The Ins and Outs of Writing

If you’re interested in writing, or recently found yourself sucked into it, here are some important things you need to prepare for. Old-timers may also find a gem or two below.

Being a successful book author is a “whole life” plan. It’s nothing like being a machine shop operator or assembly line worker, or even a desk jockey, although you will spend much of your time at a desk. You are not doing the same thing over and over. You can’t survive on knowing how to do only one job. It requires learning as much about the whole industry as possible and keeping up with the constant changes that happen as the internet molds our way of thinking, buying, selling, and communicating. Before long, the daily challenge to be a successful author consumes your whole life.

So, what does an author really do?

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Along with writing, many other skills are required to be a successful author. One must know how to use a computer writing program, most of all. Manuscripts must be formatted to the requirements of different publishers and contests.

We also have to join online and offline groups, purchase programs/memberships that will be helpful in one manner or another. Before long, we’re also attending conferences, workshops, and webinars. If we do not buy into the most popular plans and products, we may be left behind when the writing industry moves forward. Then we scramble to catch up.

It is important to have some understanding of the skills others do for us. This often requires knowing whether we plan to self-publish, use a hybrid publisher, or be traditionally published. Do we need an agent? Some need illustrators or cover artists. Others might need formatters or marketing specialists. Many authors use a video or audio specialist, or both. Learning your publisher’s schedule also alleviates unnecessary frustrations.

Regardless of how you plan to be published, critique groups and beta readers are important for polishing manuscripts. And, all writers need to learn how to work with editors.

We need to determine whether our work is for newspapers, magazines, anthologies, or books. Different publishers have different writing rules, style manuals, and different submission preferences. We even have to learn how to pitch our work to a publisher during a short elevator ride!

Once we learn how to write and submit our stories, we have to learn more about selling them. Most of us start out selling to family and friends. Then we join a plethora of social media sites, schedule multiple book signings, speak at events and purchase advertising online, in printed publications, etcetera. If we’re smart, we also have a “street team.”

If we don’t have a website when we start our writing journey, we soon will. Learning to blog is also important.

During all this shuffling of skills and knowledge, we adjust our schedules again and again. Our family lives can easily be hindered or lost to our careers.

Just when we think we have mastered most of the skills and sit back to draw in a nice, long, relaxing breath, a new skill is required, we see something we missed along the way, or some fantastic new product, group, or idea comes along. Being the good authors we are, we must learn this new thing. And, so we get after it before we can exhale that beautiful breath we just took.

Somewhere along the way, our health comes into play. For many authors, health doesn’t become an issue until something serious happens or the doctor gives an ultimatum. Or both. So, we find ways to fit healthy foods and almost daily exercise into our plans. By this time, many of us already have physical limitations, so this can create a downhill domino effect if we do not take it seriously. Ultimately, most of us learn that a health plan of some sort must be added to our busy schedule. (If you’re just now starting out, please take this into consideration and plan ahead.)

How can you find your place in this constantly shifting field?

If you are an aspiring author, prepare to take on these challenges. Learn what you can about each stage as you move into it. Although many things different as times change, so try to stay in touch with the writing community.

If you’re a trailblazer, find your area of expertise and create new paths for other writers to follow.

If you’re a friend or family member, try to imagine what your writer is going through. Share their successes with your friends and family. Writers NEED your support. They can get overwhelmed in this craziness, and it’s nice to know someone close to us is paying attention. One of the best things you can do is acknowledge their career choice as a real job and help them set aside time to meet their daily challenges.

Need some great gift ideas for a writer? That’s my next post, so stay tuned!

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Young Writers

Kids will be kids. Kids love to read good stories. Kids love to hear good stories. Some of them love to write good stories, too.

Over the past two or three years, we have taken a couple of our grandchildren (ages 10 to 13) to area writing conferences. They enjoy learning more about the writing industry.

Conferences create opportunities. They offer a chance to meet publishers, editors, illustrators, formatters, and many other writers.

At conferences, our writing youth can learn what publishers want and how other writers overcome their problem areas. They learn that support is a huge, important part of the writing industry, which is largely a solo career.

By meeting publishers and others while they are young, they will feel more comfortable approaching them in the future. This is very important.

This is a rapidly changing industry. Getting the younger generation involved is a wonderful way to encourage future success. If they are brought up seeing what conferences have to offer, they will be more likely to continue such educational experiences as they grow older and more independent. They will be less intimidated by the process and more willing to be involved.

