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Archive for January, 2015

Carol.Connie.Tracy.other.conferee.in.D.Rm.January 26, 2015

Getting the Most Out of a Writers Conference

Conferees.Anniv.Celebration.No.1

I suppose by now if you’ve followed any of my blog posts, you know I’m an ardent proponent of writers conferences. My personal preference is Christian writers conferences, but you can glean expertise from secular conferences as well. So, what can you do to get the most out of any writers conference you attend? Let’s look at a few key reasons why you should attend writers conferences:

  1. The first and most obvious reason is to attend conferences that best meet your needs to help you IMPROVE your writing. Other than joining a local critique group, attending writers conferences is going to provide you with the most excellent training you can receive. Do an online search and find those conferences that offer workshops focusing on your genres of interest. If you’re writing children’s picture books, why would you want to attend an adult fiction and romance conference?

Marshas.Class.Wk.in.Progress.2013Well, you say, conferences are expensive. That’s true, but they’re worth every penny you spend to learn your craft better and possibly land you a book contract or a sale. If you apply what you learn at conferences, you WILL eventually be published.

I’ll never forget the first conference I attended about 20 years ago. It was a Saturday conference on the PA/MD border. My hubby drove me there, and while I went to the workshops, he read books and newspapers and took a nap in the car. (God love his little pea-picking heart.) When I arrived at this conference, I thought I understood a little about writing. Well, I did understand A LITTLE about writing. I came home vowing to get to as many writers conferences as I could from that moment on because I admitted that I knew practically nothing about writing and publishing. It was an alarming day of revelation that I’ll never forget.

  1. 2. Secondly, and this is a no-brainer, attend as many conferences as possible, whether it be for one day or a week. And when you get there, go to as many classes as you can. Conference directors spend untold hours planning a schedule that gives the conferees invaluable information in the workshops. If you’re a beginner and you’re not sure which direction your writing is taking you, then go to a variety of different genre workshops and see if any of them challenge you to start a new project in a brand new genre. Who knows? That might be just the place your writing skills will jive and you’ll create a winner!The Porch

3. At the conference, plan to meet with editors and/or agents to have them review your work. Many conferences provide the opportunity for you to do this one-on-one (sometimes for a fee or many times as a perk). It’s a golden opportunity to possibly snatch a contract from a publishing house or pick up an agent who would represent you. Four of the book contracts I’ve had over the years resulted from meeting the editors at writers conferences. The least that might happen, which is still important, is for the editors/agents to suggest revisions that might make your manuscript publishable down the road.

4. Enjoy the fellowship of other writers. This is one of the best perks you’ll receive when you attend writers conferences. You’ll get to meet other people who are as “strange” as you are. Let’s face it. Writers are odd ducks, and, if you’re like the rest of us, your family and friends probably try to encourage you, but they really don’t understand you nor your passion to sit in front of a computer screen, possibly for six months to a year, writing a manuscript that might never see itself on a book store shelf or on Amazon. Only other writers understand the burning desire deep in your soul to get that story out before you burst. The writer friends you make at writers conferences will become life-long friends who will be there for you to Plastic.Ducks.on.Papercongratulate you in your successes and cry with you in your failures. The Internet has made the world so much smaller, which places these new friends only an e-mail or Facebook message away.

So there are four main reasons why you should consider attending writers conferences. I guarantee if you do make a habit to do so, you’ll come home a different person every time, determined more than ever to become a successful, published author.

Believe me, I know.

Don't.Stop.Believing

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January 19, 2015

Who Needs Writers Conferences Anyway?

 MCWC.Duck.Welcome.Sign.on.Porch.7.22.14

Since I’ve assumed the directorship of the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in Montrose, Pennsylvania (held this year from July 19th to the 24th), I guess there’s no better time to share my feelings about the importance of writers conference than now.

I think I attended my first writers conference in the late 90s and had an earth-shaking, eye-opening experience that changed my writing life. Since I had published a few poems, letters to the editor in the newspaper, and an article or two in some magazines, I thought I knew something and had a handle on writing when I went to the first conference, which was a one-Carol.Connie.Tracy.other.conferee.in.D.Rm.day event on the border of PA and MD. I sat there all day with my mouth hanging open in a variety of workshops , realizing I knew NOTHING about the writing/publishing world. From that moment on, I decided to attend as many Christian writers conferences as possible. From 1999, I’ve attended the Montrose Christian Writers Conference every year, and that conference has helped me become the writer I am today.

