10 Tips for a 1st-Time Conferee

by Ane Mulligan, @AneMulligan

Someone recently said they were about to go to their first ACFW conference and they asked for advice. As a conference veteran—I’ve attended close to two dozen—I offer the following:

1. Don’t be terrified. I promise you’ll love it. Look for names you recognize. Don’t be embarrassed to look at name tags. ACFW gives you Zone (regional) stickers to add to your name tag to help recognize other zone members. If you’ve been active on their e-loop, you’ll likely recognize names. Look for your favorite authors.


2. Volunteer.
If you can, go a day early and volunteer to help stuff packets or work the registration table. That gives you a few friends right from the start. At my first ACFW conference, I stuffed conference bags with Mike Ehret and we became friends. More amazing, we still are. We recently published a novella collection together.

3. Don’t push yourself. If you start to feel overloaded, skip a class or a general session. Do something else or take a nap. There is no way you’ll remember all the information you hear. You can always get the MP3 of that class later. My mantra is: if you take away one golden nugget of learning that moves your work to the next level, it was worth it.

4. If you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, find someone else who looks like they are, too. Reach out to that person. After all, you know how they feel.By befriending them, you’ll find you no longer feel so lost.

5. If you plan to pitch to an agent or editor, practice at home and with friends. Covenant with a couple of pals who will call you at random unplanned hours and ask, “Tell me about your book.” Do that until you stop swallowing your tongue or stuttering.

6. Remember, agents and editors are people, too.
They are there to find the next great book. It might be yours! So use lunch and dinner to pitch at the tables, but don’t monopolize the conversation. Practice until you can deliver your pitch in 30 seconds. Then close your mouth. If you babble on for a long time and don’t give anyone else a chance, the editor/agent will think you do that in your writing, too. A good byword is: Less is more.

7. Networking is as big a part of conference as the classes and pitch sessions.
That’s how I met my critique partner, Lisa (Elizabeth) Ludwig. We met at the ACFW conference and have been writing buddies ever since. That was back in 2005 in Nashville.

8. Warning: Never …I repeat…never follow an agent or editor into the restroom to pitch! Elevators are okay, after all they can’t escape if they’ve already pushed their floor button. But the restrooms are off limits. And don’t think it never happened. Just ask Steve Laube or Chip MacGregor.

9. Expectations: Most of all, don’t set wild expectations. You will NOT be handed a contract at breakfast. Sorry to burst your bubble. It usually takes 3 or 4 books written before you’re ready.

10. Belong:(especially if you’re a fairly new writer) simply sit back and enjoy being among people who actually “get you.” After all, we’re not “normals.”

See y’all there!

TWEETABLES
__________

Life in Chapel Springs
Life in Chapel Springs has turned upside down and inside out.

Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure—but it isn’t easy. Between her twins’ double wedding, a nationwide art tour and her health, life is upside down. Shy Lacey Dawson was happily writing murder mysteries for the community theater, but a freak accident results in traumatic injuries. When the bandages come off, Lacey’s world is tuned inside out. Gold has been discovered in Chapel Springs and the ensuing fever is rising.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.

Recalculating

by +AneMulligan @AneMulligan

Have y’all see the Jeep Compass commercial about recalculating? The voiceover says things like “Go straight to a steady job.” The girl looks up at the building and turns. The voiceover says, “Recalculating.” Another voiceover announces, “Stay single till you’re thirty-four.” Then we see a male hand holding out an engagement ring, and the voice over exclaims, “Recalculating.”

When I turn off the main road to get gas, my GPS recalculates quickly and gives me instructions how to get back on my chosen path. I suppose, as with driving, it’s not so very hard to recalculate your life. After all, you made the decision to change directions. In 2003, I made a decision to write full time and left the corporate world. It was a calculated recalculation.

But recalculating isn’t as simple in novel writing. In fact, it can make an author bang her head against the wall. In one of my books, I was merrily writing away when the character … turned and looked up into the greenest eyes she’d ever seen.