I was so pleased to see a twelve-year-old win an award at the White Country Creative Writers Conference, recently. For such a young one to do so well, he is going to be a great challenge at a very young age. I hope to see him win many more awards in the future.

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. It is a great challenge for adults and youth. It is the opportunity to write a novel in a month. Learn to write without editing, then go back and edit after it’s finished. What if you don’t want to write a novel? Then write a bunch of short stories you can enter into contests. Or, write a whole lot of children’s books. Maybe you can write down all the stories you’ve heard from your loved ones as you great up. Just write.

Tonight, I met a fourteen-year-old writer at a monthly writers’ meeting. I look forward to watching her grow as a new writer, too.

It’s all so exciting!

Falling into the Publishing Industry

Did you start the new year on the right foot? I didn’t. I started 2017 on my left foot and two crutches.

A couple of days before the end of the year, I did the splits–unintentionally. For five days, I could not straighten my right leg. On that fifth day, a monster-size bruise showed up on the inside back of my thigh. The doctor said I had a severely pulled hamstring. Now, I walk with a crutch to remind me not to get in a hurry. When I rush, my leg threatens to throw me back on the floor. I don’t EVER want to do that, again.

If you are a writer in the OK AR TX KS MO area, you can’t afford to miss the upcoming Meet the Publishers! event on March 6th in Tulsa, OK. Designing the World with Words and Tulsa Area Children’s Book Writers are bringing SIX area publishers together to answer authors’ questions and offer tips from self-publishing to traditional publishing. (Click here for more information.) This FREE event is open to ALL writers. As usual, we are expecting an audience from multiple states, again.

Have you seen the latest publishing news? Tate Publishing and AWOC.COM Publishing  have sent their authors scrambling to find new publishers. Are you one of those authors? If you are, you can’t afford to miss the publishers event mentioned above. Don’t sign a contract with anyone else until you hear what the six experts have to say about the future of publishing.

I’ll be speaking at multiple events, this year. You can find me at the Read.Write.Share! event in Morrilton, AR, the Tulsa Genealogical Society meeting on March 20th, and the Arkansas Writers’ Conference  in Little Rock, AR. I also scheduled a number of writing workshops. I expect to find serious writers at all these events. See my schedule for a full list of places I plan to be.

I’ve decided to offer mobile writing workshops, this year. One person will receive free registration in exchange for organizing each event. Simple requirements must be met, of course. For more information, visit Designing the World with Words and click on the “Mobile Workshops” link.

Have you entered any writing contests, lately? If not, you should. You can’t win money and awards if you never submit your work.

Conference Fears

Have you ever had the opportunity to go to a conference in your area of expertise, but you chose to stay home? Why? There are many reasons people don’t attend conferences and conventions. Here are a few.

1. Finances… Not everyone has the money to pay out hundreds of dollars for an event they aren’t even sure will help them. If you look around, you’ll find some events are more affordable than others. Check into them.
2. Fear of looking stupid… Don’t even allow this one to bend your brain. It’s not worth it. Everyone who attends a conference has a first time. Why do we keep going? That’s discussed soon enough. But fear of looking stupid is not an allowable excuse.
3. Fear of being found out… All of us feel a little under-educated in our field in the beginning, and sometimes later on. If you’re afraid you won’t know things others know, don’t worry. Plan on letting everyone else answer any questions at your first conference, unless you are absolutely certain of the answer. Silence while paying close attention to the speaker looks good on anyone.
4. Fear of not knowing anyone… Ask around to see who’s going. If you can’t find anyone you know who’s going, and you don’t like to go alone, bring a friend–even if you have to share a room or pay for part of their expenses.
5. Fear of big places or crowds… This one is a little harder to help you through, but if attend with a friend, it will help you focus more on learning and sharing with your friend and less on feeling swallowed in such a big atmosphere.
6. No time… Make time. Most conferences are worth every penny you pay and every minute you give up. Ask a family member to watch the kids for a couple of days. Find out which events are the best in your industry and region. Make it a point to attend one or two of those a year. If you can manage a trip to one or two of the best known national or international conferences, go.

What will you gain if you attend a conference that you can’t gain through a workshop or discussion with friends in the industry? Why do so many others attend conferences? Why do they keep going, again and again? What makes it worth all that?