The best training you’ll ever receive is that which you’ll get by attending writers conferences. Next to your local critique group, writers workshops and conferences will give you the knowledge you need to become a better writer. The various workshops usually take you from A to Z concerning the writing/publishing business with fresh ideas for you to try. Do you have any idea at all how to market your book or start a blog? You’ll find out at most writers conferences PLUS a lot more.

You make new long-lasting writer friends, kindred spirits who think just like you do. (They don’t call us “Odd Ducks” for nothing.) When you’re writing in your home for months on end and no one in your family and your friends understand, it’s nice to have a list of writer friends to e-mail or call, just for encouragement. Where better to meet those folks than at writers Walk.w.Joan.and.Faith.at.Montroseconferences!

Writers conferences also offer you the opportunity to present your work face to face to agents and editors of publishing companies. I’ve acquired four of my book contracts by meeting editors or agents at Montrose. Most writers conferences attempt to have a faculty line-up, (including editors and agents) who represents various genres in the business:

Magazine articles and non-fiction books

Devotionals

Kids fiction and short stories

Humorous articles for newspapers and magazines

Poetry and screenwriting

Fiction (with numerous subgenres like fantasy, romance, Amish, etc.)

There’s always something at writers conferences for every writer of every genre. So if you’ve never been to a writers conference, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you’re dead serious about being a published author, then please plan to attend writers conferences. I can’t think of a better place to start than at Montrose this coming July! I’d love to see you there! (Visit the MCWC website http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx and review last year’s schedule. We’re working on this year’s faculty and will post new information as soon as possible.)

MLH.MCWC

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January 12, 2015

New Leadership at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference

A Grand Announcement from Patti Souder

Director of the Montrose Christian Writers Conference

Patti.+Anniv.Power.Point.2014

After 25 years of helping plan and coordinate the Montrose Christian Writers Conference, I am delighted to pass the Director’s Hat to Marsha Hubler, best-selling author of 20 books plus numerous articles and short stories, editor, teacher, mentor, and Mad Hatter for the surprise Tea Party Skit during MCWC’s Silver Celebration in 2014.

Marsha brings a wealth of leadership experience with her as founder and principal of the Kreamer Christian Academy for 14 years, coordinator of the Susquehanna Valley Writers Workshop for 11 years, and active member of the Susquehanna Valley Writers Critique Group for 15 years.

She also exudes a love for MCWC and the faculty and conferees, who make the writers conference so super.

Please welcome her royally and share the good news!

The Porch

Marsha’s Response

I am honored and humbled to be asked to assume the directorship of such a wonderful Christian conference that has blessed so many writers and helped them not only to be published but also to grow in the Lord. I am one of those authors.

I started coming in 1999 as a newbie and didn’t even know what a query letter was. Because of the Montrose Christian Writers Conference, I have progressed in my writing career far beyond what I would ever have imagined, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.

When I was asked to tackle this job, my first answer was, “No way!” However, as I prayed about it, God opened some doors and closed others, making it clear that I was to take on this monumental task. I know I’m following in the footsteps of a great director, who is well-loved and well-respected. Patti plans to stay involved but feels it’s time to pass the baton so she can focus on a variety of writing projects.

I pledge to continue MCWC’s spiritual emphasis and quality of faculty members and look forward to serving the faculty and conferees with the same servant’s heart I’ve seen in Patti. With God’s guidance and a great group of helpers, we expect to move forward in the heritage of past conferences that have blessed so many.

I covet your prayers.
MLH.MCWC

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January 5, 2015

Twelve Common Mistakes Found in Fiction Manuscripts

Baker’s Dozen!

Mistake Number Thirteen: Telling Not Showing

This is the thirteenth and last blog discussing some common mistakes found in fiction manuscripts from early readers and chapter books to adult novels of various subgenres. We’re finally coming to the end of this list with the Baker’s Dozen Special entitled “Telling Not Showing.”  Although I listed this one last, it’s one of the most common mistakes that surfaces in beginners’ writings, and, frankly, is not that easy to fix unless you know what all “showing” entails.

Too much description and narration

Switching viewpoints in the same scene

A negative tone throughout the story

Infallible or underdeveloped characters

Stilted or unnatural dialogue

No significant conflict

Weak transitions between paragraphs

Impossible resolutions

Redundancy

Passive verbs instead of active verbs

Lack of sensory detail

Lack of emotion or action

Baker’s Dozen: Telling not showing

Telling Not Showing

If you’ve attended any writers’ conferences or read any “how to” books, the one factor that exemplifies excellent writing that you’ve probably heard again and again…and again is to “show” action in your story and not “tell” it.

Now what exactly does that mean: “Show don’t tell”?

