Thursday, May 30, 2013

Crime Writers of Canada mini writing conference report by Leanne Dyck

The morning of Saturday, May 25th I woke before my alarm. By 6:30 a.m., I was in the truck headed for the ferry. I was excited—but not nervous. This surprised me. I’m use to talking to one or two people at a time, in a few hours I would be talking to a room full. But the day wasn’t all about me—there were other panels, other panelists.

Here’s what I heard…

Panel 1:  Moving from Idea to Draft

-When conducting research, experts (such as police officers) are helpful—especially if you send them an introductory letter stating what information you want to collect.

An attendee asked:  If your story is based on a true event, how do you avoid being legible?
Answer:  Mask the facts and consult with a lawyer.

There was discussion about plotter or panster. Most present did some type of outlining before writing.

Advice:  -Write the first draft then fix it.

There was discussion about how to make the outlining process easier.
-mind mapping
-mind mapping using post-it notes
-mind mapping using a white board
-mind mapping using the computer program Scribner

Editors have said that…
-readers want to be in a place
-readers want to learn something

When conducting research, the Internet only gives you the big picture so buy books and find experts.

An attendee asked:  Should an author be able to play with the facts?
Answer:  The author should ask herself, “Could this happen?”
If the answer is yes—go for it.

-In writing scenes, instead of trying to account for every minute only write the important scenes.
-You should start the scene with one set of feelings and end it with a different set.
-Beware of sagging middles.
-Each scene should move the story forward.

Food for thought:  An eight year old said, “I like this book. I just think the author told too much of it.”

Panel 2:  Handling Common Problems in Plot, Character, and Style
Chris Bullock (moderator), Joan Donaldson-Yarmey, Debra Purdy Kong, Lou Allin

-Beware of using local places as the setting for negative events.
-If you’re becoming bored with the story bring in a bad boy or girl.
-Read (lots of) books like an author. When you encounter characters ask yourself why you like/dislike them.
-Feel free to build a character that is a composite of real people.

When building a character start by asking yourself:
What do they look like?
How do they act?
Where do they work?
Then go deeper…
What are their hopes, dreams, fears…

-Once you understand your character outside and in you can bring them to life on the page.
-When you’re working on a series develop a character bible for each character—main and minor.

When building a character
-avoid making them too quirky—you want believable characters
-avoid making them too stereotypical
-be careful how you age your character
-ensure that there is continuity
-secondary characters shouldn't overshadow—if they begin to reign them in.
-don’t have too many characters. Ensure that each has a purpose.

-find your own style
-your words should flow naturally
-use your own voice
-aim for rhythm in your writing
-as the writer matures so does her writing
-don’t let your setting take over

(much thanks to Kay Stewart for taking this photo)

Panel 3:  Marketing Your Work
Leanne Dyck, Robin Spano, Phyllis Smallman (moderator)

I sat down feeling confident. I looked out at the attendees and immediately felt nervous. All those old stories about how I couldn’t read began attacking me. I was tired so I tripped and fell over some words. This made me feel embarrassed. Still I knew I wanted to be there; I wanted to be a member of the panel. This is an important part of building my author career. It’s just hard for me—that’s all. But it’s been my experience that the more I challenge myself the easier things become.
I plan to share my speech with you—in a future post, so watch for that.

Robin Spano spoke eloquently about Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. She said that through Twitter you’re able to interact with anyone who has a Twitter account. And this makes it an excellent networking tool.

She pointed out that there is a blog component to Goodreads. Goodreads is an excellent way to promote the books that you've enjoyed reading.

Since Robin spoke I’ve had an opportunity to become more involved with Facebook. I like it because through it I really feel like a member of a community.

Twitter and Facebook are more immediate—brief messages sent quickly—than a blog. But what works best for me is having an opportunity to think before I write.

My other panelists stressed that you should find what works for you and use it. Blogging works for me.

One the marketing ideas Phyllis Smallman recommended, which I hope to eventually use, is Skype. Imagine being able to do an interactive presentation to a globally audience. She also said... Well, her she is...

Award winning author, Phyllis Smallman, lives on Salt Spring Island, B.C. but spends the winter months in Florida where her books are set. Her fifth book, Highball Exit, comes out in the fall of 2012.
" at the top of her game in this fast-paced tale."  Globe and Mail

Phyllis Smallman writes...

Marketing Creativity
It doesn’t matter if you paint, knit or write books like I do; you need to be able to sell your product the same as Kraft needs to sell their cheese. How do we go about that? Here are some quick tips that may help you.

    1.You need to be able to speak about your work so go to Toastmasters and learn to be a great public speaker.  You’ll have fun and it’s the quickest way to put yourself at ease in front of an audience. More than that, they will become part of your marketing platform.

      2. Have a good talk with yourself and decide what type of marketing you are most comfortable doing.  For me that means not hand selling books at fairs, festivals or signings, but I’m happy to hand out bookmarks.

    3. Build a platform with a community of like minded people.  Join guilds, art groups and associations to increase your fan base and provide new ideas and marketing opportunities. I belong to Crime Writers of Canada, Mystery Writers of America and Florida Writers Assoc.

     4. Give stuff away.  In my case, I put up free short stories where e-books are sold.  When you download a short story of mine there is a few chapters of one of my books attached at the end. Bitty And The Naked Ladies has been downloaded about 30,000 times. Write articles about the work you do and offer them to on-line magazines. This is a way to get your name out there and gain authenticity.  If you give people information, you create fans and followers. My articles have appeared in Omni magazine and in Spinetingler.

     I send out a newsletter once a year, when I have a new book out, to update readers on what’s happening and to remind them that I’m still writing. I include any new publishing events, awards or books. For instance, I won a bronze medal from Independent Publishers this spring.  That will go in my fall newsletter to announce my new book, Long Gone Man, coming out in Sept from Touch Wood. To receive newsletters, which you can use as a template, go to and I’ll add you to the list.

     This is the most important point.  You want people to like you. Don’t annoy them. Don’t over send things to them, don’t over-invite them to events, don’t over social media them and most important, don’t always make it about you. Be nice.

Mystery Mini Chats followed the panel discussions. It was an opportunity for readers and authors to engage in dialogue about books.