Wait! That wasn’t part of the plan. I wasn’t writing a romance. This character was the deuteragonist. Nothing more than the vehicle for the protagonist to gain her heart’s desire. But planned or not, there I was with romance staring me in the face. I decided to recalculate and follow that path. It worked.

In my current manuscript, I realized I had a threat hanging over my Main Character’s head, but I hadn’t made it actually happen. And I needed to. So I recalculated and did the worst thing that could happen. I wrote the scene and several others in chronological order (the only way I’m ever logical).

But this time my recalculation didn’t work. I had taken what was essentially the black moment and moved it up way too early. A recalculation that got me lost. There was no way I could sustain for sixty thousand words, the emotional level that it now needed. The story would become dark and depressing—and not what I write.

So once again, I found myself recalculating, taking apart the story and saving some scenes for revisiting at a better time.

What do you do when a story needs to be recalculated?

This is where I envy the SOTP writers. They can simply follow the new direction. They’re not concerned about if it works or not, they simply follow the new path. They’ll worry about the editing later.

I can’t do that. I’m not a pantster … I’m a planster. So, I consulted my map, the plan. In this story, the miscalculation won’t work. My story is about more than the resolution of one event. It’s about the camaraderie between the characters, building strong friendships (and all that entails) that will carry the MC through the worst thing that can happen to her.

While novels aren’t formulaic, certain things have to happen to make a good read. My Book Therapy has The Story Equation that works in any genre. James Scott Bell has a structural plan in Plot and Structure that works in any genre. I’ve found if I vary off the tried and true path of story structure, I’m going to have to recalculate.

TWEETABLES

Recalculating by Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Running into trouble when veering from good story structure~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Recalculating a plot isn’t as easy as changing directions~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Life in Chapel Springs
Life in Chapel Springs has turned upside down and inside out.

Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure—but it isn’t easy. Between her twins’ double wedding, a nationwide art tour and her health, life is upside down. Shy Lacey Dawson was happily writing murder mysteries for the community theater, but a freak accident results in traumatic injuries. When the bandages come off, Lacey’s world is tuned inside out. Gold has been discovered in Chapel Springs and the ensuing fever is rising.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.

Lies! Lies! Lies!

by Ane Mulligan, @AneMulligan

Susie and Rachel are fabulous at characterization. It was Rachel who started my passion for character motivation when staying with me one weekend. She was here in Atlanta to speak to our ACFW chapter. Being one to take advantage of all opportunities—hey, my mama didn’t raise a dummy—I told her how I was stuck in what would turn out to be my first published novel.
“So,” she asked me, “what’s the husband’s problem?”

The husband? “He doesn’t need one. He’s not a POV character.”

“Wrong, Grasshopper. All characters need a problem.”

Well, I’ll be. I sat down and figured out his problem, and bingo …the story kicked back into gear and raced to the end. Who knew?

Not long after that, I sat brainstorming with another writer. She told me about the lies people believe. She had studied psychology in college and this came from that course. From her, I learned that almost everyone believes a lie about themselves. These are seated in early childhood, before we gain the ability to reason them away. It’s this Lie that reinforces the dark wound that arises later in our characters’ lives.

Example: your character believes the Lie that s/he isn’t good enough. Maybe their parents divorced when the child was very young. The child believes if s/he were good enough daddy (or mama) wouldn’t have left.

The Lie will color this child’s personality and affect their worldview. She will spend her life trying to prove it wrong or fall victim to it. If trying to prove it wrong during adolescence, this kid might become a bully, trying to prove he’s good/big/tough enough. If she falls victim to the Lie, she wouldn’t try out for cheerleading. She isn’t good enough.

As she grows up, she has a dream of playing a lead role on Broadway but never would audition for one, because she buys into the Lie she isn’t good enough. Fast forward to the day this character is left at the altar by her fiancé, and her Lie is now compounded, fully accepted, and that becomes a dark wound, severely damaging the character’s self worth.

