WANA International

The Value of Online Writer’s Conferences

WANAConBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

If you were to pull out the laundry list of things writers are supposed to do to be successful, one of the items you’d be sure to find is attend writer’s conferences.

And everyone who included that on their list would be right. I wouldn’t be writing to you now if it wasn’t for the writer’s conferences I attended when I was first starting out. I gained the inspiration I needed to keep going. I learned invaluable lessons on craft and platform building. I developed the network of contacts that earned me my start as an editor.

On a lot of levels, I am where I am because of the writer’s conferences I attended in those early years.

But what’s often devalued when we talk about writer’s conferences is just how difficult it can be to actually attend one.

I probably don’t need to go over the reasons this is so, but I will anyway.

Reason #1 – Cost

The least expensive conference I’ve been to cost over $400 in registration, plus the money I spent on gas to drive the four hours round trip and the two nights in a hotel. I’ve been to conferences across the country where the registration fee was over $900, and that was without factoring in airfare and gas to reach the airport (two hours from my home).

Conferences are a major investment, which means they can be a major bone of contention if you’re married. And, sometimes, the money just isn’t there and there’s no responsible way to get it.

Reason #2 – Need to Travel

In the past I was blessed with the freedom to travel because I don’t yet have children, we were a two-car household, and my husband’s schedule was flexible enough that he could juggle the care of our home and pets while I was away.

But things are different now. With my husband back in school, we’ve gone down to a single car and he needs it seven days a week between classes and work. He has no flexibility in his schedule. Leaving our Great Dane in her crate for 12-hours straight while he’s away isn’t an option.  It’s much more difficult now for me to get away.

If you have family or job commitments that make it difficult or impossible to travel, you know that I’m talking about.

So where does that leave us?

It leaves us with the internet’s gift to writers—online training.

For the past two years, I’ve been involved as both a teacher and a student in online classes for writers and writer’s conferences. It’s been a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t trade.

Are they the same as live conferences? No way.

Are they a great solution for those of us who can’t go to live conferences? Absolutely.

And that’s why I wanted to take today’s post to tell you that WANACon is coming up on February 21-22.

WANACon is a 100% online writer’s conference. I’ve attended and presented at WANACon before, and in February I’ll be teaching a session called Putting Your Inner Editor to Work – Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

WANACon is only $149 (but if you use the code EarlyBird by January 31 you’ll receive an additional $30 off).

Even better, WANA International is giving three lucky attendees free admission. After you sign up for WANACon, complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win.

Registration includes all sessions and all recordings.

Along with my class, you’ll be able to learn social media and organizational skills like Blogging for Authors from Kristen Lamb, An Introvert’s Guide to Twitter from Jami Gold, OneNote: One Solution to Organizing Your Work with Jenny Hansen, and Building an Author Website without Getting Burned with Laird Sapir.

You’ll also get lifestyle classes like Write-Amin: Eat Well, Write Better with August McLaughlin, and craft classes on Creating Compelling Characters with Shirley Jump, Backstory with Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (of Emotion Thesaurus fame), and Writing in Deep POV with Lisa Hall-Wilson.

That’s just a sample. You can see all the presenters and class descriptions at the page I linked above.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope to “see” you at WANACon, but even if you’re not able to attend, I hope you’ll give online training a try at some point in the future. We all need help growing as writers, and the online training that’s now available gives us an advantage that writers in the past didn’t have.

Have you attended online training sessions before? What did you think?

Not able to attend WANACon, but still want to try out online training? On February 8th, I’m teaching a class called Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction. The cost is only $45, or you can get a WANA2Fer of my class along with Lisa Hall-Wilson’s How to Write in Deep POV for only $70 (that’s $20 in savings). Click here to check out the 2Fer.

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Techniques for Making Your Dialogue Shine

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

If November was NaNoWriMo, then I’m going to call December Dialogue Month. I have a bunch of dialogue-related goodies to tell you about.

The first full-length book in my Busy Writer’s Guide series is out.


How do you properly format dialogue? How can you write dialogue unique to each of your characters? Is it okay to start a chapter with dialogue? Writers all agree that great dialogue helps make great fiction, but it’s not as easy to write as it looks.

