Writing from the Peak, PPW Blog

Conference is Over – Now What?

The writer’s conference you just attended was AMAZING, but now what do you do? Here are a few tips to make the most of your experience.

After You Get Home

Don't forget to write!
  • Give yourself a day off, at least from writing-related tasks. Your brain will process your experience even if you’re not consciously chasing after it. Unpack, do laundry, get settled.  Go to your day job if you must. But give your brain a rest from conference things, let your mind have a day to process.
  • After a day or two of rest, followup with the contacts you made. You’re recharged, and ready to reach out.
    • Remember how I said to have a system for all those business cards/contact info you collected during the conference?  Here is where that organization pays off. You should have, all in one place, contact information, and notes about how you intended to followup.  Now is the time to send those emails or texts, make anticipated phone calls, or get something in snail mail (yes, some people still do that). You’re a professional, so of course you’re following through in a timely manner.  Well done!
  • You took a lot of notes during Conference, didn’t you? Review all that fantastic information you nearly drowned in just a couple of days ago. Summarize what you’ve learned. Taking the time to do this now will help you retain what matters most. Jot down an action list, a book-buying list, a “must-try-this” list as you go along.
  • Head over to the websites of those you met – read blogs and leave comments.  Write a review. Connect on social media. Stay in touch and nurture the new professional connections you made.
  • Shoot off a few emails, leave comments on websites, engage with those you met. The relationships you build now may have impact on your writing career later.
  • And finally, if you had a good experience, let the organizers know.  Participate in surveys, so they can further improve their event next year. Consider volunteering to help out at future events. Become active in your local writing community.

Most important of all? Don’t forget to write!


Editor’s Note: A huge thank you to everyone who attended PPWC2019! We hope you had as much fun as we did! Please remember to fill out the survey you will receive shortly. Also, please consider volunteering for PPWC2020. It is a wonderful way to give back to the writing community!


Profile Photo of Gabrielle V Brown Managing Editor Pikes Peak Writers Blog

Gabrielle V. Brown, Contributing Editor with Writing From the Peak, writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction. Visit her website, find her on Facebook, and instagram orcontact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com

It’s Conference Time!

Pikes Peak Writer's Conference 2019. It Takes a Tribe.

You’ve made the decision to up the ante and forward your writing career by attending a conference – good for you! You’ve got your spot reserved, your travel and lodging are booked, and your first writers’ conference is just around the corner. How can you get the most out of the time and money you’ve invested?

A bit of planning will go a long way to a successful writers’ conference whether this is your first or fifteenth. Here are a few items to get you started on the right track.

Before the Conference:

  • Make sure your business cards are accurate and reflect the genre you write in. If you don’t have business cards, get some, pronto. Remember, this is a professional conference, and professionals have business cards. You can make your own or use an affordable online service such as VistaPrint.com, zazzle.com, or MOO.com. Business cards should have, at the least, your email address, your website, and handles for your professional (not personal) social media.
  • Speaking of social media, how’s your online presence? You should assume that least a few of the people you meet will check our your site or your social media. If you haven’t posted a blog in several months, take a bit of time to put something current on your page. Same for your social media – put up a post or gram or tweet or two!
  • Identify your expectations and goals to maximize your conference experience. Review the workshops and events offered, and put together a game plan. Check the conference website for a schedule and decide where you want to be for each time block. I like to print the schedule out ahead of time and mark it up with highlighters.
  • Take some time to review conference and event maps. You’ll spend less time trying to locate where your next workshop is.  Less time navigating means more time networking.
  • Perfect your elevator pitch. Even if you don’t have a finished novel, you can describe what you write and why you’re at the conference in a few sentences. Practice your pitch in front of the mirror.  Get feedback, make it just right, and then memorize it. That way, when the big-deal New York agent makes eye contact or your favorite best-selling author smiles at you, you’ve got effective words at the ready. Even if your heart is pitter-patting and your brain has frozen.
  • Research workshop presenters and keynotes, particularly the ones leading sessions you’ll be attending. Check out  their websites and social media.  Google them. You’ll be more comfortable interacting with them, and who knows, you may have something in common!
  • Bring copies of your synopsis; you never know who may want to take a look.

