Hot Tips for Writer’s Conferences

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of over
thirty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside
Press.   A five-time Christy
award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the
Inspirational Read­ers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A seasoned women’s
events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the
nation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: Contact her at:
Are you
attending a Writer’s Conference this summer?  Are you going to pitch your book? A few tips from
award-winning author Susan May Warren, founder of My Book Therapy, the craft
and coaching community for writers!
A writer’s
conference is a great place to pitch your story. But it can be daunting to sit
across the table from an editor or agent and sell them on your story.  Here’s a few tips:
You’re not really competing
Huh? I know the
world might say otherwise, but for believers, if you truly believe that God has
your life in His hands, then you step forward with your faith and He’ll move
the mountains.  He arranges every
appointment, every moment in the elevator or food lines, every accidental
editor meeting – all of it.  So,
don’t panic.  He’s got this.
Be Yourself
Remember that a
great writing voice is personality on the page…so your personality as you meet
people and pitch to editors and agents gives them a clue as to how you
Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of
First, when you
pitch, you should have already done your homework to know which agent or editor
to pitch to.  Every house/agency
takes different manuscripts and you don’t to waste anyone’s time.  Know what other books they have
published that are similar to yours, and know how yours are different, also.
But you have some answer as to why they’d be a good fit in that publishing
house.  And agent might even ask
you where you see this book being published.  Do your homework and give them an informed answer. 
Then, if you are
in a pitching appointment, shake their hand, introduce yourself, smile and hand
them your one sheet. 
probably look at it and say “how are you today?”  or something to break the ice.  Go ahead and make friends, briefly, and then segue into your
great, Mr. Anderson. I enjoyed your class, Writing the Bestseller.  Intriguing.   I’ve written a contemporary romance that I hope fits
your best-seller category….A story about a talk show host to the lovelorn who
has never had a date. Why?  Because
she is waiting for the perfect man. 
But when he moves in next door, will she recognize him?  It’s set in small town Minnesota and a
story about being trapped by our fears and perfect love setting us free.” 
            “Interesting.  Why hasn’t she had a date?” 
question – She made a list in high school because she saw her best friend
crushed by love when they were teenagers, and she never wanted that to happen
to her.  And then, tragedy
happened.  Her mother was killed in
an auto accident and died in her arms. 
Fear took control of her life and she became agoraphobic.  She’s trapped in a tiny radius around
her home.  But she has a national
talk show and no one knows it – including the new football coach who’s moved in
next door – someone who drives her crazy. 
See, he’s got his own scars and secrets, after being wounded in Iraq,
and he’s hiding something too. 
When he starts calling the show, in need of help to befriend the
neighbor, they begin to fall for each other online, without realizing they are
neighbors.  But will their love
last when they discover the truth? And what will their secrets cost them?”
would this make a sellable story?”
You’ve Got Mail, set in small town America with a little of Friday Night Lights
thrown in.  It’s something I could
see trade size at Tyndale or Waterbrook Multnomah.” 
Now, here’s
where they’ll pause.  They might
ask you more questions.  They might
ask how long you’ve been writing. 
Or if this is a stand-alone or part of three part series.  They might ask you where you got your
idea. They might offer ideas to tweak it. 
They might ask to have you send them a proposal. 
Sometimes they
might even say…”How can I help you with this?”  Obviously, we WISH they’d say, “Hey I love this,” and pull
out a contract right there.  Not gonna happen.   It’s wise to arm yourself with
some sort of feedback question for that situation. 
armed with an answer, something that allows them to give you real, usable
feedback:  “How can I make the
story more compelling?”   “How
could I tweak this to make it more sellable?”
The key is to use this time to talk about
your story
There is nothing
worse than to have an author pitch their story, then sit back and smile, and
make the agent/editor fill in the blank space.  You have fifteen
minutes to communicate your vision for this book – use it!
The difference between the 15 minute
appointment and the elevator pitch is the amount of time you have to sell your
In an elevator,
or in line to eat, or even at dinner, you have one sentence.  If they like it, then go ahead and
offer your premise.  If they ask
for your card before you get off the elevator, then you’ve done your job. 
But the 15
minute appointment is designed to let you sell your story, your way.  Yes, use your pitch, use your premise,
and hopefully by then you’ll feel comfortable enough to be yourself and weave
them into your story. 
And here’s a
hint – don’t memorize your premise word by word.  It feels canned. 
Let the story come out on its own, with enthusiasm. You know your story
– just tell it.
Now – if you’re
serious about having a great writer’s conference, we have a special offer for
you.  The My Book Therapy Staff has
put together a manual for attendees to help them chose, budget, prep and attend
a writer’s conference with success. 