In How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide you’ll learn
– how to format your dialogue,
– how to add variety to your dialogue so it’s not always “on the nose,”
– when you should use dialogue and when you shouldn’t,
– how to convey information through dialogue without falling prey to As-You-Know-Bob Syndrome,
– how to write dialogue unique to each of your characters,
– how to add tension to your dialogue,
– whether it’s ever okay to start a chapter with dialogue,
– ways to handle contractions (or the lack thereof) in science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction,
– tricks for handling dialect,
– and much more!

Each book in the Busy Writer’s Guides series is intended to give you enough theory so that you can understand why things work and why they don’t, but also enough examples to see how that theory looks in practice. In addition, they provide tips and exercises to help you take it to the pages of your own story with an editor’s-eye view.

If you have a NaNo story, the editing exercises at the end of each chapter will help you start to beat your story into shape.

You can pick up a copy at Amazon.com or on Smashwords.

But if you’d like a more personal touch, I’ll be teaching some of the concepts in my book in a 90-minute webinar called Say What? Techniques for Making Your Dialogue Shine ($45) on December 7th. (The webinar is recorded and sent to all registrants if you can’t attend live.) Everyone who signs up will receive an ebook copy of How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide. Click here to find out more.

And that’s not all. My good friend Lisa Hall-Wilson and I are teaming up to offer a WANA International 2Fer. If you sign up for my dialogue class and her internal dialogue class (both held on December 7th), you’ll get $20 off.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can click here to read about the 2Fer, or you can check out the posts Lisa and I did on Kristen Lamb’s blog.

Do You Have As-You-Know-Bob Syndrome – How Writers Butcher Dialogue and How You Can Fix It by Marcy Kennedy

While You Were Sleeping – The Difference Between Internal Dialogue and Narration by Lisa Hall-Wilson

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Are Online Writers’ Conferences the Way of the Future?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I know I said I’d talk to you today about when you should tell rather than show, but I had to interrupt our regular schedule for a special announcement instead.

WANACon Online Writers' Conference

Yesterday Kristen Lamb announced the first ever WANACon, a completely online writers’ conference. While I don’t think online conferences will ever replace offline conferences any more than I think ebooks will ever completely replace paper books, I do think we’ll see more and more online conferences in the coming years.

The reason is simple—we can attend from the comfort of our own homes.

No Need for Travel

If you’re a parent or you work a full-time job, you can’t always leave for three days to a week to attend a conference.

And a lot of us can’t afford the airfare, hotel, and other related travel expenses that come with an out-of-town conference.

Lower Conference Registration Costs

I’ve paid from $400 to more than $1000 just to register for regular conferences. Because online conferences don’t require their instructors to travel to the site of the conference, they don’t need to charge as much to attendees. WANACon is $125 to attend both days, and $75 if you only want to attend one day.

Flexibility for Attendees

For most conferences, you have to be at a session to benefit from the teaching. If you miss it, you’ll have to pay extra to buy the recording. With online conferences, a limited-time recording of the sessions is often included as part of the conference fee. This means you can “attend” even if you have to be at work when the session you desperately want is running or if you get called away by the needs of your kids.

If you’re a jeans and pony tail kind of girl (…or guy) like me, you’ll appreciate not having to pull out your dress clothes and try to figure out a magical way to keep them from getting so wrinkled in your suitcase that you look like a hobo. (If anyone happens to know the trick to wrinkle-free travel, please tell me in the comments.)

Aren’t There Drawbacks to An Online Conference?

Certainly. One of the biggest benefits of conferences (aside from the teaching) is the chance to pitch to agents and network with other writers and industry professionals.

Networking will always be tricky, but with today’s technology, online conferences can handle “in-person” agent pitches as well as an offline conference. (And, in fact, WANACon is doing just that. You can sign up for one-on-one agent pitch sessions.)

For more on WANACon, and on the creative ways they’ve found to allow attendees to network (including a pajama party on Sunday morning), make sure you read Kristen’s post “And Now for Something Completely Different! Redefining the Writing Conference.”
You can see the complete schedule for WANACon 2013 here. On Friday morning (Day 1), I’ll be teaching Twitter: Ten Essentials Every Writer Needs to Know.

Click here to register for both days.
Click here to register for Day 1.
Click here to register for Day 2.