Pack Smart:

  • Pack business casual clothes, and plan on layers. Hotels and conference centers have notoriously unpredictable climate control systems, and you’ll be thankful you can don or remove that cardigan or blazer as needed.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle. You’ll be more alert if you’re hydrated. I also pack a few protein-rich snacks such as trail mix or jerky, to satisfy a growling tummy without the carb crash from the candy on the meeting tables.
  • Make sure you have note-taking supplies in your arsenal. Some writers prefer a notebook and pen, some would rather tap into a tablet or laptop. I usually bring both paper and electronic. I also throw in a highlighter for marking handouts and a sharpie, just in case my favorite author’s runs out right when I get to the front of the book-signing line.
  • You can bring a book or two, but don’t expect to have time to read. These will be for obtaining author signatures. But don’t bring more than a couple, better to purchase some at the event bookstore – thus supporting both the author and the conference.
  • Chargers and battery packs will make your life easier – no running up to your room because an important device is dead.  Many conferences now offer charging stations in meeting rooms, but don’t count on it.
  • Make sure you’ve got something to hold your gear while traveling from session to session. A backpack, tote, or attache should do. Consider putting an extra tote in your suitcase, because you’re going to have to get that bookstore bounty back up to your room somehow. And then home!
  • Bring workout wear, running gear, or a swimsuit. Moving your body helps keep you alert and energized, and you’ll appreciate it after spending many hours in windowless, fluorescent lit meeting rooms.
  • Make sure you have got lip balm, mints, tissues and ibuprofen/acetaminophen with you wherever you go. Not only will you ensure your own comfort, but you’ve got instant networking/icebreaking tools at your ready.  Pop a mint and offer one – easy engagement for even the most introverted. And it’s great to be the hero who has headache medicine to share when someone staggers in looking for relief after too much bar-con networking last night.
  • If you have a book, for sure bring marketing materials – bookmarks, postcards, pencils, whatever. There’s often a freebie table where you can place these items for perusal and pickup by other attendees.

At the Writers’ Conference

  • Take lots of notes, buy a book and have it signed, ask questions and be flexible.
  • Take advantage of networking opportunities. Talk to presenters in between sessions (be respectful of their time, they may be in a hurry). Engage with other attendees at meals. Stop by the lobby/bar area in the evening after sessions are over. You don’t need to be a drinker to attend bar-con, and you may get some quality, less formal face-to-face time with someone you’d been wanting to meet. You’ve make an investment in time and money to be here; take advantage of these opportunities.
  • Be generous with those business cards, and collect contact information from those you meet. Have a system (beyond stuffing their business cards in your back pocket) for keeping track of who you talk with. I keep a small notebook with a pocket just for this – cards go in the pocket and I make a note of why I have that card.  Not everyone may give you a card – you may get an email address from a presenter, or a phone number for texting. Whatever it is, get it down. You’ll be glad you did!
  • It isn’t unusual to be overwhelmed, especially at larger conferences. Give yourself permission to skip a session and head up to your room for decompression time. Or go for a walk, get outdoors and breathe in some fresh air and sunshine and quiet. You’ll be ready to head back in after a bit. Lots of us are introverts, we get the need to be away from the crowd now and then.
  • Don’t feel you must attend every single session, unless of course that is a requirement of the event you’re attending. You know what you hope to get out of this conference, plan your time accordingly. Missing a session because you ended up in a long post-lunch conversation doesn’t mean you’re not getting value from that time.
  • And most of all, enjoy yourself!  How often do you get to hang out with so many people who share your passion for the written word  You want to go home with some warm fuzzy memories.  Maybe you can write them into your latest work!

So spend a little time preparing before you head off to that Writer’s Conference.  You’ll be glad you did!

Pikes Peak Writing Conference is May 3-5, 2019. Registration is open until April 28th! See you there!!


Profile Photo of Gabrielle V Brown Managing Editor Pikes Peak Writers Blog

Gabrielle V. Brown, Contributing Editor with Writing From the Peak, writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction. Visit her website ,find her on Facebook, and instagram ; contact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com

Marcus Aurelis Turns 1,898

Photo of bronze of Marcus Aurelius courtesy of the Louvre.

Today’s writing advice is nearly two thousand years old. Roman Emperor and Philosopher Marcus Aurelius would be celebrating his 1898th birthday today*.  His core work, Meditations, originally entitled “To Himself”, may be one of the earliest self-help books. 