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!

And, for readers
of Novel Rocket, we’re offering 25% off the cover price, hard copy or ebook
  To get your discount,
sign up HERE:  (
(Launch date:
August 10th, 2012!)
For more hints
on pitching, check out the My Book Therapy blog –
See you at a
Susan May Warren

Passion vs Publishing

 Susan May Warren’s got a lot to say about writing the
story of your heart versus writing something “to get the sale.” Grab a cup of java, sit back, and read some of her sage advice…
I receive a
lot of questions from aspiring writers and this one caught my eye.
Q: Have you
ever had a story that you wanted to write, a spiritual message you wanted to
share, but it won’t let you just yet?

A: Yes, I have a couple stories sitting in my heart that I haven’t had the
opportunity or perhaps the divine timing to write yet. 

I’m a firm
believer that God will work out the story in the right time, so I continue to collect
ideas, impressions, do research and let those ideas soak, waiting for the right
timing.  But sometimes I’m not ready –
emotionally, or even professionally to write it.  Maybe I don’t have the skill level yet.  And I certainly don’t want to waste my swan’s
song on mediocre writing!  So, in the
meantime, I move onto the stories I have the ability to write right now.
This is what
happened with my “Josey” series.  The
story of my hilarious happenings in Russia simmered in my heart YEARS before
God opened the door to write it.  And
when he did, the timing was perfect.  (My
first book in that series, Everything’s
Coming Up  Josey
was a Christy
finalist).   The same thing happened with
Nothing but Trouble.  I cooked up my heroine PJ Sugar four years
before I saw it come to publication.  And
I’m glad I waited – I was able to write a deeper story than the one I had
originally envisioned. 
I’ve always
loved historical fiction, but I had to wait until I had the time to do the
research, as well as the ability to pull them off.  I envisioned something more literary, so I
had to grow into those skills, reading widely and doing a thorough scrutiny of
my writing.  My first dive into the historical
genre was Sons of Thunder (which won
an ACFW Carol this year) , and I’ve continued my love of Historical with Heiress and Baroness (due out next month!) 
I think a lot
of writers believe they have to write the stories on their hearts…but perhaps
they’re also not ready to write that
story yet
.  I think it’s wise to ask
God if it’s time…or if there is another story that could hone your skills in
the meantime, in preparation for that heart story.
So, don’t give
up on your heart story. Wait on Him, and be open to working on something else
in the meantime to that you’re ready to write the “story of your heart.”
God Bless you
on your writing journey!
Susan May

The Bomb in the Body

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of thirty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. She is also the founder, a crafting and coaching community for writers.
A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at:
Bomb in the Body: A lesson on Subplots
Okay, raise your hand out there
if you watch Grey’s Anatomy. It’s okay, no one can see you. And, not like I’m
raising MY hand or anything, but hypothetically, let’s just say that if you are
familiar with this particular medical (and I’m using that term a bit freely)
drama, then you know that it is really a big long soap opera. Grey’s Anatomy
is, essentially, the on again, off again, now on (they’re sort of married, so I
think it will stick) romance of Dr. Derrick McDreamy and Dr. Meredith Grey. Inside
all this romance are the daily (read: episodic) events of a hospital in
What makes Grey’s fun are the
running monologues of the lead heroine, the thematic nuances she puts into the
story, usually centered around the events of the episode, but also alluding to
her current state of relationship with Derrick. One could say that the episode
theme relates to the overall story arc of the series.
Episodes in a show like this act at subplots to the main
They are by subplot definition: Short, but concise stories that reveal
theme, and taken alone, would stand on their own merit.