How do you feel about the idea of an online writers’ conference? Will they ever fully replace offline conferences? And are you planning to attend WANACon?

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Five Benefits You’re Missing If You’re Not On Twitter

Twitter for WritersIf you’re not on Twitter already (or have an account you barely use), you probably have good reasons. You’re afraid it’s a black hole time suck. You don’t see the value it adds over Facebook. You’re worried about privacy. You’re not sure how to make the best use of it, it moves too fast, or it’s confusing.

While I agree those are valid concerns, they can all be fixed with a little time and training. And if you’re not on Twitter, there are five amazing benefits you’re missing out on.

(1) Twitter Has Over 100 Million Active Accounts

Whether you’re seeking traditional publication or plan to self-publish, whether you’re a non-fiction author, a novelist, a poet, or a short story writer, you need a platform to sell your work. Your audience is on Twitter. You just need to know how to tap in to them. This is true even if you write children’s books or YA. Your readers might not be on Twitter, but their parents and aunts and uncles and even grandparents are, and your books might just be the perfect gift they’re looking for. 

Because of the ability to participate in conversations through hashtags, Twitter also allows you to build a following faster than any other social networking site. People who find you on Facebook usually already know you. People who find you on Twitter are more likely to be complete strangers, and that’s a good thing because you’re expanding your friendships and your reach. I met some of my favorite writer friends on Twitter.

(2) Twitter Makes You a Better Writer

Twitter gives you 140 characters to work with. Not 140 letters or 140 words, but 140 characters. Spaces count, and so does punctuation. Links count as well.

Working within those constraints forces you to write tighter. No purple prose allowed. You need to figure out exactly what you’re trying to say. Twitter’s character limit also helps you value strong verbs and specific nouns over adverbs and adjectives. Both of those skills translate directly into better writing elsewhere.

(3) Twitter Brings You the News Faster than Any News Site Can

Twitter is real time, which means that while reporters are putting together their stories and getting approval from their editors, normal people on site are tweeting. Last August, Twitter lit up like a firefly on crack about the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia before the news stations could catch their balance. In the plague of tornadoes that rolled through Texas this spring, Twitter might have even saved lives.

(4) Twitter Allows You to Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of the Publishing Industry

Twitter is like a writer’s mecca because you can quickly find out about interesting and informative new blog posts (already vetted by others), get tips on writing and publishing from agents, editors, and bestselling authors, and keep up on industry trends and new releases. No searching involved. It comes to you in a bite-sized 140 character nugget. If you decide you want more, you click the link.

(5) Twitter Helps You Research

In her bestselling book We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media, Kristen Lamb tells the story of how she needed information on bounty hunters for her novel. Rather than wasting hours trying to sort through results on Google and still not coming up with what she needed, she tweeted about it and received replies from actual bounty hunters willing to answer her questions.

But it’s not only facts you can research on Twitter. If you’re not sure your main character’s name is a good fit for his personality and job, ask. If you want to know what writing software other writers actually trust, ask. In my co-written novel with Lisa Hall-Wilson, I mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah, and we debated whether enough people would know what we meant. So I asked, and we ended up leaving it in the book.

In August, I’ll be teaching a course to help people who aren’t on Twitter get started or people who are on Twitter but are struggling to improve. For eight months, I let Twitter intimidate me. I barely used it and only had five followers (two of which were my brother and sister-in-law). Then, in less than a year, I learned to love Twitter and went from five followers to over 3,600. This course will save you the wasted time, headaches, embarrassment, and learning curve I had starting out on Twitter, and show you how fun and helpful it can really be.

Learn more or sign up for this 4-week Twitter course here.

Twitter is where I hang out most days, so if you’re already on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you. My username is @MarcyKennedy (straightforward right – it’s very important on Twitter to use your name). And please help me spread this post not only on Twitter, but also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ (where the folks who aren’t yet on Twitter are likely to be).

If you’re already on Twitter, what do you love best about it? If you’re not, what’s the biggest thing holding you back?