Aurelius’ advice is 65 generations old, yet still valuable. You’ll not get that next project finished until you start!

*appropriate calendar adujustment


Lit-Quote provided by, Gabrielle V. Brown who writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction.  Find her on Facebook, and instagram ; contact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com.  For more about today’s birthday author, visit her website.

Using the Tax Code – Part 1

In this two part series, Jason Henry tells us about how the tax code can be used to further your writing career. Jason will be teaching, Understanding How the Changes in the Tax Code Effect Your Writing Career, with his wife, Linda Evans at PPWC2019.


Today I want to talk to you about your writing journey, but first I want to talk about my wife.

The Fetching Mrs. Evans has put up with my shenanigans for over fourteen years. Why I’m not living in my car trying to watch Youtube on my laptop while stealing the wifi signal from McDonalds, I’ll never know. She is truly a saint for putting up with me.

She is an accountant and tax preparer by trade. She was introduced to the business by her merciless parents who forced her into child labor at the wee age of nine by chaining her to an adding machine. (I kid, I kid!)

You know, your view of the world is bound to change when you’ve married an accountant. For example, the Fetching Mrs. Evans has taught me the ways Congress has tried to modify our collective behaviors in this country by incentivizing some acts and de-incentivizing others. For example we are all encouraged to put money away into retirement accounts because that money doesn’t get taxed until you use it. We are encouraged to own and not rent housing because we can take a portion of our monthly payment off as a write-off when we own. Stuff like that.

So I want to talk about how you can use the current tax law to help you with your writing craft.

In the beginning …

The tax code is designed to incentivize certain actions. For most of the 20th century, Congress wanted to reward people for being good neighbors and community members by creating the Schedule A on the tax form. Your mortgage interest deduction is noted on the Schedule A because we believe homeowners are better community members. Those uniforms you bought for the local little league team? A Schedule A write-off. That computer you donated to the Boys Club? A schedule A write-off. The mileage on your car you gained by driving your daughters dance team to the competition? A write-off as well.

Amateur writers used to be able to take their deductions off under the Schedule A. Taking a writing class? Schedule A. Going to a writer’s conference? Schedule A! Talking on a panel at Denver Pop Culture Con? The mileage and food purchased were on deductible under the schedule A!

Things have changed.

Unfortunately for us, Congress gutted the provisions of the Schedule A in the latest round of tax reform. No more writing off convention hot dogs! No more mileage deductions for pontificating about Dr. Who at a sci-fi convention.

In order to use those deductions now, you have to put them under a Schedule C. The Schedule C is for business. All of those deductions you could have taken off for your writing hobby you can now use under the Schedule C – provided that you treat your writing as a business.

Business Best Practices

In order for you to take advantage of the tax codes you have to start practicing the habits of a business. So what does that mean?

  • Keep track of incoming revenue and outgoing expenses
  • Starting a separate checking/savings account
  • Using contracts when you hire people to do services for you. (Cover artists, editors, formatters, & web designers, to name a few.)
  • Issuing 1099 tax forms

Deductions

The great thing about treating your writing like a business is that it opens up a lot of petty expenses you’re paying for as deductions.

  • Going to a writers conference and you need a new dress? That is a write-off.
  • Did you donate a set of your books to a library or school? Write-off!
  • Did you buy a table at your local geek convention? Write-off
  • What about the mileage you drove to that book signing? Write-off
  • Did you have to pay for food or a hotel room for a writing event? Write-off.
  • Do you pay for meals or dues in a writing organization? (Like a critique group?) Write-off

Now please don’t feel like you can write everything off. You can’t. But you if you were going to make a purchase for your writing career – and you’ve gotten into best business practices for writers everywhere – then you can legitimately claim that purchase as a write-off.

Here are some examples.

I write historical fiction and I blog on for Pikes Peak, as well as my own website. So I take 70% of my internet access as a write off. I can’t take all of it off because I, like you, watch HULU, Netflix, goof off on game sites, and send non-business emails with my wifi at home.

I take off about 50% of my phone bill because I have a smart phone and I use the data to talk to other writers through FB messenger, text, and email – which I access from my phone when I’m not at home. I will also use the internet for research, too. I can’t use any more than 50% because I gab with friends, send funny memes and other shenanigans with my phone, too.

I live close to Denver Pop Culture Con, so I don’t take the mileage – I take the cost of the lite rail.

