Top 5 New Years Resolutions for Writers in 2016

You don’t have to be a writer to think, “Someday I’d like to….” Well stop putting it off! There’s no time like the New Year to make resolutions that you have a chance to keep.

Stop smoking? Lose weight? Find your soul mate? Pfft. If you want a real challenge, check out my Top 5 Resolutions for Writers in 2016.

1. Write a book. I don’t mean start writing a book. Anyone can start. Write a full book from start to finish. NaNoWriMo is a great place to start. Don’t wait for November. They have camps in both April and July that can help you kick off your next novel.

2. Join a writing group. This will help a lot with the first resolution in this list. My writing group not only helps me stay on track with my writing goals, but they also challenge me to write outside my comfort zone which improves my writing. Check on sites like Meetup, or if all else fails start your own.

3. Attend a conference. If possible, attend with members of your writing group. You will learn a lot and it will give you something to bond over at future meetings. You will also get the opportunity to network with other people (both authors and readers) in the writing industry. Two of my favorites are the MAFWI conference and Bouchercon, which is geared toward the mystery genre.

4. Build your social networking platform. If you’re not ready to go public with a Facebook author page, then consider building up your Twitter followers. Develop a routine of following 10 new authors or publishers per day. If 10% of the these people follow you back, then by this time next year you’ll have over 350 new followers! And when you are ready to develop your Facebook account, then you can link it so your posts also show up on Twitter.

5. Hire an editor. It’s the best thing I ever could have done and my first book, a collection of short stories titled HAUNTED WOMEN OF THE APPALACHIANS is so much better for it. What you pay an editor is an investment. Learn more about my editor, Sheila Haab, on her website.

Here’s to a New Year filled with lots of literary progress!

What are your writing resolutions for 2016? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section!

I Won NaNoWriMo Now Where Is My Book?

Anyone who writes 50k words within the 30-day time period (i.e. the already hectic month of November) is eligible to “win” NaNoWriMo. The site requires you to validate your novel by copying and pasting everything you’ve written into a magical box.

It’s okay. Once your novel’s validated the site forgets whatever it saw, so nobody’s stealing your ideas. Besides, there are no original ideas. I mentioned (the highlighted, glossy parts of) an idea to a couple of friends in front of someone else who said, “Oh! So it’s JUST like Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY?” Um, no, totally NOT like that. Kudos that she knew Shirley Jackson was the author, but I digress.

According to an array of reputable sources, including Writer’s Digest, a novel in the genre of general literary fiction is somewhere between 85,000 and 100,000 words. Depending on your genre and intended audience though, your novel might be slightly longer or much shorter.

If you just finished NaNoWriMo for the first time, then you might be thinking, “But I wrote 50,000 words!” So you did. Good job! And now it’s time to write the rest of the book.

While writing my current NaNoWriMo winner, a cozy mystery, ONE SQUASHED VICTORY, the characters revealed the ending scene, how the book will wrap up, and the plot for books two and three. But I still have about 27,000 words to go before I can say the first draft of the novel is really done.

Even after I write those words, there’s still a lot to go as outlined in “Revisions, Bloody Revisions,” a Midnight Ink blog post by Tracy Weber. Some authors the book, send it to the publisher, and from there it’s on your shelf or e-reader. Tracy uses a 14-step process. Mine is at least 14. (Does she mention drinking copious amounts of wine and coffee while crying on the dog’s shoulder because it’s 3:30 A.M. and everyone else is asleep?)

So there you have it! While finishing up this book, HAUNTED WOMEN OF THE APPALACHIANS (my NaNoWriMo “win” for both 2013 and 2014) is on the verge of dropping into the hands of my benelovent beta readers. It’s only slightly less terrifying as the day I put my sons on the school bus for the first time. Wish me luck!

Do you have any questions for me? Any comments on this topic? I’d love to discuss them with you in the comments section below!

What I Learned from Bouchercon 2015

On May 5, 2015 I found myself on the corner of Blind Faith Boulevard of Hope and Dreams Avenue. There I was, staring at the Bouchercon registration page. My information filled out, the only thing left was to hit the send button.

Flash forward five months and a few days. I found myself on the corner of Salisbury and Lenoir Streets in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was really happening. Not only had I drowned my social anxieties in enough Starbucks to float a pontoon boat, but I was also ready to mosey up to the Sheraton hotel to check in at the Bouchercon registration table.

The moment the volunteer handed me a swag bag filled with a wide range of mystery books, I was sold. Within a few minutes I found myself in the company of a couple of other Bouchercon newbies. Over the next few days I’d happily run into them again, making me feel more welcomed and included than I could have imagined.

If you’re planning to attend Bouchercon 2016, here are some things you should consider:

Arrive and check in a day early, if you can. There was no line on that first morning, but I skipped anything scheduled before about 10 o’clock in the morning. I’m pretty sure I checked in smack dab in the middle of the Welcome to Bouchercon event, which would explain the lack of a crowd. Arriving a day early not only gives you a head start on checking in, but it also allows you to locate other essential locations, like the bathrooms and Starbucks.

Attend the Bouchercon 101 panel. Even though I won’t be a newbie next year, I still hope to attend this panel as it’s full of tips and advice specific to that particular venue, which is the Marriott on Canal Street in New Orleans.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. The dress ranged from very casual to business casual. Wear what is comfortable for you. I saw someone wearing a business suit and sneakers, and another person wearing a t-shirt, yoga pants and flip-flops. The fashion statements covered a wide range.

Take a refillable travel mug or sports bottle. The convention hosts do a great job of providing refreshments. During Bouchercon 2015, a few times during each day, hotel staff would bring snacks into the hospitality area. Coffee, water, and sometimes lemonade would remain available throughout the day. Take a travel mug or sports bottle that you can keep with you during panels.

Silence your phone. I can’t stress this enough. Some of the rooms where panels were held had horrible acoustics. Sometimes the microphones didn’t adequately amplify the speakers’ voices. And in one case, the speaker’s voice was naturally soft. A ringing cellphone is annoying under the best of circumstances. When other conditions apply, it’s worse.

Take your business cards – especially if you’re a writer or aspire to get published. I didn’t take my cards the first day because I didn’t want to look presumptuous. This was a huge mistake. Three people asked for my card – and I am pretty sure my path never crossed with two of them again. I met so many people, there’s no way I could remember their names.

Brush up your knowledge of Who’s Who at Bouchercon. I asked one person, “Are you a writer?” I mean, his name tag didn’t say otherwise. Turns out he was nominated for an Anthony Award. Smooth! He was humble enough not to mention it, and fortunately I figured it out later that day. You don’t have to know every author there, but you should at least know the Anthony Award nominees so you can wish them luck. (Next year I’m putting an alphabetized cheat sheet in my phone.)

I’d love to hear your tips for attending a writing event like Bouchercon. Let’s chat about it in the comments below!