Let’s take one of my favorites
(er, I mean, one that I’ve heard about…oh, forget it, I’m a Grey’s addict. I
admit it). ..the Bomb in the Body episode. (Also had Kyle Friday Night Lights
guy (formerly Early Edition) guest starring, and I just love him). The subplot
starts with the inciting incident: a fella comes in with a hole in his gut. A paramedic
is holding onto the bleeding inside his body. 
Conflict: If she takes her hand
out, then he’ll bleed to death, so they have to take them up to surgery. Further
conflict: Wife comes in and reveals that the man was playing with a bazooka and
there is an unexploded bomb in his body. More conflict: Paramedic freaks out,
pulls her hand from his body, wherein Dr. Grey takes her place.
Of course, Meredith is doomed,
and the rest of the show is her wishing that she could turn back time and
rethink where she is right now.
Meanwhile, in the BIG plot,
Derrick, the Dr. and she have had an affair, and she’s in love with him UNTIL
just a few weeks prior his WIFE (and poor Meredith didn’t even know she existed
until then) shows up. (again this is rather old, if you follow the plot, but
such a good example I had to use it.) Derrick wants a divorce…he thinks. But,
maybe not, so he decides to give his marriage another chance.
Meredith’s heart
is broken. She wishes she could turn back time and rethink her life.  See the parallel?
Of course, they get the bomb
out of the body, and sadly, as cute Kyle walks away with it, it blows up. He’s
vaporized. And Meredith is left with blood all over her, a casualty of another
person’s errors in judgment. Of course, the patient who wreaked all this havoc,
Again, see the parallel to the
main story arc?
A great subplot is about mirroring the theme of the main
. It can either enhance it – i.e.,
show what could happen if one choice is made, or put it in relief – show what
will happen if that choice isn’t
made. It can be a testing ground for “what if.”
I employ subplots frequently in
a large (90K+) novel because of the depth they bring to the main storyline. In
the Shadow of Your Smile (Tyndale)
out last month, the subplot between the son and daughter of two of the main
characters allows me to reach a wider audience and actually add a “romance”
into the story (as opposed to a “love story” thread that embodies the bulk of
the book).
Subplots can also launch your
next story. In Baroness (Summerside,
hitting bookstores any day), the subplot actually serves as the backstory for
the story I’m writing right now – Duchess.
The heroine in Baroness, Rosie Worth,
has a smaller storyline, but it’s profound enough that I could carry her over
into her own book.
The biggest subplot I’ve ever
written is the subplot within a subplot I put into Taming Rafe (Tyndale, a few years ago). In the novel, a love story
written by one of the characters reveals the feelings that character has for a
woman he’s never declared his love to, written via the romance of the
characters in HIS book, a book that the POV characters in Rafe all read. (Okay,
did that make sense? Basically, it’s a story within a story that tells declares
his love for her via the characters.) It is a fun subplot because the reader
essentially gets three romances in one story.
A lot of bang for their buck.
As you’re developing your
subplot, ask yourself – what lesson will the characters in my main plot learn? Is
there a smaller lesson, or a piece of that lesson I can illuminate through the
Remember, a subplot has to have
all the elements of a story: Inciting incident, conflict, black moment,
epiphany and a climatic ending.
Here’s a hint – a good subplot
should start after you’ve establish the main character, perhaps in chapter two
or three. And, you should tie up the threads of your subplot before you get
into the finale of your main plot. To keep the subplot flowing, I usually put
in one subplot pov per every 4-5 main POVS. That way I don’t overwhelm the main
If you want a deeper, wider
story, try inserting a subplot. You’ll be giving your reader more for their
money, and create characters you might even use for book 2!
Thank you Novel Rocket for
allowing me to stop by! Can I put in a shameless plug for our membership site?
If you are an aspiring author, check out MBT ( Or reader our blogs (AFTER you read Novel Rocket, of
course) at to
get your daily dose of writing craft.
Have a great writing day!
Susie May Warren

Coming of age in the turbulent Roaring Twenties, two daughters of fortune can have anything they possibly want—except freedom. 