When I teach at Pikes Peak Writers this year, I can’t take the any of the registration or hotel costs off because I’m on faculty and that’s being comp’d. But I can take the mileage for the drive down there and back.

I will have my black suit dry cleaned for the conference, so I’ll take the write-off for that, too. (I only wear suits for conferences and book launches – so this is a legitimate business expense.)

I’m going to end this blog here, but next time we’ll talk about book keeping, writing contracts, & whether or not you need to issue 1099’s in your writing business.


Jason Evans

Jason Henry Evans says that life is funny. “In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.”
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook 
Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Conference Like a Pro –

Everything You Need to Know

Pikes Peak writer's Conference 2019
REGISTRATION DEADLINE:
April 28, 2019

Most of the time, writing is a solitary act. But if you’re in it for the long haul, it quickly becomes apparent that not only will other people have to be involved at some point, you need other people to stay motivated and succeed. Attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is a terrific way to start finding those people – your tribe.

If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference, being around a few hundred or so other aspiring authors can be a little overwhelming, even anxiety-provoking, until you realize the amazingly wonderful fact that these folks are following the same mysterious calling as you. Eating lunch with an agent or an editor is one of the best ways to understand that these inscrutable entities are, in fact, human beings who truly want you to succeed. Because, after all, why would someone get into the publishing industry unless they, you know, LOVED BOOKS?? It’s their business to find good work.

PPWC Conference Director Laura Hayden and Programming Director Bowen Gilling joined conference mavens Patrick Hester, Stacy S. Jensen, and Shannon Lawrence to provide insider tips and insights during Write Brain on Wednesday. They even suggested icebreaking strategies for first-time attendees. (Hint: asking another writer “What are you working on?” is a great way to kick off a long conversation.)

Bowen had some particularly helpful advice for those new to the conference experience. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment with a statement like, “My attendance will be a failure unless X happens,” where X equals a 3-book deal or the like. Instead, stay open to the unexpected networking opportunities and discussions that spring up naturally. Keep looking. You’ll find your tribe.

Deadline to register for PPWC2019 is April 28, 2019. Conference is, May 3 through 5, 2019. Can’t make it for the whole weekend? The conference prequel on May 2nd is a one-day event with eight different workshops to choose from.

Go to https://pikespeakwriters.com/ppwc/ for more information.


Robin Laborde

This recap from Write Brain is presented by Contributing Editor Robin Laborde. Robin is not sure exactly how long she has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers but she enjoys it very much. While she is currently writing a speculative fiction novel set in the near future, she dreams of flying to the moon in a spaceship made from butterfly wings.

Networking for Writers

This blog post originally appeared on the Killzone Blog (TKZ), to which John Gilstrap contributes every other Wednesday.

————

Like any other business, this publishing game is built in part on personal relationships. Want to rise to the top of an agent’s slush pile?  Want to get a blurb from a big-name author? Want to know how to deal with the frustrations of cover designs, finding an editor, or fleshing out the technical details of your plot?  All of these challenges and just about everything else you want to know or do can be flushed out through networking.  That’s what I want to talk about in the paragraphs ahead.

In no particular order of importance:

Followers, Friends, Likes and Contacts don’t count. 

There’s a widespread presumption “out there” that the way to start a writing career is to build an enormous social media platform.  I see the logic when it comes to nonfiction expertise, but when it comes to fiction, it makes no sense to me to concentrate on finding customers for a product that doesn’t yet exist.  Yes, I suppose a well-done blog about one’s writing process could be interesting to other writers, but here’s the sad truth: Writers don’t buy books. I’ve overstated that, of course, but in large measure I think it’s true when it comes to writers’ blogs.  I’m not being bitter here at all, but we get statistics every week on how many people visit TKZ every day, and trust me: If all those people bought all our books, we’d all be driving better cars.

Now, think of the number of writing-related groups and blogs you subscribe to through Facebook and LinkedIn and all the other social media platforms.  I get that those are the safe spaces that make you comfortable, and give you an opportunity to actively participate in conversations, but if you’re writing, say, about police procedures, might your time and efforts be better spent on groups and blogs that talk about those things?

I don’t think it’s insignificant that the social media push is largely driven by people who make money by helping people build their social media platform. I mean, think about it: Authors are brands and books are products. Would you be more inclined to buy a Chevy over a Toyota because the president of Chevrolet posted a picture of his breakfast?

