Home from ACFW Conference

Nashville 1What an amazing week! I don’t know where to begin–except with my favorite part. The people.

Conference time provides a wonderful opportunity to meet in person people who you see only in social media pics. They’re taller, shorter, bigger, smaller, more or less beautiful than their online images, but you recognize them. You know them by their smiles and sparkling eyes, and even if you have to spend time reminding each other who you are, the hugs are immediate and special.

Nashville 3 Maass bAdd to that lessons presented by some of the best names in the business. For instance, Donald Maass, the fuzzy figure on the right. Author of some of the best writing books out there and one of the most pursued agents in the business, Mr. Maass spent several hours with us in the Early Bird session guiding us through writing techniques intended to bring us deeper into characterization and plot. I’ll write more about our session as time goes on, but let me tell you–by the time the course was over, I had a clear idea of how to finish my current novella WIP, Kayla’s Challenge, how to amp up Skydiving to Love, and how to add depth to the novels I’m currently sketching out.

In Nashville BillyThis year, we also had the opportunity to participate in the new ACFW Marketplace. This is where my sweet Billy really had a chance to shine. We bought a quarter of a table–sharing it with three other friends/authors. MSB babysat the entire table for us when we were gone to the different classes and functions associated with the conference. In fact, he joined me in volunteering to help get things ready before the conference began. There are a number of husband-wife teams that attend and work the conference, and I’m happy that we were among them this year.

Being with a group of people—numbering around 600 this year—who are passionate about the same things you are is one of the most wonderful experiences around. Talking about plots, characters, publishing, editing, marketing—everything pertaining to the business with people who understand where you’re coming from is fantastic, but even more awesome is knowing that we also have in common our faith in an amazing God. Whatever denomination we belong to, once we’re there, we’re all simply His children–not Baptist or Methodist or whatever, but simply children of a loving King. We support and love each other, root for each other, help each other. One big ol’ mass of God-loving writers. Brings tears to my eyes even now.

I’ll provide more info in my newsletter from the personal side of the conference, and here and on AuthorCulture (starting Wednesday) of what I learned during the conference. My brain needs time to review and process everything. There is so much! I didn’t sleep worth a flip while I was there. Did my best to keep the evening hours of a conference full of friends, but I still woke up during my regular hours between four and five–and worse, between one and three! So everything I learned is all helter-skelter in my tired brain. (Though when we got home, I went to bed around three p.m. and slept for twelve straight hours. That helps.)

PB the cat is happy we’re home. I have a mound of laundry and paperwork and an astounding list of writing and business related to-dos to get to, not to mention simply stepping back into my normal life. After a fairy-tale week, it’s going to be difficult to return to my rut, but at least in my rut I can get things done.

More later, kids.

 

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Especially for Writers

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Writing–from the sublime ideal to the grudging reality. And still we love it.

 

 

 

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Favorite Marketing Technique

 

Linda W Yezak - SW March 2016

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New Christian Literary Journal

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Got this in my email recently:

Hi, Linda. I got your contact information off the WOTS blog. If you’re not the right person to contact, please accept my apologies. 

First of all, bless you and your chapter for fostering what is sometimes an overlooked art form. As an editor and a Christian I’m sometimes dismayed at how little encouragement writers of faith get from the faith community. Like the visual and performing arts, writing can and should be a great ministry for the glory of God.

That’s why we recently started a new literary journal called Greater Sum. Greater Sum is a journal of prose and faith meant to help cultivate and encourage the (growing) community of Christian writers with specific emphasis on fiction and creative & narrative nonfiction. While there are outlets for Christian creative writing—especially poetry—there simply aren’t many active journals publishing Christian fiction & nonfiction. We want to fix that. Writers are a tremendous asset to the church, and story is one of the great art and teaching forms.

I’m a decade into a career as an editor, but most of my work has been direct with authors or for organizations. I get tremendous joy out of helping writers one-on-one and through the classes I teach at libraries, conferences, seminars, etc. But it’s time to do more with my experience in publishing and editing, and I’m excited to help foster contemporary Christian prose writers.

I hope you’ll pass on our information to your writing group if there are writers actively seeking publication, and I will happily answer any questions you or writers have. Our website is www.agreatersum.com. Thank you very much for your time.

Marcus Corder
Editor
Greater Sum: A Journal of Prose and Faith
www.agreatersum.com

This is the journal’s debut year, so they aren’t able to pay yet, but hey–writing creds are writing creds! They add up. Hope to read something you’ve written in their journal soon!

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Especially for Writers

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Little Things to Watch For

ProofreadIt’s the little things that slip by you while proofreading.  Reversed apostrophes, missing apostrophes, quotation marks in the wrong places or absent, commas and periods missing or misplaced, words that are words, but not the ones you intended.

