Input, Please: Platform & Online Presence

I’m currently tweaking a talk I’m giving on platform & online presence next week at the Scribblers’ Retreat Writers Workshop in St. Simons Island, Ga.

It’s intended to be “the basics”/making these things accessible and “easy,” and I’m just wondering:

What are, say, the top 3 things you’d expect to learn from a session like that?

Would love to hear your input.

Advertisements

Pointers from the Pros: Author David Rocklin Talks Visibility & Etiquette

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and Write-Brainiac J.M. Lacey.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference on St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers. Author David Rocklin spoke on Friday of the retreat.

His first novel, The Luminist, already in print in Italy (Neri Pozza) and Israel (Kinneret), will make its U.S. debut in the fall of 2011 (Hawthorne).

Rocklin grew up in Chicago and graduated from Indiana University with a BA in Literature. After attending law school, he pursued a career as an in-house attorney and continues to serve as a mediator. He currently lives in California with his wife and children.

Here are some key points from his program on “Visibility at All Cost”:

  • It is difficult to see our own writing [for what it is] until someone else sees it. When two, three or four people start pointing out the same thing in your writing, you have to seriously look at what they are telling you.
  • With the many avenues open to publish our work and build platform—such as Twitter, blogs, print-on-demand—as the number of writers rise, so does cynicism.
  • The abundance of publishing outlets give rise to self-destructive traits.  “We have the tendency to say the first draft is good,” he says. “[But] writing is rewriting. The first draft is nothing.” He cautions against putting our work “out there” when it’s not ready to be seen and it is not at the level it needs to be. If the work is not ready, the writer ruins it for the next debut author. The goal should not be speed and quantity. The goal should be about quality; finding that emotional capture.
  • When querying agents, target specific representatives for your work. Let the agent know why you chose him/her. The agents want to know you’ve done your homework. Check the Web site Preditors and Editors.
  • You need a sense of humor. When you put your writing into the world, it’s no longer your work. Pick your battles. Working with publishers, editors and agents is a fantastic learning process.
  • Read your work out loud. That is how you catch mistakes.
  • Read all the time. If you don’t read, you’re not writing.
  • Don’t make writing for a living the chase. Your voice will get lost. Live your life and protect the thing you need to do: write.
  • Our first action is we write because we have to. The choice is to write to make others see our work.
  • Never trash yourself as a writer. Others will, so don’t do it to yourself.

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and pr consultant. She is working on a novel to be visible to the world. Visit her Web site and blog.


Pointers from the Pros: Author Jonathan Rabb on “Place as Character”

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and Write-Brainiac J.M. Lacey.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

Author Jonathan Rabb spoke on the Friday of the retreat.

Rabb is the author of the critically acclaimed historical novels Rosa and Shadow and Light, the first two books in a trilogy set in Europe between the wars. The final installment, The Second Son, will be published by Farrar Straus & Giroux early in 2011.

Prior to the trilogy, the Yale and Columbia graduate wrote The Overseer and The Book of Q and contributed essays and reviews to Opera News and the collection I Wish I’d Been There (Doubleday). He won the international Dashiell Hammett prize at the Spanish Semana Negra Festival in 2006 for Rosa, and he teaches creative writing at both NYU and SCAD.

Rabb

Here are some key points from Jonathan’s program on “Place as Character in Historical Fiction”:

On Research—

  • In historical fiction, you have to feel you “own” what you are writing. The author must have strict authority over that world. You only have about 20 pages to capture the reader’s certainty and confidence in your knowledge. Creating this kind of authority requires a lot of research.
  • Don’t trust the Internet for your research. Reach out to academics. Read their books and ask for their help.
  • Read novels written during the time period your novel is set in (if possible). Find material written in the voice of that time.
  • Once you’ve done the research, you must let it go. You are telling a story, and the story has to have its own life.
  • In historical fiction, everyone knows the end. The writers and readers share an intimacy by knowing more than the characters.

Place as Character—

  • Make Place a character. The only way characters can be compelling is if the space surrounding them is a character. Space defines the relationship with a character.
  • Inject something of the characters in the place. Have tension and conflict exist between the person and the space.
  • While we’re careful not to write a character doing something out of character, the same rule works for place. Don’t write something out of character for the place. Don’t invent a left turn for a real street if, in reality, you can’t make that left turn.

 

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and PR consultant. She is working on a place-as-character-driven novel. Visit her Web site and blog.

