The Journey to Publication

Workshop Shares: Art Journaling for Writers

2014-08-18 13.24.25
Where’s your conference guide? Why not put it to good use.

Okay, so FINALLY I’m ready to share about my favorite workshop, Art Journaling 101 put on by Nancy Robards Thompson and Katherine Garbera. My favorite workshop because it was something new, and because any day I get to combine my love of crafting AND writing, is a good day.

So first, what’s art journaling? People define this in various ways, some as a very personal diary, others as something more creative. The definition I liked best was simply that an art journal is where you combine art and words to express yourself (courtesy “Get it Scrapped” by Debi Hodge, who goes into more detail which you can see by clicking this link.)

The first thing to remember, and what was stressed in the workshop was that you don’t have to be a great artist to like art journaling. No one ever has to see your work. And if things turn out really bad, you always have the option of gluing the pages together and hiding it forever. ๐Ÿ˜‰

It’s also about patience and layers, which is the part I had trouble with, but if you think about it, that’s a lot like writing. We often have to go back and layer in or consider different layers in our writing. Same thing with art journals. You can start with an image or quote to get you started on the page, or just start playing.

Techniques and ideas:

  • start by collaging different images. You can use either a gluestick, or something like Mod Podge, which is kind of like really thin glue that you use for collage.
  • use a single image as the focal point, and then paint over it, making a new image.
  • Zen doodle (LOTS more about that later).
  • Spray inks, stamping, lots of techniques and tools used in scrap booking, or even the kid’s craft box.
  • While you can buy journals to bash, consider making your own, or recycling books / guides and turning them into journals. I’ve used the 2014 RWA Conference guide as my first journal.

As I’ve been exploring art journaling, I found three primary ways it was helpful to me as a writer.ย  And which I thought I’d share. Please be gentle, these are some of my early attempts. I’ll share below websites of experienced journalists.

Zen Doodling, done by me, Aug 17, 2014
Zen Doodling, done by me, Aug 17, 2014

First, Zen Doodling, sometimes known by the name brand of “Zen Tangle.” Essentially, you use a pen and draw a general design (or specific picture) and fill it in with different shapes and designs. The object is not the finished picture (although those often look really cool), but rather focus on the art of the design, and the almost entrancing, meditative state this creates. That’s why I enjoyed it as a writer. It’s a way for me to unwind, or just think about something else and let my mind wander, whether in front of the TV, or somewhere quiet.

2014-08-18 10.50.47Second: Emotional Pages.Let’s face it, as writers, the entire process can be a bit of an emotional rollar-coaster, especially if we let ourselves into the traps like comparing ourselves to other writers, or get frustrated with our journey toward publication. Journaling can be a way to express and thus release some of that energy and emotion, whether negative or positive.

2014-08-18 10.52.03Third: Character discovery. In my new WIP, the hero is being a pain, and not talking. So, I looked up some images (using two different actors) who remind me of what the character looks like, and in images / poses that spoke to me about my character. Then, in the spaces in between I used words in an unusual fashion asking my character questions, working out some of the issues I have, and doing a tiny form of character journaling. The limited space seemed to help, since my character “opened up” a bit. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Fourth: Images about setting. This one I haven’t completed yet, but essentially I’m creating a map of my imaginary “town” where my story is set, both as a reference to help me remember where I’ve “placed” stuff, along with images of real places to give my imagination a good kick in the behind when necessary. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So in short, that’s art journaling for writers at it’s most simplistic. I’m definitely just getting started.

If you’d like more on how I did my pages, I’ve got a separate post over at my other blog, Craft Room Chronicles, where I’ll talk a bit more specifically.

Otherwise, the websites suggested to visit in the website were:

www.donnadowney.com

http://www.france-papillon.com

http://jennibelliestudio.blogspot.co.uk

So, are you into art journaling? Any tips you’d like to share? How else do you think you’d use these techniques as a writer?

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and happy writing out there! ๐Ÿ™‚

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Workshop Shares: On Series Writing

So today was supposed to be about possibly my favorite workshop (or at least the most addictive – art journaling.) However, since I have yet to complete a full-page of an art journal, I’ll work on getting that ready for next week.

Which leaves this week on writing a series. Now, I’ve attended quite a lot of these type of workshops, because I like writing series books. This time I attended one by Joan Johnston, “Writing a Series that Sells Forever” and found information that still fascinated me.

So first question: why a series?

  • readers are used to TV, which is also often in series format. The idea is that readers will get invested in the characters – no matter which book of the series they pick up – and will want to read more (ie: look up the back list or future books.)
  • can help to propel sales.
  • can give you “the next book” to work on.
  • it can be easier to sell a book that’s part of a series and not an “orphan” disconnected from the rest of your books.