Step out of the virtual world into the real one.

Given that you’re currently reading a blog about writing, I feel a little awkward telling you to push away from the computer and stop reading blogs about writing. None of us are truly who we pretend to be in public forums like this. Many of us try to be genuine–I know that I do–but my armor is always up in an online interaction.  My inner-cynic won’t let me get but so close in a cyber-relationship, and I expect the same level of cynicism from others. I would never dream of asking advice or asking a favor from someone I have not met in person.

Go to where the experts are. 

It’s no secret to TKZ regulars that I’m what you might call a gun guy.  I like firearms and I know a lot about them. I also know that there are people who know far more than I do, and that a large percentage of those people will gather in Las Vegas at the end of January for the annual SHOT Show, which is to weapons systems what the Detroit Auto Show is to automobiles. I need to be there.

My first SHOT Show was in 2012, and it was there that I met a guy who is a world renown expert in martial arts and edged weapons. We bonded and became friends. Through him, I’ve met a number of Special Forces operators, and through them some FBI special weapons experts.  I try not to bother them too much, but they always take my phone calls and answer tough questions.  They trust me never to write things that I shouldn’t and I pay them every year with an acknowledgement and a free book. Most of these guys have become good friends.

But you don’t have to go to Vegas. 

Want to know about how cops interact with each other? Start with a community ride-along program and chat up the officer who’s driving you around.  Listen not just to the words, but to the attitude.  Ask that cop if he can introduce you to other cops–say, a homicide investigator–so that you can ask a few questions.  I think you’ll be surprised by the results.

BTW, for police-related immersion learning, you cannot beat Writer’s Police Academy.  Lee Lofland puts on one hell of a 4-day show every year. His blog, The Graveyard Shift, is informative, too.

You need to meet other industry professionals. 

Pick a conference, any conference. They grow like weeds around the country–around the world, for that matter.  I can’t speak to other genres, but in the world of mysteries and thrillers, you could spend virtually every weekend at a conference.  Yes, they cost money, but before you complain about that, remember that writing is a business, and every business requires investment.

  • 100% of all business at a conference is conducted in the bar. You don’t have to drink, but just as lions on the hunt target watering holes for their dinner, smart rookies scope out the bar at the conference hotel to meet people. Authors of all stature are there to hang out with old friends and meet new ones. Agents and editors are there to develop relationships with existing clients and to scope out new ones.
  • Have a plan. Are you attending the conference to simply get to know people and hang out, or are you going there to accomplish a particular goal?  If you’re on the hunt for an agent, be sure to research who’s attending and what kind of books they’re looking for.  Basically, read the program booklet.
  • Don’t be shy. Okay, you’re an introvert and are uncomfortable around people.  I get that.  Now, get over it. This is a business, and contacts are not going to come to you. To a person, everyone you see at the bar knows that they’re in a public place among hungry strangers, and they’re willing–anxious, even–to talk with shy rookies.
  • Know what you want. After sharing a laugh and a few stories about life and family, be ready for the question, “So, how can I help you?”  That’s your cue for your ten-second elevator pitch delivered without notes. With a smile.  The home run here is a request to send a manuscript. Then chat some more.  This is a people business, so be a real person.
  • Hang out with the crowd you want to belong to.  I’m always amazed–and a little dismayed–at conferences when I see all the rookies hanging out with each other, while the veterans and bestsellers hang out separately. I don’t mean to be crass–and remember, this is a business conference–but your fellow rookies are not in positions to help you.  If Connolly and Lehane and Deaver and Gerritsen are all hanging out, drinking and laughing, pull up a chair.  If the Agent of All Agents is holding court, join the crowd. Unless it’s an intense one-on-one business meeting, I guarantee that no one will ask you to leave. (And why in the world would anyone choose such a public forum for an intense one-on-one business meeting?)

Overall, “networking” as a concept attempts to complicate something that is inherently simple.

 You have goals that you wish to accomplish, and you want to get to know people who can help you get there.  As an alternative step, you want to get to know someone who can introduce you to someone who can help you.  It’s as easy–and as hard–as showing up and asking.