Expected to marry well and take the reins of the family empire, Lilly and Rosie have their entire lives planned out for them. But Lilly longs to flee the confines of New York City for the untamed wilds of Montana. Her cousin Rosie dreams of the bright lights of the newly emerging silver screen. Following their dreams—to avant-garde France, to dazzling Broadway, to the skies of the fearless wing walkers—will demand all their courage. 

When forced to decide, will Lilly and Rosie truly be able to abandon lives of ease and luxury for the love and adventure that beckons? At what cost will each daughter of fortune find her true love and a happy ending? 

Therapize Your Writing

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author. Her book, Love Starts With Elle is a RITA finalist. Her next book, Sweet By and By, written with country music star Sara Evans will release this summer. Visit her web site and find her on Twitter.

How To Therapize Your Writing

One of the things we face as writers is improving our craft and learning to discern what works and what doesn’t.

This fall, Susan Warren and I are teaching a Continuing Education class for ACFW called “Become Your Own Book Therapist.”

I thought I’d talk about one way to therapize your own work here on Novel Journey. Is therapize a word? It is now.

After awhile, authors should grow to some level where we can evaluate our own work – like taking the training wheels off the bicycle.

Most of us get stuck. No matter how long we plan or how hard we think things through, we get stuck.

At least I do. Am I alone here? Please tell me I’m not alone.

Here are several things you can do if you find yourself in the middle of a story that seems to have no life or punch, and you’re struggling with where to go next.

1. Go back to the original goal of the story. If you can’t succinctly define it, maybe your goal is too broad. Take some time to fine tune the story goal, whittle it down to a specific sentence.

2. What is the lie your protagonist believes? Are you straying for his or her belief system? Stop to think how your scenes are going. Did she start off afraid of snakes, but is now a snake charmer. Okay, an exaggeration, but you get what I mean. In every story, our characters start off with some kind of belief system and in the middle of the truth, there’s a lie.

The goal of the story is to correct the lie. Make sure the lie is not too broad. I hear this a lot. “She’s mad at God.” Or, “He thinks if he lets her in, he’ll get hurt.”

Great starting points, but why is she mad at God. Why is he afraid of getting hurt.

3. Is he or she too heroic? Like, they can do no wrong and every thing is working out for them? All the conflicts are resolved in the same or sequel scene? Go back to the conflicts, or the scenes where you dropped a story bomb, and stretch it out. Hint at the bomb. Don’t resolve the conflict.

Readers love real, flawed characters who have a heart to overcome.

4. Is your dialog dying? Notice the first sound in dialog is “die.” Bad, flat dialog can kill a scene. Kill a character. Make sure all the good lines are said, not thought.

Here’s what I mean:
“Hey Dan.”
“Hi Fred.” Dan looked like he’d been hitting the gym.
“I heard you were in town.”
“Just moved back.” Fred hated being caught in the middle of a hostile take over, losing his job and moving back home with his mother. He’d never get a date now.

All of Fred’s thoughts give great information. If he says them, then Dan can react and you can move the story forward.

Try to limit “yes,” “no,” “okay” in dialog. Sure, they are necessary at times, but make sure you’re using them to increase tension or for subtexting.

5. Change the point of view. Is the scene feeling slow? Try writing it from another character’s point of view.

I hope these help. Over on MyBookTherapy we’re blogging-a-book and you can see how we’re putting some therapy ideas into place.

Blessings on your writing!