What is on your must read list? And what will you do with it?

We are all writers and, I’d hazard to guess, voracious readers as well. No doubt you have a tremendous list of novels and books on craft piling up on your nightstand, end table, book shelf… passenger seat of your car…

But as writers we get more than entertainment from books, we get lessons. As the Writing Career Coach I also get lessons from business books, marketing lectures and online teachers.

This week’s blog is actually an excerpt from my upcoming book, “52 Weeks of Writing Success”. I decided to share this because whenever I work with writers or business owners I find that they are great on ideas, awful on follow through. This is all about helping you with follow through.

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When you’re reading a book, how do you apply your learning? Stop reading this right now and get a notebook.

Seriously, stop reading now. I’ll wait.

On the first page you’ll write down the titles of books you want to read. As you read them, you’ll check them off in the left margin. Seems easy enough, right! Now you have one place to list all the things you’d like to read. These are the titles of the books that you would like to read to help expand your understanding of building and creating a strong story, with excellent craft and a sustainable writing business.

Some will be books that I’ve suggested to you, others will be books that you hear about from friends and colleagues. Now, turn the page and write the tile of the book.

About 2/3 of the way over on the paper, write a line from top to bottom from the title line to the bottom of the page. While you’re reading the books, take notes on the key points on the left side of this line. This will help you keep your notes together as well as give you a central location to focus on what you need to learn, why, and where you’re going to find that information.

On the right side, write actionable steps that you’re going to implement immediately. As you implement them, check them off just like you checked off the books from the “to be read” list. Do more than read. Take action.

If you have any questions on the book list or you would like to suggest some great books to read, contact use through our website at WritingCareerCoach.com.

— Tiffany Colter, Writing Career Coach

Get the Truth about Conferences!

I’m on the road helping my kids move into college today, so instead of a conversation with Sally, I have a special offer for you (and Sally!)

I’ll never forget my first writers conference. Fresh from my first term as a missionary, I had decided overseas that I wanted to write a novel. While on home service, I worked slavishly to finish it, and when I discovered a Christian writers conference in my area, albeit small, I couldn’t wait to arrive, plunk down my novel before some editor, and return with a check in hand.

Right. Sadly, I was woefully unprepared for the conference. I read nametags and titles, and a sweat broke out on my palms. I saw people with slick proposals and writing credits behind their names and wanted to run for the door. I sat down at a table with Steve Laube at a late-night session and wanted to weep at my flimsy answers. Years later he didn’t remember this pitching fiasco, thankfully, and agreed to be my agent. Save for one person who recognized my desperation and befriended me, I returned home alone, depressed, and certain that writing wasn’t for me.

Thankfully, at that first conference, the friend I made connected me with another friend…who critiqued my story. And she connected me with an author friend of hers named Dee Henderson. Dee became my champion as I wrote in the backwoods of Russia and never let me doubt that I could be a novelist. Her belief in me, and a little writing organization I joined at the time called ACRW (the forerunner to the American Christian Fiction Writers) kept me on the journey.

All the way until my next writers conference.

Yes, I had learned a few things. Mostly, however, I learned that I should have done my homework before the conference. I should have known who the agents were and what they wanted. I should have recognized the names of the editors and tried to make friends with them, perhaps ask them what they were looking for. Most of all, I should have attended with some kind of game plan that justified my family’s hard-earned money spent on a conference fee.

Recently, the staff at MBT sat down to talk about conferences, sharing our combined experiences. We realized that none of us knew what we were doing the first time we attended a conference. Wouldn’t it have been nice if we had talked to a few veterans, prepared, and attended the conference armed and ready? Thankfully, the first terrifying conference experience didn’t deter any of us from pursing publication, but we all had the wind knocked out of our sails and had to capture a fresh breath to continue.

The reality is, if you want to be published – and stay published – you need to attend Writer’s Conferences. But you shouldn’t attend unprepared. This is why the mulit-published, award-winning novelists and conference coordinators on the My Book Therapy staff wrote: The Truth about Conferences: the MBT guide to how to have a successful writers conference.

This book aims to be that fresh breath for you by helping equip you for a writers conference with the dos and don’ts, a healthy dose of realistic expectations, some tips and tricks for conference success, and pointers on how to get back on the path should you get knocked down during the conference. Here’s the truth: Writers conferences are overwhelming. But when you prepare yourself, they can also change your life.

To celebrate this book – and to give you some tips and tricks – we’re having a Truth about Conferneces Webinar on Thursday night, 7pm CST on our MBT Open House channel.  To join us, and to get a free excerpt, LIKE our Facebook page (the excerpt and registration link will appear!)

OR, if you want to skip the webinar, and still get a launch discount, sign up HERE.  We’ll be announcing the discount code and sending out the link during the webinar and afterwards.

Here’s some things you’ll learn: 

  • How to choose a conference
  • Budgeting for a conference
  • How to prepare professionally with business cards and pitch sheets
  • Choosing the right workshops
  • How to handle appointments
  • Organizing your time and information
  • Standing out in a positive way
  • Conference Etiquette
  • How to pack for success
  • And even how to network to after the conference is over!