I remember in my early years of learning the craft, I wasn’t quite sure what those words meant. I listened to what the experts said, and I studied published fiction, looking for examples of showing not telling. Finally, the light bulb went on, and I got it. I finally realized that the difference between the two is merely the author’s choice of words, either clever or flat, to tell the same story.

So…let’s get to our three examples and examine the flat style of telling a story versus the page-turning style of showing a story. Please note that the storyline is exactly the same in both examples, but the choice of words makes all the difference in the world.

Example One:

Telling – The riders lined up their horses and looked at the waterfalls about 50 yards away. Above their heads was water over some rocks. It tumbled on more rocks that were even with the riders. The water made big white splashes and then was smooth. The waterfall droplets and sunlight made a rainbow, and off to one side a little stream flowed away from the waterfall and down the mountain. A breeze made the waterfall mist fly everywhere in the air, hitting the riders in the face. Skye was amazed.

Showing – Lining up their horses, the riders sat gawking at nature’s water show half a football field away. Far above their heads, the falls flooded over a table of rocks arrayed on both sides by the greenest trees Skye had ever seen.

The water thundered as it crashed down over more layers of rocks, tumbling, tumbling, until it splashed onto large boulders level with the riders. There, billows of white foam faded into ripples that quickly smoothed into a serene pool as clear as glass.

A rainbow arched in a stream of sunlight. Off to one side the pool overflowed, forming the gushing stream that had found its way down the mountain to form Lackawanna Lake. Fed by the falls, a steady breeze and fine mist saturated the cool air around the riders, welcoming them to the secret and special place.

From SUMMER CAMP ADVENTURE, Zonderkidz, 2010 (Keystone Stables Series Book 4)

Example Two:

Telling – Woody looked at the canteen when the door flew open. It hit the building hard. A small group of boys came running out who were very excited. They ran across the porch and down the steps. Mixed in with the boys were three men who were yelling for the boys to stop. The tallest man held on to his hat because he was afraid it was going to topple off his head.

Showing – The canteen door flew open with hurricane force and smacked against the building. Out barreled a small group of boys bubbling with unbridled excitement. With no immediate plan to stop, they rushed across the porch and stampeded down the steps. Caught in the whirlwind were three helpless men spinning like tops and yelling for the boys to stop. The tallest man was trying desperately to keep his bobbling black Stetson in place.

From THE SECRET OF WOLF CANYON, Sonfire Media, 2010

 

Example Three:

Telling – Slowly, he pulled her toward him.

“Please let me go,” Louellen said although she didn’t mean it. Her heart pounded loudly as she looked away and thought a lot about this situation.

David touched Louellen’s chin and made her look at him. His nice brown eyes looked at Louellen, and then he kissed her. She had never been kissed like that before.

Louellen closed her eyes and really liked the kiss and David’s affection. She finally felt love from a man. Her heart pounded faster, her thoughts were tender, and she was ready to give in when—

“Oh, nix!” Louellen yanked away from the man. “Oh, dear Gott, forgive me. I must go.” As she cried, she covered her mouth with her hands and ran out of the room.

Showing – Slowly, he drew her close.

“Please let me go,” Louellen said, unsure that she meant it at all. Heart throbbing, she looked down while she wrestled with her own emotions.

Touching her chin, David raised her gaze to his smiling face. His gorgeous brown eyes, pleading for a submissive response, looked deep into Louellen’s longing soul. And then….

He kissed her…softly…gently…tenderly…like she had never been kissed before.

Louellen closed her eyes, the warmth of David’s affection embracing her like a soft summer breeze. For the first time in her life, she felt loved by a man. Heart racing and her mind delirious with tender thoughts, her desire to resist vanished, and she—

“Oh, Dr. David, nix!” Louellen suddenly pulled away. “This cannot be! Oh, dear Gott in himmel, forgive me. I must go.” Eyes flooding with tears, she covered her mouth with her hands and ran out of the room.

From LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN, Helping Hands Press, 2012 (The Loves of Snyder County Book 3)

*****

Now, as you compared the telling examples with the showing ones, you should have noticed several distinct differences:

  1. The telling excerpts lacked poetic descriptive words.
  2. The telling excerpts sometimes lacked names of important places or people.
  3. The telling excerpts read like a newspaper report, i.e. “flat” writing.
  4. The telling excerpts are littered with passive voice and being verbs.

Although the stories are the same in each example, you can easily see how the clever use of words and phrases can offer the writer a contract instead another rejection letter. Check your fiction manuscript using a few of my tips, and you’ll begin to see a story shape up that is a page turner and possibly a best seller.

Keep on writing!

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