Category Archives: RWA National Conference

2011 RWA Nat’l Confrnce Workshop Tips – Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Today’s notes will cover the workshop Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Speaker: Tracy Wolff.

Tracy stated that handouts for this workshop would be available on her website

• Villains are the heroes of their own stories – they believe that it is okay to do whatever they need to do to achieve their goal. Anyone who stands in their way is the villain to them.
• Bad boy heroes know the difference between right and wrong
• Bad boy/gothic heroes must be humanized – by the heroine, of course. He can’t relate to people and often is bad at social mores, but secretly he wants to belong. He’s critical and cynical.

There are three types of villain heroes: Promethean, Satanic, and Byronic

1. Promethean:

• Frankenstein
• Someone who overreaches – starts out with a good idea but pushes it too far
• Arrogant and convinced of his own superiority – until his downfall
• Batman, Ghostrider

2. Satanic:

• John Milton’s Paradise Lost – “He above the rest…”
• He can be as bad as you want him to be but there must be signs of remorse and self-loathing.
• He is fanatical, mysterious, the darkest of the villain heroes.

3. Byronic:

• Mad, bad, and dangerous to know
• Dark and brooding
• Often aristocratic, wealthy
• Moody, arrogant
• Gorgeous!
• Conflicted
• Imaginative

The villain hero must have that one thing that will make him attainable.

Make your own villain hero:

• Type:___________________
• Physical Description: ______________________________
• Dark Attributes: ________________________________
• Troubled Past: __________________________________
• Self Destructive Behavior:__________________________
• Tragic Flaw: ______________________________
• Evidence of Good Heart (in the end):______________________________


2011 RWA Nat’l Confrnce Workshop Tips – Secrets of the Best-selling Sisterhood; Fast Draft

Today’s notes will cover the following workshops: Secrets of the Best-Selling Sisterhood and Fast Draft: How to Write Your First Draft in Two Weeks.

Secrets of the Best-Selling Sisterhood:
Speakers: Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

This wasn’t a “workshop” but was really more of a combination of a Q & A session and a comedy act. Jayne and Susan have been doing this one for several years now and appeared to be old hands at keeping the session lively and fun while they provided tips and answered questions.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s secrets (Call Me Irresistible :
• Find your own path
• Get over the bad reviews – you’ve got 24 hours to feel sorry for yourself and then it’s back to work.
• Don’t go to/read negativity. Go to blogs that nurture.
• Develop discipline habits and a healthy mindset: do your pages, get exercise.

Jayne Ann Krentz’s secrets (In Too Deep
• Know and respect your own voice
• Know the market
• Know a little bit about everything

The following were tips and answers to questions, but I don’t remember which speaker answered which questions:
• The best editor will “get” the vision of your book. The worst editor (for you) won’t “get” it and will want to change it.
• Use research to find plot points, not to overwhelm the story
• Your proposal should read a lot like the copy on the back cover.
• Break the rules; ignore when they say no multiple submissions
• What can the heroine do at the end of the book that she couldn’t do at the beginning?
• Emotional realism is more important than plot realism.

Fast Draft: How to Write Your First Draft in Two Weeks
Speaker: Candace Havens
(Truth and Dare

This workshop was packed tight. Many people (myself included) were sitting on the floor in the aisles and there was an overflow of people standing outside the doors. I guess we all want to find ways to speed the process! 🙂

• Prepare – get all the busy, excuse-making stuff out of the way. There are no excuses allowed. Get it all done ahead of time.
• Get rid of the negativity. Think positively of yourself: I am a writer. I am the best writer in the world. Lock the editor out!!
• Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft. Write whatever you want.
• Tell friends and family you love them and you will see them in two weeks.
• You will need a minimum of two or three hours a day.
• Take a day to plan and research. Know your who, what, when, where, and why. Have a beginning, middle, end (synopsis).
• You have to believe you can do this.
• You have to do it with other people – you have to be accountable (if you don’t have a writing group of your own, you can visit Candace’s website/Facebook page to find partners to do this with)
• On Go-Day: Set little goals with rewards.
• There is a daily page count of 20 pages per day for 14 days, which will give you a good, solid base for a single title. This should take about 2 ½ to 3 hours a day.

Rules for Fast Draft:
1. It’s a first draft so it doesn’t have to be perfect. Leave perfectionism at the door.
2. No editing allowed. Constantly look forward and never look at the work of the day before.
3. For every break you take, write down where you were and where you were going.
4. NO EXCUSES ALLOWED. Can’t get to your computer? Use pen and paper.

