"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all."-Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, March 13, 2014

American Night Writer's Conference (ANWA)

In my last post about why and how I started writing my own book, I mentioned that I attended the American Night Writer's Conference held in Mesa, Arizona.  What an incredible experience!  It was so great in fact, that I am planning on attending the LDS Storymakers conference in Layton UT.  at the end of April.

I was a little nervous about attending a conference because I really didn't know what to expect or if I would fit in.  What I discovered was that writers of all backgrounds, experience levels and genres attend so there is pretty much a place for everyone-including me.

We arrived the very first night of the conference and jumped right in!  The first night, I participated in a critique group. Myself and five other ladies (who also write romance) each took a turn reading part of our story and then we went around the circle and told what we liked and what we thought could be done to make it better.  OH MY!  I was super nervous.  I had pretty much kept my book under lock and key until two nights previous when I reluctantly asked my husband to read it over with me.  Yes, that's right, up until two nights before the conference my husband hadn't even read it. That's how unsure about my writing I was!  I knew I loved it, I knew I thought it was romantic and funny and great, but the rest of the world outside of my own head?  I didn't know if it was actually all of those things (I still don't).  Anyways, I had an incredible experience sharing my story with those wonderful women.  They laughed in all the right places and gave me great insight that I wouldn't have seen on my own.  That made me believe in critique groups... I am hoping to find one ASAP now that I'm home.

We then had a great agent/editor speak on query letters.  I am getting closer to that point, but I'm not quite there, so my info. on that will be posted at a later date.

Some of my favorite speakers from the conference were: Sarah M. Eden who spoke on "3 Essential Elements of Romance" and  Jenni James who spoke on "Writing Secrets".  Victoria Curran who gave us her experiences as an editor of Harlequin Heartwarming and there were so so many other great speakers such as Dr. Blasingame, Annette Lyon, Adam Sidwell and Jon S. Lewis.  Really, everyone was fantastic that it's hard to spotlight everyone! So here are my favorite things I took home:

Sarah M. Eden (sarahmeden.com) was the keynote speaker at the conference.  She is the author of so many amazing regency romances and I was so excited to hear ANYTHING that came out of her mouth about writing romantically.  Here are her main points:  In the romance genre the books question will always be, "will the couple end up together?"  and in a romance book the answer will always 100% of the time be, "Yes!"  This can be difficult to write creatively because it will always be the same.  In this genre the love story is what drives the plot, or in other words, Romance is the point.  I love that don't you?  Some of my favorite tid-bits of information are: "totally hot is not an emotion"  (oh that's just so true! and ohh it had me laughing because we've all read books like that haven't we?!). "Emotional connections take time and interaction."  The whole love at first sight thing is great, but to build a realistic story with feeling it takes time.  "Each character needs strengths and weaknesses. No one can relate to a perfect person."  (As writer's we sometimes have trouble putting out characters through things, but that is exactly what creates a great book).  "Don't write annoying characters." (Amen to that!) and last, "We need a reason to cheer for the couple... They need to be something to each other that no one else can be, and it must go beyond the physical, love at first sight, infatuation phase."

Isn't Sarah amazing? The answer to that will always be yes.

Jenni James (http://authorjennijames.com) spoke at the conference on her writing secrets.  I loved this class because it was SO incredibly helpful to a newbie like me. Some of her secrets:  Put your work up on Wattpad.com to gain followers. To up the number of words you are writing each day, work with a partner and give yourself word challenges and then read each others work.  Did you know that only 1% of authors actually finish their books? I didn't either... So If I do nothing more than just finish the book then I'm ahead of the game! She also spoke on what to do when you are having writers block..."If you get stuck, then something is missing.  A kiss, a death, something!"  Go back and fix it and then your story will keep moving on.  She also mentioned to not be afraid of putting your character through things. Give your characters flaws, not bad, but maybe a little bad! The characters need to grow in the story.  She reminded us that every scene must move us forward, there must be a reason for the scene to exist.  When editing watch for double words, send your work to beta readers, give your self word challenges, keep dialogue snappy, fast, witty. There are two types of humor:  Mean humor and the element of surprise.  One of the best points she made was on pacing.  There are certain things we don't need a play by play of ex.  Cutting vegetables.  There are other times when we need to experience EVERYTHING like when the characters finally kiss, draw that out second by second.  Show through your actions what the character is feeling don't say "she felt sad".  Use action tags instead of "said".

Okayyyy there is SO much more I want to type about the conference, but I'm pretty sure that I've already overwhelmed you by this information in this post!  Can't wait to tell you how Storymakers goes!

P.S. If you're an avid reader and you want to be a beta reader for my book, I'd love it! Just email me so I can send you a few chapters!

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