Saturday, April 9, 2011

RCRW Retreat....

Basket Raffle Winners
So - I have just returned from my first *official* writers retreat.  It was a full day conference beginning this morning bright and early at 8:00 and I did not leave until after 8:00 this evening.  It was a very long day but it was positively full of great information!  So, in the picture above you see all of the basket winners.  On the bottom left you will see Deb Dixon - of GMC fame!  Yes, she was one of our speakers!  She owns (or runs) a publishing company and gave us some brilliant advice on the publishing industry.  She was even kind enough to give me some advice on a book my daughter is working on!  More on Deb's talk later though....

Me and Karen Docter
First, we had a talk with Karen Docter on The "W" Plot.  I will have to say that this was great because one of the things that I have been learning about in my book Fiction Writing for Dummies is the 3 scene or 3 act book.  Basically, your book should be divided into 3 main parts with some key action occurring in each part, with an escalation in each.  Karen Docter elaborated or elucidated upon this idea by introducing the W.  So basically, what you have is that the 3 points of the W are the characters' 3 high points, and then the bottom points of the W being the characterss low points.  Of course, your main characters should each have a W, and then your plot or romance gets a W too.  Then, there's the antagonist (or villain) who gets an M.  Obviously, when your character is in a high point, your villain is in a low point, and vice versa.  But ultimately, the villain should end down, and the main characters should get a happily ever after. 

She also was really awesome in helping us with defining character goals.  Now, this is a real sore spot for me because about 3 copies of my sequel have been "filed" in the circular file because my characters lack goals.  Yeah - I get it.  I'm sorry to say that I still don't know my characters' goals (Karen gave me the advice to start from the end and work my way back - someone else told me that too....), but it seems that whenever I try to think about what my characters really want, I end up realizing that this or that can't work.  Karen spent a lot of time working with me individually, and it really helped me work toward solidifying where I need to go with this.  One thing though, that I realized, is that I am not the only one that struggles with goals.  Other people didn't know what their goals should be, and some had trouble grasping the idea of what a goal really was.  I guess that made me feel a little less like I didn't belong, and I think a lot of us really moved closer to defining those character and story goals.

Of course, once you have goals, then you need to determine your motivation, and conflicts.  For me, this is the easy part - I have a whole list of conflicts, and if I can ever nail down those goals, motivation will come.  Some of us were challenged with this as well though and Karen did a great job of explaining how we can figure out our motivations and conflicts once we have our goals. 

Then, after all we figure all this out, we get to the W.  I never made it this far.  I'm still stuck at the goals, but I can't wait until I get to start playing with my Ws and Ms!
Me and Debra Dixon

Deb Dixon of Belle Books spoke to us about the difference between publishing with a "Big 6" publisher and a small press publisher. It was really a great talk.  I thought that I had done a lot of research on this industry when I was trying to publish my book.  I did my research, I sent my manuscript out to agents, I was rejected, and I went to self publishing.  One thing though that was really great was that, had I actually found an agent when I first started sending out my manuscript, I would have been ill prepared to sign a contract.  I think this is important because as an attorney with 10 years experience, and having had my start in theater, I thought that I was prepared for finding an agent and publisher for my book.  I realize now how little I knew.  I had barely skimmed the surface as to what publishers really do.  I mean, I know they publish books, and I always felt that they should do some level of copy editing, cover design and marketing, but after the research I had found, I think I could have very easily been taken for a ride.

Deb explained that there are the "Big 6."  These are the publishers that everyone knows.  Hatchette Book Group, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon Schuster.  Now, what's cool about the Big 6 is that they pay huge advances (sometimes), they have huge marketing budgets (sometimes), and their books are the ones that end up on the shelves of every bookseller across the nation (sometimes).  That's right, sometimes.  They are also too big to notice and give personal attention to *every author they sign.*  So if you make it with them - awesome.  But you had better be prepared to put out.  And if you don't, you can't take it personally if they drop you.

Now, the smaller publishing houses come in three flavors; National, Regional, and Digital First or Digital Only.  With National, you get better distribution, better advances, but they do smaller print runs than the bigger houses.  Some of their books may end up Nationally.  With Regional or Niche publishers, you usually have a mom and pop publisher.  They may only publish certain types of books, like Memphis Gardening - or Cooking with Kudzu. These publishers will only sell locally or to very limited markets. Then, there's the Digital First/Only.  These may have huge distribution but they pay little to no advances, and they usually don't invest much in their books.  However, they  may have a very loyal following.

So, how do you know which publisher is best for you?  Well, if you don't have a very marketable idea, but are still set on publishing - self publish.  There's no rejection, no editing demands (expcept those you impose upon yourself), no marketing (except what you do for yourself), and the only advance is the money you pay in advance to having your book published.  If you do it right, this can be really reasonable.  This is the way I went for my first book, and the way I will publish my daughter's book that she is writing (on Deb's advice).  I'm not sure about my sequel though.  It's going to have to hit some new levels before I feel like it is ready for the agent/publisher world.

Now, if you have a great idea and you have an agent, and you have a publisher that is interested in you, do you go with the Big 6, or the smaller publishing house?  Well first, is a Big 6 publisher offering you a contract?  If so, you might do well to go there, but if you demand personal service and you want a company that is going to focus on you, and focus on selling your book for the long term, you may want to consider a smaller house.  A smaller house is going to be more interested in the long term success of your book (probably) than the big 6, but this is something that - if the situation arises, you really need to speak to someone about.

So the long and the short of it your character development, do your goal setting, write a *great* book, find an agent, then worry about it.


Cora Zane said...

Awesomeness, Linnea! Great post and pictures! And it sounds like you learned a bunch too. I always come away from these type gathering feeling inspired and ready to write. :D

LinneaHall said...

Yup....just gotta get those goals going on. I've got the rest of the structure ready to go! :)


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