RWA 2016 – First Timer’s Experience

Wow, RWA is such an incredibly friendly and supportive community! Many people started conversations and introduced themselves–even great big names.

Take-aways: I might have found my tag line! I gained huge insights for pitching. I learned of other presses to talk to: Harlequin Intrigue, Avon, St. Martins (when I finish the damn book!).

Protein bars saved my life! You cannot get food at RWA if you want to attend sessions all day, sweep the goody room, hook up with friends, meet new people, buy books, etc. There just isn’t time. Now that I’m home I’m re-aquatinting myself with eating food that you don’t have to unwrap. 🙂

Notes on Sessions I Attended

A Stronger Outline for a Stronger Story, Gabriela Pereira — review of the hero’s journey and 3-act structure; applying it to your story. Ask yourself what is missing from your story, too.

Be the Voice, Erin Quinn It’s how you say things that make your voice. Who are you as a writer? The tone of your MS is the tone of your voice. The words you don’t choose are also important. Voice is both your perspective and your character’s.

The Imposter Syndrome, Dr. Valerie Young — Reframe your internal script. Reframe mistakes, and these are not failures. Reframe fear, it goes with the creative territory. Fear and excitement are similar in your body, so tell yourself you’re excited, not afraid.

First Timers Retreat — tips on the industry like common acronyms, difference between editor and agent, and synopsis and queries.

Frame Your Scene, Build Your Story, The Art of Layering, Lori Freeland adding things like emotion, setting, dialogue, action, body language with every revision.

From Once Upon a Time to Happily Ever After, Dee Davis — lot of discussion on plot, gain/loss in the story to increase emotional stakes and reader interest. POV should be the character who has the most to lose. Scene/sequel review. Pacing and “hang time” when the reader is kept in suspense, even if for only a few sentences.

It’s Just Emotion, Elizabeth Hoyt — make your characters really care about something big. Up the intensity with lower lows that will make the highs seem even higher. H/H need to help each other heal. Use contrasts. Don’t write reality, reality sucks.

Loglines and Pitches, Laura Drake Logline example from Jaws, “A sheriff who is afraid of the water encounters a man-eating shark in a beach town”. It’s the sizzle of your book. (Use adjectives in your pitch, not names.) Logline is for your book.

Tag line is to get attention, like “Don’t go in the water,” from Jaws. Tag line is for the author.


“Hi, I’m, I’ve got (genre) of (# of words).”

It is not a plot summary, it’s a 25-word summary of your book to get the agent excited about your book. Pitch your first 25 words and then sit back and shut up. Let the agent react and ask you to go on.

Format: Who(Char), what he wants (Goal), why he can’t have it (Conflict).

This is a story about a <blank> who <blank>, so <blank>, only to discover <blank>.

Maybe compare two disparate books, “Stephanie Plum meets the undertaker”.

Mastering the Art of Conflict, Sarah MacLean We want readers to say “How is the author going to pull this off?” It’s okay to worry about this as a writer, you’ll pull it off.

Conflict lives in the “but” (Trey Parker and Matt Stone video MacLean referenced, screenwriting at NYU). Link the beats (scenes) of your story with the words ‘but’ or ‘therefore’ (rather than ‘and’).

“If your hero is a fireman, your heroine better be an arsonist”—Linda Howard.

[This was a rich session and I took too many notes for a summary to do it justice.]

Meditate and Create, John Stockberger and Sandra Vanatko, sponsored by Lori Wilde mantras, breathing exercises, and a ‘dirty rug dance’ (shaking the dust off/out of yourself). The mantra helped me focus; both the breathing exercises and mantra helped me totally shut out the outside world. The ‘dirty rug’ ‘dance’ made me vibrate! The entire workshop helped me understand that chasing after solutions to scenes might not be as successful as meditating and letting the ideas come to me.

Paths to PAN, Maggie Marr, Tessa Dare, Debra Holland — tips such as always getting an editor, get a lot of comments before you self-publish, and many writers rush into self-publishing.

The Total Package, Melissa Cutler — excellent tips on submitting a query letter, and a marked up example was provided.

Zumba and Yogilates, Lisa Siefert — I woke up the first two mornings with workouts! I greatly appreciated movement to start my day, and Lisa also provided much needed protein bars for us.

I also attended an online chapter dinner for From the Heart Romance Writers, and the Kiss of Death chapter’s Death by Chocolate awards ceremony for the Daphne winners.

Like the other 2,000 attendees, I’m going to sleep the next three days. 🙂

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