Pointers from the Pros: Author Vincent Coppola on Pitching Nonfiction Projects

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and WB member J.M. Lacey.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

The award-winning Vincent Coppola spoke on Friday of the retreat.

Coppola’s journalistic career spans more than 25 years—ten of which he spent at Newsweek, where he covered the early AIDS epidemic, the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the Atlanta child murders. As well, he has written feature stories for magazines including Tina Brown’s Talk, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, Worth, Redbook and Atlanta.

In addition, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism grad has written three nonfiction books: The Sicilian Judge: Anthony Alaimo, an American Hero; Quest: A Search for a Soul for Modernkind; and Uneasy Warriors: Coming Back Home: The Perilous Journey of the Green Berets.

Here are some key points from Coppola’s program on “Pitching Nonfiction Ideas to Agents/Editors and Crafting Book Proposals”:

In General—

  • Look for an idea no one has had before.
  • Give people a voice.
  • Writing is more inclusive than feeding our own egos and souls. We can do good and serve a larger cause.
  • Think about what makes you unique to write a story—your background, where you grew up, etc.

“I was a working-class kid among the Ivy League elite.”

—Coppola (He was one of three out of his graduating class hired by Newsweek.)

On Book Proposals—

  • A bad idea is worse than none.
  • Why is this idea unique? Argue and explain why the concept is special. If your viewpoint is not original, you have to convince someone why it’s going to be a bestseller like the similar book(s) that is (are) out there.
  • A nonfiction book proposal typically runs 35 pages. The proposal shows the publisher/agent you are a good writer, that you’ve done your research, and that you have a good grasp of the story.
  • Sections:
    • 1) Seduction.
      • Why this person, event, movement.
      • Why this is a story.
    • 2) Audience.
      • Who is the audience? There has to be an identifiable readership.
    • 3) Detailed outline.
      • Chapter by chapter. This is your selling proposition. If the proposal is accepted, the book is ready with the chapter synopses.
  • Submit a real sample chapter. This is where you really seduce the publisher/agent.

On Agents—

  • Agents are flooded with book proposals. But there are hungry agents—young agents who will look at a manuscript.
  • There is always room for a good story. If you have a story, can tell a story, you will be successful.

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and PR consultant. She is working on a novel that gives voice to two unique subjects. Visit her Web site and blog.

Pointers from the Pros: Anna DeStefano on the Character-Driven Story

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and SWO member J.M. Lacey.

I attended the August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., which featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

Anna DeStefano, a nationally bestselling and multiple award-winning author of classic romance for Harlequin and Silhouette and contemporary paranormal romantic suspense for Dorchester Publishing, spoke on Saturday.

Here are some key points from her program on “The Character-Driven Story”:

  • Character comes first, then the plot. Why? Readers have to connect with your characters through emotion. True storytellers will make the reader care about the character rather than the situations the character finds him/herself in.
  • Agents and publishers need to connect emotionally with your story. If they can’t connect with your characters—ergo your story—they will pass on your manuscript.

  • Really understand your character in the planning process. Story and character are the same thing. Every time an event changes in your story, the character has to change. Create experiences through your character for the reader instead of telling the reader what the character is actually doing.
  • In the planning stages, start with your Inciting Incident. This happens early, where the character is drawn into and committed to the story—whether it’s a problem, obstacle or tragedy.
  • Next, map out your Black Moment. For example, is the character still struggling with the same thing at the end? This is the emotional dynamic, the lesson.
  • Finally, create the backstory that will take your plot to a new level. Developing the character’s backstory and past will help you move forward in the creation process, but this doesn’t mean to reveal the character’s past to your reader. This will come out in your character’s experiences (see point three). Get the character from the inciting incident to the black moment.

  • Put some thought into why the characters in your story are doing what they are doing, before they do it. Understand your characters as well as, if not better than, your plot.
  • Figure out the emotional conflict from the beginning of the story. At mid-point, throw in more obstacles. At the end, the character needs to make a decision.

  • Make every scene count. In each scene, your character should have a motive, goal and conflict. Otherwise, you are wasting space. The conflict should escalate. Create tension to drive the reader to know more about the conflict.

DeStefano concluded by prompting the audience to think about the difficulty in changing our plot if a publisher asked us to do so. If we have developed strong characters that we know well, changing plot shouldn’t be an enormous challenge.

OVERALL TAKEAWAY

Character is plot, and plot is character.

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and PR consultant. She is working on a character-driven novel. Visit her Web site and blog.