Monday, May 26, 2014

Writing tips from a writers conference notes by Leanne Dyck

A generous publisher, a knowledgeable panel and an inspiring author were the magic ingredients that made this Crime Writers of Canada (B.C. branch) mini conference a 'must attend' event.

Ruth Linka
Associate Publisher
Orca Publishing

Ruth Linka spoke candidly about a diverse list of topics--what she expects from authors, the steps after your manuscript is accepted, and what type of work her publishing house (Rapid Reads imprint of Orca Publishing) is seeking.
Here is what I heard her say (which might be slightly different from what she actually said)...

-stressed that it's important for authors to connect with their (potential) readers through social networking
-when a publisher sends you a personalized rejection letter it's because they want to see more of your work and that they hope you will continue to submit your work
-after the manuscript is accepted the contract is signed, editing starts, book cover ideas are discussed as well as how to promote the book. This usually takes about a year. Although some publishers may reduce the time to six months.
-Rapid Reads is looking for short work (15 to 20k words) and are focusing on mysteries 
-Ideally the author would have the next book in the series ready so that when the first book of the series is published the first chapter of the second book can be included at the back (Louise Penny does this)
-Ruth likes to see good writing, an interesting plot and characters--and for the protagonist to have a side kick
-most Canadian publishers take a manuscript without an agent
-search title to make sure it isn't being used
-catch the publisher's interest in the cover letter

Conference organizer Phyllis Smallman introduces the panel
Left to right:  Lou Allin, Benni Chisholm, Kay Stewart (moniator) and Stanley Evans

When writing a mystery what should the author focus on?
Lou Allin:  Is the crime going to be solved? What other problems will be encountered?
Stanley:  Think in terms of 'must' and 'cannot'--as in, the protagonist must solve the crime because... but cannot solve it because...

How do you make a book suspenseful?
Benni Chisholm:  wrote one of her books in the first person that way the reader only knows what the protagonist knows. She wrote another book in the third person and she wrote it in such a way that the reader knew who the antagonist was. This made the reader worry.
Lou Allin advised against starting chapters with the character getting up or end with the character going to bed.
Lou Allin advised sharing the same thought on every page.

Writing tips?
Stanley:  no outline--writes a detailed synopsis, instead
-all crime books begin with a murder
 -more challenging to write a novel in the lst person so he recommended that beginners write in the 3rd person

Benni:  likes to end each chapter with a cliff hanger. 

Lou:  it's okay to have an unreliable narrator, it's okay to lie to your reader. Even though, the reader has been educated to trust the narrator.

Kay:  get me on the first chapter and flow forward

Phyllis Smallman

Phyllis Smallman began her talk about how to write a best-seller by saying, in order to be a great author you need to be a great reader--learn form the masters.
She recommend that we read best-sellers and study them to determine why they are best-sellers.
Start with a great opening paragraph
Vary the length of your sentences

Recommended writing craft books:
Write Away by Elizabeth George
A Passion for Narrative by Jack Hodgins
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
For Writers Only by Sophy Burnham
An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown & Dave King

Much thanks to the organizers and presenters. (Oh, yes, and to my friend Amber and her husband for making room in their van for me.) I for one, and I know I'm not alone, was brimming over with information and inspiration. And I can't wait until next year...

Sharing my author journey...
I've been giving a lot of thought to what I want to accomplish this summer. 

I want to finish a short story (approximately 8,000 words) plus two novellas (each approximately 20,000 words). Notice I wrote finish not write. All are happily on their way to completion. The end is in sight; I just have to get there. It is a lovely position to be in. And there's no need to hurry. It's like going fishing on a lazy summer afternoon. 
Oh, yes, and think of me today as I walk down the Post Office with submission number 39 riding comfortably in my backpack. 
What are your summertime plans?