John Gilstrap
John Gilstrap

John Gilstrap is a New York Times bestselling author with four books optioned for the big screen. He will co-produce the film adaptation of his book, Six Minutes to Freedom. A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution.  Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, weapons systems, hazardous materials, and fire behavior.  John lives in Fairfax, VA.

Lit-Quote with Tom Clancy

Today, April 12th, is the birth anniversary of Tom Clancy.

Tom Clancy was once a Maryland insurance broker with a passion for naval history. Then he wrote The Hunt for Red October, which catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list after President Reagan pronounced it “the perfect yarn”. Clancy was known for  weaving realism and intricate plotting into can’t-put-it-down suspense novels.

Photo taken by Gary Wayne Gilbert, 20Nov1989 at Burns Library, Boston College and is used under Creative Commons License..

Have you ever written real life situations that were just too unbelievable to be included in your work?


Profile Photo of Gabrielle V Brown Managing Editor Pikes Peak Writers BlogLit-Quote is provided by, Gabrielle V. Brown, Contributing Editor with Writing From the Peak. Gabrielle writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction.  Find her on Facebook, and instagram ; contact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com.  For more about today’s birthday author, visit her website.


Pet Peeves of Editors and Agents

What are the “Peevie Jeevies” of Editors and Agents?

Here are the top five, in no particular order, from agents and editors I have spoken with throughout my years of attending PPWC.

  • When I say, “No, it’s not for me,” please don’t argue with me or state your case why I should change my mind.
  • Don’t tell me it’s going to be the next bestseller. Comparing it to a particular book is fine, but a little humility goes a long way.
  • Please don’t stalk me, especially in the restrooms. It’s creepy when I turn around and you’re simply always there.
  • I don’t want to be handed your entire manuscript. If I’m interested in your book, I’ll let you know by giving you information on how/where to contact me or I’ll give you my card.
  • Although it’s flattering, don’t treat me like a god or goddess. I’m human, just like you.

Here are the top five things agents and editors would like you to do.

  • Introduce yourself and give me a brief (keyword brief) logline of your story. I don’t need you to recite the entire book.
  • If I do ask for materials, make sure you follow the submission guidelines carefully.
  • Yes, you can buy me a drink. I’d love a drink. Or two.
  • Mingle. Make some small talk. It could lead to bigger things.
  • Talk to me as you would anyone else you’re meeting for the first time. We enjoy meeting new people. That’s why we’re here.

PPWC 2019 is just around the corner. Get ready to meet with editors and agents, but don’t rile their “Peevie Jeevies”!


Becki Davis

A member of Pikes Peak Writers for over 20 years, Becki Davis has written dozens of lifestyle articles for local publications and has been published in a national women’s magazine. Currently she works as an advertising manager for a local newspaper writing copy and designing ads. She and her husband are graphic designers and have won numerous awards both locally and internationally throughout their long careers

Stuff You Should Know About Writing

Susan Wiggs is one of the keynote speakers at PPWC2019, and she graciously shares this post with us about her writing process.


I have the worst work habits. Sometimes I look at the pile of books I’ve written and I wonder how they got there. One reason this body of work has eked out of me (sorry about that visual) is that I have a friend like Sheila. Writer friends keep me accountable.

The actual process of composing a book is not pretty. The best way to describe it is “word-by-word.” You put down a word. Then you cross it out. Then write a few more. Stare out the window. Wonder if the can opener needs cleaning. Wonder if someone’s having a hissy fit on a social network. Wonder why you thought this was a good idea for a novel in the first place. Call a friend. Call Sheila and disrupt her day.

Sometimes you have to go to Bali to clear your head and get some serious thinking done:

Clear your head in Bali.
My brain works better in Bali.

I write my first draft in longhand. In a Clairefontaine notebook with a fountain pen loaded with peacock blue ink. Not because I’m quirky but because I think in longhand. And I’m left-handed so ordinary pens smear my hand as it drags across the page, but Skrip peacock blue on Clairefontaine paper does not.

The first awful draft.

So now what, you ask? After I bleed blue all over the page, I realize there is no backup copy. If I happen to step out for a while, the house might burn down and the only existing manuscript will go up in flames, like Jo’s novel in Little Women. (I didn’t cry when Beth died. I cried when Amy burned the manuscript.) Sometimes I keep the notebook in the freezer, like Tess does with her notes in The Apple Orchard. I figure that’s the last thing that will burn if the house is reduced to rubble.

