the less you tell the more good questions you raise.

-Recognize the value of your past work and steal from it. For example stretching out shorts into full length stories. I did this with a short story and it's the manuscript that landed my agent.

-Success is directional proportional to the time you put it in.

Tips and Information about traditional versus self-publishing: 

-Traditional publishing gives you help with your manuscript and costs you nothing in return. You get some marketing, editing, book covers, placement in bookstores. In return you give up more royalties, it's much slower, and you are at the whim of others.

Self-publishing lets you keep control, it's faster and there are lots of options out there. The royalties are all yours. Quality can be inferior and there is still a stigma attached. Plus you are responsible for everything unless you pay someone. It can be hard to sell subsidiary rights. 

-The best way to make money after you're a know writer is to self-publish your short stories and any side-works yourself. Use traditional publishing to spread your name brand, then you can rely on your name recognition to makes self-publishing sales and keep the royalties for yourself.

-Fiction is only 25% of book store floor space.

-If self-publishing, a series is better from a marketing standpoint.

Tip and Information on Writer Platform:

-Fiction writers also need platform as a marketing tool.

-You have to provide value for readers with your blog or social media. You have include valuable information that keeps people coming back. Something people want.

-Consider joint blogs with other writers and guest blog posts.

-Feel free to learn by example and 'steal' ideas from other blogs.

-Evolve your blog with trial and error.

-Always have the end goal in mind-- making real connections with your followers/readers.

-Don't forget newsletters and mailing lists.

-Keep in mind search results when titling your blog posts and beginning paragraphs.

Those are the things that stood out to me at the conference. I hope they'll be helpful to you also. I had a great time meeting friends face to face for once and getting to know new people!

What's something amazing you learned at a conference?


  1. Thanks for sharing, Michelle. Great tips!

  2. I saw you there and kept meaning to come over and say 'hi', but never made it. =( It was a really fun day, and Chuck is SO funny.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing! I wondered how your first conference went! Glad it was a wonderful experience for you!