1. Vital connections… Even if you don’t speak to them (but you should!), you will learn who makes things happen and has achieved the highest respect in your field. When you have questions or needs, you will feel more comfortable contacting them and asking for advice or references.
2. Surprises… Most likely, you’ll know more than one person at the event, especially if it is local. It doesn’t matter if you’re only acquaintances. If they know it’s your first time at that particular event, they’ll often introduce you to other professionals you need to connect with. You may have new friends when you return home.
3. Special offers… Sometimes, just being at an event gives you an opportunity to take advantage of special offers only given to those who attended the conference.
4. Support… A conference is about helping others achieve their highest goals in the field. It is about learning, sharing, and friendships; being part of a camaraderie in a larger field than the one you have been playing in, so far.
5. KNOWLEDGE… When you leave, you will most likely know much more about some things than you knew before. At the very least, you have gained confidence in your own skills and insight and that’s worth the trip, in itself. And that confidence will show in your everyday work, too.

If you’re a writer, editor, publisher, or even a reader who wants to know more about the field, you should attend a good conference or two each year. If you’re around northeastern Oklahoma, I have listed a few of the area events on my LINKS page. If you want to go to the same conferences I’m attending, you can find them listed on my EVENTS page. Let me know if it’s your first time and I’ll gladly spend a little time helping you adapt to the format and meet others who will help you along.

If you’re into people-watching, try sitting near the sign-up tables at a conference and watch as attendees walk near, but seem to be taking in too much at once. It makes many of us look lost, even if we’ve been there for the past three years. So, don’t be afraid to walk up and look lost with the rest of us. We’ll never know you’re a conference newbie unless you tell us. And since we’ve all been there, we understand how overwhelming it can seem compared to how simple it really is.

See you at the next conference!

I am currently packing to attend the Arkansas Writers’ Conference, in Little Rock, Arkansas, this weekend. Will I see you there? I hope so!

Meet the Publishers! Monday, March 28th

To all authors, publishers, illustrators – anyone who wants to know:

Meet the Publishers! is coming to Tulsa in mere days. Learn how the publishers work with your books in different settings. This is a FREE event.

Monday, March 28th, 7:00 PM
Martin Regional Library (Auditorium)
2601 S. Garnett Rd., Tulsa, OK

Website: http://jespiddlin.com/designingtheworldwithwords/meet-the-publishers.html

See you all there!

This year’s event is brought to you by Tulsa Area Children’s Book Writers and Designing the World with Words.

Also…
– COMING ON APRIL 8TH AND 9TH –
In one fabulous weekend, learn how to take your manuscript from the first draft to book signing. Register soon! Time is running out! (Click on the flyer for more info.)

Read.Write.Share! Writers Weekend

 

The 2015 Hustle Begins

A lot is going on for me lately. In January, I set up a MEET THE ILLUSTRATORS! Night for a couple of local writers’ groups. We enjoyed learning the information they shared.

In March, I have called together a panel of five area publishers who will answer questions at a MEET THE PUBLISHERS! Night in Tulsa. That event will be at Martin Regional Library (in the auditorium) on Monday, March 9th, 6:30 PM. If you come, bring questions.

On Saturday, March 21st, I will be offering a workshop in Broken Arrow, OK, called EDITING YOUR FICTION STORY. Writers will learn fun, easy editing tricks to expose the real story behind the words. Find more information at http://jespiddlin.com/designingtheworldwithwords

THE ADVENTURES OF DAYTON BARNES – A middle grade fiction anthology to entertain ages 9-12. The submission deadline has been extended to the end of March. A lot of wonderful stories have been submitted. Some have been accepted, some have been rejected. Find more information about submitting, visit http://jespiddlin.com/DaytonBarnes/submit

ANYTHING GOES, VOLUME 2 is a multi-genre, unthemed anthology that promises to be just as good as Volume 1 from last year. The authors are working hard to bring you an exciting collection of stories this summer. Yes, I am editing this volume, too.

I have a few writing conferences to attend this year. Will you be attending any? Which ones? Good luck with any contests you enter and at all the conferences. Learn as much as you can and share!

I am editing a very interesting story for 4RV Publishing that will be coming out in just a few months. I’ll let you know when it is published.

Don’t forget to write notes on the back of people’s business cards that you collect, to help you remember special discussions, etc.. It makes them feel special when you recall conversations and know where you met them.