Notes From RWA 2011

July 10 2011

New York City, July 2011

Every time I visit The Big Apple, America’s signature mega-city, I am both intimidated and thrilled. Right there, in that humming city, lit agents hold court, manuscripts become books.

Once I registered at the hotel overlooking Times Square and unpacked, I jumped into the dizzying chaos of two thousand attendees, signing books, spotting friends in the bar, connecting with complete strangers at meals, and restocking their pen and gizmo supplies in the Goody Room. Choosing which workshops to attend is always tough, but locating the rooms where they meet proved to be a test too. 

I am sharing some of the notes I took at the lunches, workshops and lectures. Since I recorded my jottings in a VERY casual manner, I am unable to attribute each idea to its author. Instead, I must THANK all the eminent speakers who shared their experience and advice.   

                                                                     Opening Session

During the Opening Session, I enjoyed the camaraderie among three best-selling authors, Tess Gerritsen, Dianna Gabaldon and Steve Berry. Candid and funny, each shared tips for honing the craft and building a story. 

“There are 3 kinds of characters: the onion with layers to peel; the mushroom that pops up uninvited; and the hard nut that is so hard to crack it has to sit in your head for awhile.”

Marketing idea: “Each day on Facebook, plant a line from your work in progress.”

Another marketing idea: “Visit libraries—you know there are people there who read books.”

“Giving away books helps sales— a bit like the drug trade.” 

 “Spy stories are back.”

Rules for a writer: “1. Read a lot. Analyze what makes a book good. 2. Write. 3. Don’t stop writing.”

                               A Few Notes From Madeline Hunter’s emotional and inspiring Luncheon Speech

“We can’t control this world, but we can control the one we create in our heads.

We’re all a little crazy. We invest years mastering an art that may never materialize. We set ourselves up for repeated rejections. We willingly expose our world views, our pain, and our inner voice to strangers.”

                                                 Michael Hauge

I've attended Mr. Hauge's two-hour workshops twice and come away with a head full of great tips. No way would I miss a chance to attend another  “Identity to Essence” class. Though simple, his lessons always zing me like a lightening bolt. Using movie plots as examples, he explains how the author (or screen writer) must know and SHOW what each character sees in the other, loves about the other--a quality that no one else recognizes. Later in the story the author must show how this awareness changes both the lover and the loved one. If the author can depict this evolution, the story will sing in a reader’s heart.

                               Notes from the Building Sexual Tension Workshop

To understand how to build sexual tension, read other authors’ love scenes, from the chaste kiss on the hand to the sweaty roll in the hay, and pick out the power words. 

Make sure the reader sees what is at stake for each of the lovers: physical release, revenge, solace, affirmation of life, nurturing, ownership, risk, self respect, heart, freedom, control, illusions about effect on opposite sex, regret. In each sex scene who is in control? Show how that changes as the relationship grows. In a sex scene use the POV (point of view) of the one who has most to lose, or to hide. The hero often thinks less about sex going into the scene and more about sex coming out of one.  Suggestion: use heroine’s POV going in and hero’s POV coming out of the sex scene.  And don’t forget to use dialog to increase intimacy.

                                                                Random notes with no hint of a source

Success equals commitment without compromise. (Ugh. That sounds like one of my father’s Saturday morning commands.)

Be sure to cover all four story arcs: the heroine’s arc, the hero’s arc, their romantic arc, the external arc.

Don’t forget all three parts of GMC (goal, motivation, conflict). What keeps your lovers apart? measures the market level of a social media hit, for example “Smart Bitches” versus “Harlequin.”

Collaboration with other authors increases your impact on Social Media.

Mainstream suspense continues to be strong.

Best advice I got in one small blast: “Writing makes me sane. STAY OFF THE LOOP!”

There’s more, of course, but that’s plenty to digest for one day.

P.S. I am tempted to drop in on my email, but am cowed by the aforementioned advice.