Sidenote: Since I know this is the busiest time of year for everyone, I’m going down to two posts a week for the rest of the summer. Starting in July, I’ll be doing my science fiction/fantasy themed posts on Mondays and the regular post for writers will move to Thursdays. I’ll be back to the three-day schedule come fall 🙂

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The 9 Steps to Switching From WordPress.com to WordPress.org: Part 1

Two weeks ago I had the generous Melinda VanLone by to help answer the question Should You Move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org? Not only was Melinda’s post fantastic but so were the comments. For those of you who decided to make the change, Melinda’s broken it down into nine easy-to-follow steps for you. This week she’ll go through the first five, and next week you’ll get the remaining four.

If you entered last week’s critique giveaway, winners are announced at the end.

So, without further ado, take it away Melinda…


How to Switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

If you started out on WordPress.com, and have now decided you are a professional with a need for your own hosted website, it’s time to move. The sooner you do it the easier it will be in the long run. Don’t worry, I just went through this myself and I’ll hold your hand. We can do this together!

Moving from your wordpress.com blog to a wordpress.org website is like moving from an apartment to a house you’ve built.

Pack Up

1. Advertise the move.

Write a blog post explaining that your blog will be moving to a hosted site in the near future, and include a reminder in every blog post leading up to the move. Unfortunately, subscribers won’t automatically travel with you. You will lose subscribers in the switch no matter what you do, but the more you tell them, the more likely they will be to remember to subscribe to your new blog location.

2. Export your data.

Log in to your WordPress.com dashboard. Look along the admin panel until you find Tools > Export. Using this handy plug-in will make a file that combines all of your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags.

Click on Export. It will bring up a page that gives you the option of paying a lot of money for a “guided transfer.” You don’t need that. Click Export again. Select “all content.”  Click “Download Export File.” WordPress will then create a file containing your data in one handy package. Be sure to save it somewhere you will remember later. You’ll need it.

Buy the Land

3. Get a domain name.

On the internet, it’s all about location—your web address. Your domain name is how people will find you. This isn’t something to dash off without thought. See Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me Writer or Dan Blank’s We Grow Media website for help with choosing the right domain name for your author platform. You’ll notice that both Marcy and I have chosen our names for our domain because as fiction writers our names are part of our brand.

Some web hosts offer domain names as well as hosting services. If you like things simple, take them up on their offer. If you don’t like putting all of your eggs in one basket, use a service like godaddy.com or dotregistrar.com to buy your domain name, and look for a web host elsewhere.

If you already own your domain name and are using it for your wordpress.com site, then you can skip right over this and start building.

Lay the Foundation

4. Locate a host for your new website.

There are thousands of options. Don’t go with the cheapest. Instead, look for one that has been in business for awhile, seems stable, is compatible with WordPress, does daily and weekly back-ups, and has 24/7 tech support. If your site goes down, it’s nice if someone answers the phone. Find a host that is friendly, not afraid to walk you through the steps, can prove nearly 100% up-time, and gets great reviews. Research this just like you would a building contractor or any other big purchase. It might not cost a lot, but this will be a big deal in the long run. Just ask anyone who’s had host problems.

WordPress recommends Bluehost (among others). This is the one I chose because they have one-button installation of the WordPress infrastructure. I’m all about easy installs. You should be able to find a host for less than $10/month.

Frame the House

5. Install WordPress.

If you’re using Bluehost or something similar, there is a one-button installation right on the admin page. If you use another host, give them a call and ask them if they have WordPress installation set up. They will walk you through it. If they won’t, find another host. You pay these people to support you.

You can also install WordPress yourself following their instructions. It looks intimidating, but it’s not overly difficult. Try not to let the technical terms scare you, and just follow the instructions step by step.

Any questions so far?

Melinda VanLone Fantasy AuthorMelinda VanLone is a science fiction/fantasy author with a Master’s degree in Publishing. She spent too many years to confess to working in graphic design and production before moving on to explore life as a writer. She’s a Photoshop expert, technology addict, and MMORPG lover. Melinda’s current work-in-progress, The Demon You Know, will be published in 2012. You can visit her website at http://www.melindavan.com/.

SPECIAL NOTE FROM MARCY: The winners of 1,500-word critique offered last week in my post on Is Now Really the Best Time Ever for Writers? are Rebecca Enzor and Bonnie Way. Lisa and I will be in touch. Also, registration is now open for my Get Rid of Boring Blog Titles Once and For All class, with a special offer for the first 10 people who sign up.

Be sure to subscribe by email so you don’t miss the rest of Melinda’s series.

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