Sometimes books get published with these errors, and the authors slap their foreheads when they find them dispersed throughout a novel they thought had been carefully edited. They’re easy to miss, and my personal belief is that the editors/proofreaders/beta readers get so involved in the story, they forget to look.

I noticed, from my own experience, I miss the little things primarily when I’m correcting the big ones. I’ll cut a line from dialogue and move it somewhere else, then overlook how it’s punctuated. Not being careful with track changes can also cause oversights. Sometimes, though, I’m simply blind. Just yesterday, I found a silly error in one of my manuscripts—“He was sent somewhere he didn’t want to go too.”

The problem with little errors like these is that you can’t simply “search and replace” to fix them. You can only be alert while you proofread.

One of my tricks, particularly for punctuation errors, is to print the manuscript and skim the pages. If I actually read them, I’ll get involved with other aspects of editing—changing this word for that one, moving this sentence here or this paragraph there, revamping entire scenes. But if I skim, deliberately searching for punctuation, or the lack of it, I’m more likely to find the errors. While I’m at it, I can look at the page as a whole—just hold it out in front of my face like I would a photograph—and see whether I’ve gone overboard with dashes and ellipses.

For some reason, reading the printed page is far different from reading the exact same thing on the screen. I’m able to catch errors I don’t see on the computer. But the computer offers something I can’t find by reading the print version: a way to search out my pet words.

“Just” is one of my pets, kept in check these days because of a sticking “j” key. It’s funny, if I want to make sure I haven’t used it too often, I simply check for the squiggly line under “ust.” But aside from “ust,” I have a list of words and phrases I know I rely too heavily upon, and I seek them out like Elmer Fudd on the hunt.

I know I can’t catch all my mistakes—all authors are blind to their own works—so I have some eagle-eyed beta readers, including a comma-mama or two. I’m not good with commas and often have to rely on Chicago Manual of Style when I’m editing for others. For myself, I have these wonderful mamas who know their stuff.

Before checking for these little things, finish your revisions so you can make sure you have the complete manuscript to hunt through. Go through your list of pet words and search them out. Run the manuscript through spell check to catch the quick and easy things. Then print.

With the printed version, hold up each page and watch for an overuse of dashes and ellipses, double check your paragraph indention, and be sure your chapter heads land on the same place on each page.

Then skim.

I usually move a pencil along each line as I skim, but all I’m looking for are periods/question marks, quotation marks, and apostrophes.

One tip about apostrophes used to indicate a missing letter: they should face the dropped letter.  This isn’t a problem when the letter is at the end of the word, but when it’s at the beginning, type it twice and delete the first.

And–a quick word about semicolons: in fiction, they’re used primarily to join together two complete sentences. If you have a semicolon between a sentence and a clause or between two clauses, you’re misusing it. Take Elmer’s shotgun and blast it off the page.

Even though these proofreading tips help, you’ll never catch everything. And if your readers get caught up in the story, they won’t either. Consider that a compliment when you open your fresh new book and see errors that slipped through the editing/proofreading/beta-reading process.

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Conference Time!

OopsLast week, on the American Christian Fiction Writers blog, Cynthia Ruchti wrote of some of “dumbest things” she ever did at an ACFW conference. It was quite a list of not-funny-at-the-time snafus that made me giggle the entire time I read it.

She has been to far more conferences than I have, but I’ve had my own “oops” moments. Most of them I’ve shared on this site at one time or another, but here’s a quick recap:

  • took a new cell phone to one of the classes, thinking I’d set the tone to mute. I hadn’t. Either time. Finally had to turn the stupid thing off.
  • stuck my foot in my mouth with a major agent, did everything possible to avoid that agent for the next several conferences. And may still.
  • came late to an appointment because my shoe broke and I had to run through the hotel barefoot.
  • stuck my foot in my mouth with a well-known author. His response was priceless. Still get a lot of miles off that story.
  • had numerous gaffs with longtime cyberfriends–not recognizing them because they didn’t look like their avatars. I expect this to be an on-going challenge.
  • collapsed in front of a gazillion people just before the awards dinner opened.
  • forgot my pitch and tried to ad-lib my way through an agent meeting. Forgot my characters’ names.
  • stuck my foot in my mouth with yet another popular agent. At least she laughed.

Now you know why I tease about keeping my feet candy-coated. Frankly, I think I’d do far better at conferences if I left my voice at home. But the gaffs and goofs don’t erase all the great times. The friends, networks, opportunities, experiences–totally priceless.

So, I’m going to the ACFW Conference in Nashville. You coming?