From the Lie, you discover the motivation, and you can plot a novel through your character’s motivation. Know that and you know how they would react to any given situation.

There are 8 basic lies people (and our characters) believe. For use in a novel, you can vary these slightly, but to build a relatable character, you should stick pretty close to one of these, and remember, to each of these basic lies, there are shades and symptoms.

  1. I’m a disappointment
  2. Not good enough (this is a very strong lie, often used for men and strong female leads)
  3. I’m not enough – or defective
  4. I’m too much to handle and will get rejected
  5. It’s all my fault
  6. Helpless – powerless to fix (this leads to a fear of being controlled)
  7. Unwanted/unlovable
  8. I’m bad (which could possibly be used as a symptom or excuse for another lie)

Your characters will either fall victim to their lie or they will try to prove it wrong. Try finding your character’s Lie and see where it takes you.

TWEETABLES

Lie leads to motivation. Motivation leads to plot.~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

You can plot a novel through character motivation.~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Coming Home ~ A Tiny House Collection

Tiny houses are all the rage these days, but what can you do with something so small? Here are seven stories about people chasing their dreams, making fresh starts, finding love, stumbling upon forgiveness, and embarking upon new adventures in tiny houses. Travel with them around the country in this big novella collection.

Love is Sweeter in Sugar Hill: She has a tiny house. He lives in a mansion. She vows to charge a doctor with malpractice. His job depends on that doctor’s finances. Will love find a way?

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, award-winning author Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and multi-published novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups and resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Building a Fictional Town

by +AneMulligan @AneMulligan

Building a fictional town in a historical novel isn’t the easiest of tasks I’ve taken on, but it is fun. I prefer fictional towns to real ones, because nobody can tell me there was never a grocery store at the corner of Main and Peachtree. In face I’ve only written one novella set in a real town (a favor to the mayor of Sugar Hill).
I love to write stories about women’s friendships and how they navigate through life’s troubles together. Some make good decisions; some make bad ones. After the last book in my Chapel Springs series (Life in Chapel Springs, Sept 2017) was turned in, I decided to go back to a book I had started a few years ago.

Originally, I planned to set this in a town nearby me, Buford, GA. However, because of the very real Bona Allen Tannery, everyone who lived in Buford was employed and unscathed by the Great Depression. So I needed to go south, into the farm country, where since the Civil Way, life had been hardscrabble for farmers.

With the blessing of my agent (since like Chapel Springs, this series has an ensemble cast of strong women surviving the Great Depression), I went back to a story I’d started and fallen in love with.

I had my characters for the first book, In High Cotton, and the basic plot outline (I’m a planster). Now, I started on the town. I knew the it was in a very rural farm area in south Georgia. I researched the area, found as many photos as I could. Then I researched what stores would likely be in a tiny hamlet. I found an area where three rivers meet (or two meet and form the third). It was perfect. In the middle of nowhere, I named the town Rivers End.

I came up with the grocery (owned by the main character, Maggie Parker), the dry goods store, a feed & seed, a barber shop, a gas station, a tiny weekly newspaper, a Post Office, a saloon, a small movie house, 2 boarding houses, a school/church/courthouse, and the small train station, and of course the jail.

I drew a map so I could keep track of where things are. But I’m a visual writer. I need to see it so I can draw my readers into the town. That’s when it got tough. I have such a strong visual image in my head, trying to find a photo that fits it is really hard.

Undaunted, I searched several ways. Finally, I came up with 9 photos that if I take parts from one, a “feeling” from another and this building and that one, I can paste my town together. One of those and my map are scattered through out this post. Since most of my storeowners live in an apartment above their store, I didn’t want 3 or 4 story buildings. Two stories would do, thank you very much.

TWEETABLES



I drew a map so I could keep track of where things are.~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)




Ane Mulligan
 is the former president of Novel Rocket. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband, chef son, and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.