Last week, I attended CraftFest and ThrillerFest VIII, an annual event hosted by the International Thriller Writers (ITW) in New York City. Hundreds of writers packed the educational sessions that featured tips from bestselling authors and experts. Here are some things I learned about writing and marketing:
From Steve Berry, author of The King's Deception
- Every single story must have structure. The beginning, middle, and end are equally important.
- The beginning (Act 1) should be 20% of the book. In it, you establish character, conflict, and the crucible (the thing that gets a character to do what they'd otherwise never do).
- The middle (Act 2) is 60% of the book. It should be a series of complications.
- The end (Act 3) is 20% of the book. It includes the crisis point (the moment when everything comes to a peak) and the conclusion.
From Michael Connelly, author of The Black Box & The Lincoln Lawyer
- If you want to write series fiction, forget about writing a series and just focus on writing one book. If you concentrate on not sowing seeds for future books, those seeds will be sown anyway.
- If you have momentum as a writer, the reader will have momentum with your passages.
- The history you create for your character will help you create future books. Layer in the character's past to plant seeds for your series (but don't get bogged down with backstory).
- The best part of writing is that first draft, but then you have to assess what you have. Rewriting really makes books come together.
The team with Michael Connelly
From David Morrell, author of Murder as a Fine Art & First Blood
- Be a first rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of another author.
- Writing is a vocation, not a profession.
- For setting, choose a location and mine it for everything it can give to you. Forget about sight and concentrate on feeling. When someone says writing is one-dimensional or flat, it's because the writer is relying too much on sight, almost like looking at an image on a movie screen. If you incorporate two other senses, you'll create more textured details and make readers feel like they're more in the setting.
David Morrell signs books
From Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, authors of Two Graves
- Getting a writing partner is like getting married; that's where the real work begins. (D.P.)
- Find a writing partner whose experience, knowledge, talent and discipline matches your own. (L.C.)
- You need to be able to take criticism and have a thick skin. Check your ego at the door. (L.C.)
- Rather than assigning chapters, assign sequences to each other. Then you can merge them and revise so there's no change in prose style and they're seamless.
- With a writing partner, divide everything 50/50. But you'll always FEEL like you're doing three-quarters of the work. (D.P.)
From Leonardo Wild, author of Artificial Self
- When you are writing, you should analyze what subtext you'll be bringing out in your turning points. You can achieve subtext by microdetailing, omission, or hinting.
From M.J. Rose, author of Seduction
- No book is dead anymore. Every book is new to a reader who's never heard of it.
From C.J. Lyons, author of Blind Faith, winner of ITW's Best eBook Original Novel award
- Every author has the chance to become the CEO of his or her own global publishing empire.
- Here's the secret: Write a great book. Give your readers time to find it and tell their friends. Repeat.
From Kristen Lamb, author of Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World
- If you're a novelist, you're a storyteller. "High-concept" blogging is universal, emotional, and it gives the reader something to contribute or take away. It has a higher potential to go viral than just posting about the writing process or "buy my book." You'll also be able to reach past the small pool of avid readers into the much larger pool of people who read more casually.
- With a blog, you're creating something personal, emotional, and becoming a friend. If you can hook someone with a 500-word blog, it's not a stretch that you'll hook them for 50,000.
From Meryl Moss, founder/president of Meryl Moss Media Relations
- Figure out how the material in your book relates to what people are passionate about out in the world. That's what you should blog about.
- When marketing, build from the inside. Getting your regional audience excited about your book is still a good idea.
From Douglas E. Richards, author of Wired
- People think that giving books away means less sales, but that's not true. You never run out of purchasers, and those people will lead to word of mouth. Everybody doesn't have to love your book, but the people who do must love it so passionately that they tell all their friends about it.
From Dana Kaye, publicist
- When reaching out to the media, you should be thinking creatively. There are more ways to pitch yourself than just saying you're an author. Don't dismiss your background, hobbies, or day job - they're interesting and could be media pitches.
From Kathleen Murphy, media specialist
- Get to the point within a couple seconds when working with the media. They won't have time to read long emails.
- Video and audio is where everything is going on social media, especially video. The media and readers need to hear and see you.
It was great fun seeing so many authors networking, sharing stories, learning from one another, and getting advice from bestsellers. You may want to consider joining a similar organization that gives you the chance to collaborate with your peers. Next up, you'll find us at the Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta July 17-19 and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference in Seattle July 25-27.
Are you part of any writing organizations?
Amanda is the editor of CreateSpace's educational resources and social media channels.
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