Tricks For Not Getting Stuck
1. Walk away from the PC and journal a scene or write something about a character.
2. Write a scene for a specific character, doesn’t even have to be the main character.
3. Move to the next chapter or scene you do know.
4. Make notes of what you would like to see happen
5. Do timed writings
6. LAST RESORT – email your Fast Draft partners and ask for help/brainstorming.

Other Miscellaneous Tips
• Get up and move every hour or so. Stretch. Take care of your body.
• Do not let your team members down. YOU MUST MAKE YOUR GOALS EVERY DAY.
• When you reach the two week goal CELEBRATE!!!! (and email Candace when you do it.)
• If you have the time, let the draft sit for two weeks to a month. Then spend about a month on revisions.
• Stick to one project at a time unless it is absolutely necessary to do more than one.

2011 RWA Nat’l Confrnce Workshop Tips – Romantic Suspense Market; Contracts

Okay, today I’m going to start sharing the tips I got from the workshops I attended at the conference. Just a quick FYI – I took more notes for some workshops than for others. That’s not necessarily a reflection on the speakers, but rather a reflection of my note-taking abilities. Actually, it’s more of a mood thing. Sometimes I find myself trying to write down every word spoken, sure that if I don’t get it written it will be lost to me forever. Other times, I find myself in a more laid back mood and just want to listen and absorb without making myself nuts over whether or not I jotted down some vital piece of information. (Yes, I drive my husband crazy.)

Today’s post will cover the following workshops: The Romantic Suspense Market: Advice from the Pros; and Contracts.

The Romantic Suspense Market: Advice from the Pros. Speakers: Karen Rose, Shauna Summers, and Stephanie Tyler.

Karen Rose You Belong To Me
• Noted that her books are categorized as “romantic” suspense only in the United States – everywhere else they are marketed as straight suspense.
• A romantic suspense book doesn’t necessarily need to be complex
• Write characters well – fans love the characters and love seeing them fall in love

Shauna Summers – Executive Editor for Ballantine Bantam Dell
• Be careful what advice you take from contests and critiques. Make sure it is truly in your best interest and that of your story.

Stephanie Tyler In The Air Tonight
• Actual sales numbers are more important to your career than making a best-seller list (the formulas to determine qualification for such lists are unknown).

Contracts. Speakers: Donna Bagdasarian of Publication Riot Group and Mel Berger of the William Morris Agency

DISCLAIMER – The following are the notes I wrote down during this excellent workshop. However, there was a lot of material covered and it is quite possible I may have written something down incorrectly. Be sure to go over any contract with a qualified agent/attorney (of which I am neither) and have them explain everything so that you fully understand what you may be signing away.

• Publishers are not doing you a favor by publishing your book. You’ve worked hard for that and earned it and should be treated accordingly.
• You are never actually “selling” a book. You are licensing, or “renting,” a book. The copyright STAYS WITH YOU.
• Royalties should be based on cover price (MSRP).
• Collective Accounting (aka Basket Accounting; aka Joint Accounting) for multiple books is NOT advantageous to the author and should be avoided.
• Electronic Rights will always be part of granted rights
• Audio Rights are usually separate – unless you are super famous, they are not super valuable.
• Foreign Rights, on the other hand, are VERY valuable. So 80% to the author, 20% to the publisher.
• You don’t want to see electronic rights or multi-media rights in your contract.
• Subsidiary rights are those rights that are not the primary (print) rights.
• You do not want the “Next Work” clause in your contract. It will say you can’t work on anything else until you deliver the book.
• Option Clause – limit it to a proposal. You want it to be for the least amount of material and for the least amount of time. You do not want to see any restrictions on when you can deliver the option, i.e. “six months after publication.” You want to give them the option as soon as you can.
• Out Of Print Clause – “Out of Print” (which is when the author gets the rights back) must be CLEARLY defined.

Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a qualified agent/attorney review your contract with you. KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SIGNING.

More info from more workshops in the next post!

New Beginnings and Inspiration

Well here I am, freshly returned from the RWA National Conference. I’m full of hope and inspiration, and I can’t think of a better feeling to have as I start my new blog on my new website.