How to connect your series? This is one of the questions that inevitably comes up, and so I’ll probably add from other workshops as well:

  • connected family members. The downside, of course, is that once they’re all married off, you can move to children / grandchildren, and you need to start with a very large family. Advantage: if you enjoy writing in different periods, this does allow you to tell the stories of a family across generations, as Joan Johnston has with her series.
  • connected locale. It can be real or fake, but often it might be safer to do the research on a real locale, then place your fictional one in the same place. That way, you don’t run into issues of change in the town, or possible legal difficulties (especially if you did write that shopkeeper you despised into the story). ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • a single character that may join together all the books, or help to create an overarching story-plot.
  • individual plot vs overarching plot – the whole series often has an overarching plot (though not always), BUT each book generally gets its own individual plot (ie: the romance for that couple is complete, but the overall story for the family isn’t). This can help to propel sales if the reader is anticipating the next book.
  • my note: you can also do series where the same characters connect the books, like the J.D. Robb books, or Katie MacAlister’s dragon series. Some writers (and readers) love continuing with the same character and a longer arch. Some really don’t, so consider carefully.

Disadvantages to a series:

  • if the first book isn’t strong enough, no one will want to buy any of the others.
  • if you want / need to switch publishing houses, this can be difficult mid-series.
  • you can get caught in a rut. If readers love your series SO much, they may not want to read anything else you write except for the series.

General tips and advice:

  • if you’re considering a series, make sure you LOVE your characters and locale enough that you could write it for years, because you might end up doing so.
  • keep your own name on everything, since it might be your voice that readers fall in love with, and you want it to be easy for the to find you!
  • on your website, list the series in chronological order, making it easy for readers to figure out what book to read next.
  • consider having two villains: a “good” villain, andย  “bad” villain. The good villain is an antagonist to the protagonist, but isn’t evil. The “bad” villain is actually the bad guy, possible criminal, etc.
  • if you have a huge cast, don’t introduce them all at once, and they can only be in the book if they are necessary to move the plot forward. Otherwise, no random visitations please. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • if working with agents or publishers, protect your work, and watch out for contract phrases where the publisher or agent “owns” the characters or series. Speak up if you’re concerned. ๐Ÿ™‚

So that’s essentially my notes from the workshop.

What about you? Did you attend any other series workshops? Have I missed something important in my notes?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Journey to Publication

Home From Conference

My excuse for not getting on top of posting anything on Monday is a general case of zombie-itis. That is, I met and chatted with so many wonderful people at RWA National Conference, that I practically feel like I’ve used up all my words. Trust me, about now, stringing a sentence together is HARD!

But, enough with complaining, because I LOVE conference (note the extra use of caps.) ๐Ÿ˜‰ I got to some pretty great workshops, learned new things, and hope I can share some of what I learned by next week, when hopefully I’ll be a tiny bit more recovered.

More importantly, I met lots of terrific writers, experienced all sorts of new things, and made some new friends. I wanted to push myself this time to go out there and meet people, which even meant that I went to parties (I was out past 9pm, a big shocker for me these days!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

And as I get home – perhaps you likewise have just returned from a conference or will be soon, here are a few things I like to keep in mind:

1) If you’ve collected business cards during the event, consider at the time jotting down a bit about the conversation and meeting at the time (especially if you’re notorious at forgetting names like I am.) Then, when you get home, drop that person a quick note, asking how their conference went, expressing your pleasure at meeting them, etc. You never know what kind of relationships you might build this way, and it’s worth a try.

2) If you’ve been lucky enough to meet with industry professionals who want to see your work, get it to them as soon as you can! (I’m aiming for the end of this week, since it’s conference season and summer, so their in-boxes will be full.) It’s also startling how few people actually send in the requested material – don’t be one of them!

3) Take a bit of time to absorb and breathe after all those workshops and experience, but make sure you look back at your notes and try to apply them, especially anything that really resonated with you.

4) Set some new goals, using next year’s conference (particularly if this is an annual event), or even the end of the year to keep yourself on track. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there?

5) Give others who attended the conference a tiny bit of a break if they don’t respond super quick, or get their blog posts up. They’re probably just as tired as you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Any tips you’d like to share? And next week, a new post, new knowledge (when my brain starts working again.)

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

The Journey to Publication

Conference Craziness

So next week, I am officially off to the Romance Writers of Americaยฎ Conference in San Antonio, Texas. I am both tremendously excited, and nervous. I mean, wasn’t it just May a minute ago? And now suddenly it’s the end of July.

My Golden Heart Pin and Invite FINALLY arrived!!
My Golden Heart Pin and Invite FINALLY arrived!!

For budget constraints (and since it’s only fair sometimes my family gets to travel instead of just me), I generally only attend Conference every second year, or at least, that’s how it’s worked out. But this year will be extra special.

First: because ever since I saw the location posted as San Antonio, way back when I joined RWAยฎ back in, hmm, I think 2008, that’s where I wanted to go. Blame it on too many western novels and a small obsession with Texas in my earlier years. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Second: this year, I’m going asย  Golden Heartยฎ Finalist. Which is pretty exciting. I’ll attend my first Golden Network Retreat. Actually got first choice of agent and editor appointments.