 

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Especially for Writers

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New Prize Drawing for Newsletter Subscribers

teamCalled “One for the Road,” this little statuette stands 8 1/2″ tall and 7″ wide at the base, and it’s just perfect for my western genre Romance and Women’s Fiction novels.

And the good news is that one of my newsletter readers will win it in a drawing to be held October 7!

All you have to do is:

  1.  Subscribe to my “Coffee with Linda!” newsletter (if you have already signed up, you’re good to go).
  2. Read the book.
  3. Leave a review on Amazon. I hope you love the novel, but if you don’t, that’s okay. Be honest in your review, and if you have constructive criticism, feel free to include it.
  4. Send a copy of your review to me at linda.yezak@lwyezak.com

(Number 4 is necessary in case you choose not to use your name on the review. Helps to know who you are so I can enter you!)

Sorry, but there are restrictions: family and my “Cowgirls of the Ride” team aren’t eligible for the giveaway; and, due to the cost of shipping, the giveaway is restricted to US readers.

I’ll enter the reviewers’ names into a randomizer program and announce the winner October 7. I hope to see your name on the list!

Don’t know how to leave a review?

Someone — who is considerably younger than me — teased me about giving step-by-step instructions for leaving reviews on Amazon. Isn’t that insulting their intelligence? Don’t most people already know how to do it? 

Answer to both is no. We who live on the internet already know, but not everyone is cybertech savvy. Believe me, I didn’t know how to do it at first, and there are some distribution sites where I still am not sure how. Some of my blog  followers have never left a review of any novel they’ve read because (1) the idea of writing one is intimidating, (2) they don’t know how, and (3) they don’t think it’s important.

So, in answer to #1, just say if you liked the novel, sorta liked it, or hated it and why. The word “review” isn’t quite right. It’s not really a review, it’s the readers opinion of the book. Some people leave reviews that read like book reports, and that’s great. But I love those who write their reactions to the book from their hearts.

Here’s how you can leave a review on Amazon.

  1. Go to Amazon and type The Final Ride into the search bar (or use my link: http://dld.bz/TheFinalRide )
  2. Scroll down to the reviews, and find the words “Write a customer review” after the last one. Poke the button.
  3. Follow the on-screen directions and give it a star rating, then leave a comment of what you think of the novel.
  4. You can preview your comment before you publish it and edit it if you’d like.
  5. Let it go live, and know you’ve done me a tremendous favor!

And in answer the thought that readers don’t feel reviews are important, I can’t stress how important they are. This explains it better than I can:

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Writing Goals to Strive For

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Remember this from a few weeks ago? I love it, not just for the idea it presents, but also for the way it presents that idea. It’s new, different, and original, and I wish I’d been clever enough to write it.

Here’s another one:

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Again, new, different, original.

This description of a library grabs the reader’s imagination and presents a truth uniquely stated.

Notice the contrast between the words “decaying,” “disintegrating,” “forgotten,” and the concept of it all smelling like a “dessert,” “sweet, “figs,” “vanilla.” Glue, of course. And cleverness. Isn’t that something? By association, cleverness is a dessert snack.

Actually, for me, it is. When I hear or read something cleverly written, I tend to want to say it aloud, to taste it and see how it delights my tongue. Once I’ve done that, it never seems to leave me.

Just like one of my favorite similes from suspense queen Lisa Gardner’s Survivors Club. I’ve never forgotten it.

The husband of one of the club members, a woman who had been brutally attacked while he was away “working” one night, tried to soothe her with her favorite flowers and meals.

Here’s what Lisa wrote:

Guilt, she decided, smelled like roses and chicken piccata.

Can you beat that?

I try to. Every time I come across an emotion that I want to milk for all its worth, I try to do something like that. I try to beat Lisa’s best simile with something of my own that is clever and unique and calorie-laden like a sweet dessert.

Most of what goes into a novel is basic writing—you’re imparting information about the plot, characters, setting, action. But sometimes while you write, you have to slow your reader down to make her feel–fear, love, hate, frustration, irony, loneliness, betrayal–so many other emotions common to everyone. Yet, though they’re common to everyone, everyone feels as if they alone are experiencing them. They need someone to put into words the depth and intensity of whatever it is they’re feeling. They’ll read your words, then reread them and think, “Yes. That’s it exactly.” And they’ll seem less alone because they know that you, at least, know their hearts precisely.

Notice that not one example I’ve provide is spot-on. The first doesn’t say, “I want to write about the beauty of September.” The second doesn’t say, “The library smelled old and musty.” Lisa didn’t write, “Her husband felt guilty.” The examples are Master’s Level “Show, Don’t Tell.” This isn’t SDT 101, it’s word artistry at its finest. It’s something to continuously strive for.

Yet, lest we become paralyzed by the challenge or lost in the striving, we need to keep this in mind, also:

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