The RWA National Conference is all about sharing. The most wonderful, warm, and accomplished collection of writers, editors, and agents get together and selflessly share their knowledge, talent, and connections. In keeping with that munificent spirit, I want to dedicate my first few blog entries to sharing what I learned at the conference. I would do it all at once, but the most important thing anyone at the conference will tell you is it’s all about writing the dang books. So I have promised myself to keep my blog entries short and my novel entries long.

Today I will cover the tips I received at the PRO Retreat:

The keynote address was given by Carolyn Pittis – SVP, Global Marketing Strategy and Operations, HarperCollins. She discussed the changing publishing industry (basically it’s still in flux and changing at the speed of light) and how the Internet is a powerful marketing tool that the savvy writer will embrace. She noted Gretchen Ruben, author of The Happiness Project, as a self-promoting powerhouse. Additionally, Ms. Pittis shared some book titles and websites of interest:

• Klout – a website that gives authors a way to measure how much market power they (or any other players) have in the market place.
• The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk – a book about the power of social media, communities, and real people on your business and brand
• Publisher’s Lunch – a free blog from Michael Cader at Publisher’s Marketplace (note: the free version is the lean version – there is a more detailed version for members at a cost of approximately $20 a month)
• – an educational and networking resource regarding the digital publishing industry
• Peter Hildick-Smith – The Codex Group – – a website used for author equity research
• Avon Impulse – A new Avon imprint; digital first

Ms. Pittis believes all authors should do/have/visit the following:

• A Facebook Fan Page
• Go out to other authors’ pages/websites and say “I love you” type stuff and they should do the same in return for you – give in order to get.
• Twitter
• Get consumer feedback
• (HarperCollins) – a site where authors may post their writing and have it rated by fans. Those rated the highest will be read by editors at HarperCollins and possibly offered contracts.
• Watch what works for other authors
• If you choose to do self-publishing, do your homework.

Next up was Michelle Grajowski, 3 Seas Literary Agency (, and Cathy McDavid (, author of several novels for Harlequin American and Dorchester. Their topic was the agent-author relationship. Here are their tips, along with questions authors should be asking themselves as they seek representation:

• What are your career plans/goals?
• How many books can you write a year?
• How do you want to work together/communicate with your agent?
• YOU are hiring the agent, not the other way around.
• NEVER be afraid of your agent.
• It is first and foremost a business relationship. Friendship is fine, too, but don’t lose sight of the business side of the relationship.
• Communication is vitally important.
• Is the agent knowledgeable of the current trends?
• When the agent and author disagree, the author should prevail (without being unreasonable). The relationship should feel good and never be toxic.

Michelle was asked what are the three top things she seeks in a brand new author. Her response:

• Professionalism
• Amazing, unique, strong story
• Networking and promotion

Lastly, both Michelle and Cathy emphasized the importance of not being negative. Don’t slam agents/editors, especially in public.

Next was a panel of four PAN authors, sharing their experience and ideas:

Manda Collins (How to Dance with a Duke,

• Hold out for the best deal you can get.

Renee Ryan (multi-published with Harlequin Love Inspired

• “Success is commitment without compromise.” (Will Smith)
• Persistence – if something doesn’t work, figure out why and fix it!
• Learn to critique your own writing.
• Love your craft.
• Act like a working writer before you become a published author – finish your manuscript, start another, and submit.

Vicki Lewis Thompson (NY Times best seller with over 100 books to her name

• You need a thick skin, plus a brave, true heart
• Be brave and keep trying
• Get the RIGHT agent
• Network and make friends

Kieran Kramer (When Harry Met Molly,

• Love yourself. Love the little girl you were – open, happy, loved life.
• Know why you write – what do you want to say to the world?
• Find your own personal joy.

One last thing I got from the PRO Retreat, and I believe this came from Cherry Adair (multi-published NY Times bestselling author, as she accepted her award for PRO Mentor of the Year: 80% of Americans say they want to write a novel. Of that 80%, only 5% actually try to do it. Of that 5%, only 2% actually finish a manuscript (I’m not sure if all of that 2% actually submit it to a publisher). But, wow, wasn’t that an inspirational piece of information? So for those of us who have finished our manuscript, congratulations! We are in elite company. For those of you who haven’t finished one yet, keep going! We can’t wait for you to join us!

Wow. See how long this entry turned out to be anyway? And that was just one session! Granted, it was a long one, lasting all afternoon. My next entries, focusing on workshops I attended, will be shorter. I promise!