AND, best of all, I get to meet all my fellow finalists. Some of which have become critique partners, and it’s so strange having to much contact and trust in someone technically, you’ve never met face-to-face.

Well, them and the other couple thousand attendees. Did I mention the conference is HUGE? (Look, it deserves caps and everything). ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yes, I am getting a bit goofy. Probably the result of rushing to get to this point, and suddenly almost being there, like standing on a precipice, and thinking, “huh, that’s a bit higher than I thought.”

But speaking of rushing, I still have some work to do, and it promises to be a fairly intense week of getting my writing ready, and “getting my game face on.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ That is, settling down and preparing to meet lots of brand new people, see some familiar faces, and generally act a bit more like the social butterfly than I naturally am.

I love talking to people, but not about myself. Yes, I was one of those people who would rather have been in a bridesmaid’ dress at my own wedding – I’m not big on being the focus of attention. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Okay, before I burble on some more, better get to work. I hopefully will post more before I leave Tuesday, and fingers crossed, lots of exciting news to share when I get home.

Are you attending Nationals this year? Let me know. I’d love to meet you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Inspired and Rearing to Go: Lessons Learned at Conference

As I write this, I’ve only been home from the RWA National conference for one full day, so my brain is still probably a bit mushy. But, I wanted to share some of the lessons that seemed to come across throughout the many workshops and talks I heard. Some of it you may have heard before, but I find sometimes, you just need to hear it again every so often to remind yourself of its validity.

  1. Be Flexible. This means flexible in how you accept and give critique, as well as flexible in what it means to be successful or fulfill your dreams; have you always felt that traditional publication was the best way? Who says? Perhaps e-books could be a great path you’re neglecting. Either way, be flexible enough to allow yourself freedom to see the opportunities instead of viewing the world through self-imposed blinders.
  2. Be Kind. Author Robyn Carr, in her luncheon speech, said that she felt about 50% of her success could be attributed to being patient and kind, whereas her agent felt it was more like 90%. We can help ourselves and control some of our success merely by being consistent, turning work in on or before deadline, and being kind and patient. To paraphrase Ms. Carr, we often think that the squeaky-wheel gets ahead with snark and breaking the rules; usually, the squeaky-wheel just gets replaced. We also have a tendency to be especially unkind to ourselves; often no one is meaner to you that your own inner voice. Treat yourself as you would your closest friend, with care and love.
  3. Be Consistent. This means consistent in the tone and type of books you deliver so you don’t disappoint your readers, as well as being consistent in your branding and interactions.
  4. Be Optimistic. While just a short time ago (and sometimes still if you look now), the news about the publishing world is all doom and gloom, this doesn’t have to be the case. Rather, as Stephanie Laurens described in her speech, this is an incredibly exciting time for writers. New modes of transmission – how we get our stories to readers – are opening up all the time, and so long as we continue to tell the best story we can, things are looking up for us. Indeed, so long as we continue to cherish and push for a positive version of our own success, how can it be otherwise?
  5. Be Innovative. As new worlds and methods of transmission of our words mature, and the internet and social networking become ever more a part of our lives, there are so many opportunities for innovation. We can be innovative in how we interact with readers and consumers, and we can continue to innovate in our writing itself, writing the book we most want to read.
  6. Be Brave. Sometimes this means continuing to submit or to put ourselves out there (especially if we’re still trying to go the traditional publication route), but it also takes incredible courage to put your work out there in the first place, no matter how you choose to do it. Be brave in continuing to write the story that you love, written because you had fun and you love it – because if you don’t, no one else will either.
  7. Be Professional. Writing may be an art, but publication is a business. The sooner you remember this – and demonstrate a business-like attitude in your dealings with other professionals, the better your chance at success. Use things like the S.W.O.T. Business Assessment, goal setting, and formal business plans to help you achieve your dreams.
  8. Be Realistic. Yes, you’re reaching for your dreams, but what are those? If you don’t ever become a NY Times Bestseller, will it be enough for you? Certainly we like to continue to expand our goals and visions, but what will it take for you to believe in your own success? If you don’t ever achieve your most lofty of goals, will that be okay? Reach for the stars, but decide what it means if you don’t quite reach them.
  9. Be Self-Aware. We often like to consider the readers’ and characters’ emotions and reactions, but what of our own? If you’re not feeling it as the writer, your reader won’t either. Translate your own emotions to the reader through use of language, tone, imagery, and subtext.
  10. Have Fun. This business is hard, no matter what your path or decisions. Maintaining a sense of humor will help. Again, paraphrasing Robyn Carr: “Take your writing seriously; yourself – not so much.”

So, what other lessons have you been learning recently? Is my list missing a few? Please, do share and comment below. Otherwise, have a great week, and happy writing!