Be prepared with the truth, the right expectations, and the tools for success. Because knowing the truth about conferences…just might get you published.

Blessings on the journey!

Susie May Warren

Founder, MBT

 

 

Thoughts On Writing A Review

I’m venturing out. Being bold. I’m going to talk about writing reviews. You may wonder what this has to do with writing or being a writer.

Everything.

Writing is art. That’s the first thing I want you to remember. Art. And art is subjective. I’ve read many books that I’d have written differently, but I choose to read the story as the author portrayed it.

There are so many things going in an author’s heart and mind while writing it is IMPOSSIBLE to think of every angle, every pitfall, every emotional high or low.

Many times an author will have an objective in mind and during the writing process¾changes, editing, rewriting and proofing¾and the original objective gets chipped away. What seemed clear in the author’s mind doesn’t quite communicate in the end.

There have been times when I was writing and I cut stuff because I was sure I’d said it in a previous chapter only to find out I cut it there too! See, the words remain in an author’s mind even if they doesn’t exist on the page!

Seriously, it can get confusing.

So when you’re reading to learn or to write a review or even an endorsement, consider the many approaches to writing a story and find the gold in the one you’re reading.

Art. Stand back and gaze at the book like art.

Still, there are books that somehow come up short. Even after rewriting, editing and proofing.

Last year I read a book that really felt contrived and weird at the end. Every character actually went by a different name when they were young and that was the ruse the author used to “cloak” the story.

I thought the dialog was weak. Too much, “Hi, how are you?” “I’m good. You?” Then using prose to tell the details the characters should be telling “between the quotes.”

One of my friends loved the book. I mean, loved it! But I just thought it was okay.

Yet, I stood back, took the artistic view and found the good in the book. I wasn’t going to give it five stars, but four. Certainly.

So art is to be appreciated, viewed, considered, pondered with an open heart. Reviewing a book allows you to be objective, critical in a good way, and draw out the gems. It forces you to see what the author did well.

But still, like the season finale of Castle, some stories come up emotionally short and cutting corners. It’s okay to be honest about pitfalls.

As reader-authors, we fall into yet another category as readers. The “beware.” Did you know publishers read reviews? Sometimes they recognize reviewer names. Sometimes as authors whose manuscripts they’ve rejected.

Other authors read reviews. Read their author-friend reviews.

Bad reviews are remembered. Discussed. Repeated. Joked about. Especially if the reviewer offers writing advice. Ouch. Be honest but err on the side of generosity.

I would never write a placid review for an author I knew. If I don’t care for a book, I just keep it to myself and regale the author when everyone else loves it!

Oh yea, I’ve learned that too. Books that didn’t hit my author-button usually go gang bustahs with readers. Hmm… what can I learn from that?

Authors, we can learn from reviews. There’s always something to consider about a low-star, negative review. It might be dismissed, but it should be considered.

Here are a few tips on writing a review:

  1. Put on your artist hat before writing a review. Find the good in the book and make that your lead.
  2. What nuggets of truth was the author conveying? Share those.
  3. Look for layers and symbols. Don’t read so fast you don’t get one of the deeper layers.
  4. Be careful of cliché words like “light, easy read.” Most authors aren’t aiming for “light easy read.” But be sure wish they it was a “light, easy write!” However, a good beach read or vacation read is good. Means the book allowed you to escape.
  5. Death keel for most reviews? “I wanted to like this book but…” That’s an immediate flag to the author and other readers. This reviewer probably read outside her genre. Now, sometimes it’s true, you want to like a book but just don’t. If you’re reading a book that is not typically your gene, don’t lead off your review with “I wanted to like this book, but…”
  6. Speaking of “not your genre.” I always encourage readers to read widely. Go outside your genre. If you do, write a review that’s fitting for readers of that genre. Be clear, it’s not your typical read, but don’t ding the book because you didn’t like that the hero and heroine ended up together in the end and call it “cliché.” Of course it’s cliché, it’s a romance. If they didn’t end up together romance readers would be livid. See and read the book as the genre intends. It’d be like a reviewer of a thriller going, “This books was scary, what a cliché.” It’s a thriller! Of course it’s scary.
  7. Don’t write about how you’d write the book differently, or what you’d have done if you’d written this book. Be kind to the author. Let him or her express the story their way.
  8. Review the story for it’s own elements. Were the characters consistent? Did the story flow? Was their conflict and tension? Did the internal and external plot weave well? Could you relate to the protagonist in some way?
    Those are the standards you want to us for reviewing and starring.
  9. Is the writing good? Smooth. Easy to read? Remember, some writers are more poetic, some more straightforward and simple. One is not better than the other, just different. Either way, did the author do a good job of “writing” the story. I’ve been intrigued by reviews where the reviewer said, “amazing writing.” I usually check those books out. Sometimes, I disagree. But I look for what the reviewer saw and try to learn.
  10. Be generous. Remember, someone is going to read this review. Maybe even the author. The publisher. Or God. Be honest. But be kind.

It’s perfectly fine to not like a book or not connect completely with the character or plot, but be objective and wise when you write a review.

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Rachel Hauck, My Book Therapy, The Craft and Coaching Community for NovelistsBest-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story. With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 15 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com.