Eventually, I fill the notebook with about 100,000 words that loosely resemble a novel. Then I have to type the thing up. I can’t use a typist because I tend to revise as I transcribe. Dragon Naturally Speaking voice dictation software works really well for me, provided the dogs don’t go off on me when someone comes to the door. When that happens, here’s what appears on my screen: hep hep hep hep hep hep hep hep hep hep hep hep hep hep.

Oh, and here’s something. I don’t use Word. I know, I’m awful, but my very first writing software was WordPerfect and my brain is stuck with it. I have to have Reveal Codes and anyone who knows WordPerfect knows why. Please, Word, figure out Reveal Codes! F3! Save my sanity!

Then I print the thing out and my writers’ group has a meeting about it. I’ve been in some writing group or other since 1986 and I don’t intend stopping. Magic happens in a writers’ group–critiquing and brainstorming and commiserating and celebrating. My current group consists not only of the fabulous Sheila Roberts, but also Lois Faye DyerAnjali BanerjeeElsa Watson and Kate Breslin. We read and talk about each other’s work and I adore these women and I would pledge them my first born child but she already has a kid of her own.

My group sometimes meets at a quaint waterfront bakery in a small town, or in Sheila’s incredible waterfront condo. Writing tip: Baked goods make the brain work better.

Moving right along…I rewrite the book a couple of times. At various stages, it looks something like this:

Revisions are not pretty.
Revisions are not pretty.

…but you get to buy lots of colorful office supplies, so that’s something.

…and then I send it to my literary agent and editor. We have long deep talks about every aspect of the novel. Sometimes we get together in person and they are smart and kind and supportive and motivating and I thank God they are in my life.

Susan Wiggs at her wedding.
They came to my wedding. We did no work that weekend.

And then I put on the Sweater of Immovable Deadlines and rewrite that sucker again.

And at some point my editor says we’re good to go, and my agent says yippee, let’s send that girl her advance check…


Susan Wiggs is an international #1 New York Times best-selling, award-winning author of more than fifty novels. Her work has been translated into two-dozen languages. She is a three-time winner of the RITA Award, the highest honor given for a work of romantic fiction. Wiggs has been featured in national and international media, including NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Her most recent novel is Between You and Me (William Morrow). Susan’s life is all about family, friends…and fiction. She lives at the water’s edge on an island in Puget Sound, and in good weather, she commutes to her writers’ group in a 21-foot motorboat.

Her latest releases include: Between You & Me, Family Tree, and Summer at Willow Lake book club edition.

Available for pre-order: Map of the Heart in paperback, and
Between You & Me in hardcover.

Thinking Outside the Publication Box

Write Brain with Debbie Maxwell Allen –

We’re all aware that readers are finding their favorite content in many places besides physical books. With this in mind, Debbie Maxwell Allen’s Write Brain presentation provided a refreshing look at how writers can take advantage of multiple technologies to get themselves and their content in front of readers.

Affordable print-on-demand services make it possible to produce a variety of creative materials such as card decks, board games, and even coloring books. Augmented reality (AR) apps open up the possibility of adding animated artwork and video, viewable by smartphone, to your books and promotional tie-ins.

Of course, no discussion about self-promotion would be complete without mentioning Facebook. Citing the platform’s rising costs for paid advertising, Debbie shared ways to use Facebook in a more organic and conversational way. Rather than boosting posts and buying ads, she suggested leveraging currently free features such as groups and live videos to connect with fans and share content such as story world details, what you’re currently working on, or how you found an idea.

As much as some of us (and by some of us I mean me) would like to imagine it’s not necessary, both traditionally and independently published authors need to find and build their own audience, even before publication. Fortunately, technology makes it easier than ever to get your words and your brand in front of an increasingly global audience.

Debbie Maxwell Allen is an editor, YA author, and Scrivener teacher. She works as a project manager for Good Catch Publishing and writes young adult historical fantasy. Find more of her resources for writers on her blog, Writing While the Rice Boils.


Robin LabordeThis recap from Write Brain is presented by Contributing Editor Robin Laborde. Robin is not sure exactly how long she has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers but she enjoys it very much. She worked as a technical writer for over ten years and has had nonfiction articles published in newspapers and magazines. While she is currently writing a speculative fiction novel set in the near future, she dreams of flying to the moon in a spaceship made from butterfly wings.