I’ve always believed in lifelong learning, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me that my journey as an author includes learning as much as I can absorb.
Since my switch to writing full time, my learning has expanded with my writing time. I probably spend more time each day “learning,” than I do writing. That’s a good thing. So what am I studying?
Since July, I’ve been taking a free monthly 1-hour craft workshop from author/teacher Jane Cleland. Topics have included distracting via red herrings, writing effective metaphors, and using prose effectively (skip weak verbs, avoid generalizations, write with sensual clarity). The workshops continue and she’s open to others joining at any time.
I can’t begin to list all the sessions I’ve done on Crowdcast and Zoom. (I call the latter Zoominars. I feel as if I made up that word—could be wrong, but I haven’t seen it anywhere but in my emails and messages.) Some existed pre-pandemic, but it’s clear the pandemic opened up a new wealth of online opportunities. I’m blessed to have been able to take advantage of them.
I belong to Sisters in Crime (SinC), an international organization that promotes the advancement, recognition, and professional development of women crime writers. Along with its online, live webinars (and archives for anyone who can’t attend live sessions), many SinC chapters across the country have gone virtual and opened up their monthly meetings and annual conferences to others. There are days when I have 2-3 back-to-back sessions (sometimes overlapping by a half hour or so) with wonderful guest speakers on a variety of topics. Thank goodness for 2 laptops!
Mystery Conferences are another expanded opportunity. I normally attend 1-2 major conferences each year.
New England Crime Bake (SinC New England, of which I’m still a member) is my must-attend. Crime Bake has a nice focus on craft, but is also attended by readers (fans), with writers making up the majority. This year, it will be virtual, shorter, and free to everyone. They’re including the best of its features, except drinks in the bar, where so much sharing and fun happens. My recommendation: Bring Your Own Drink.
I attended the Desert Sleuths WriteNow! 2020 Conference (virtual) and was delighted with my new SinC chapter’s great work on this and the focus on craft. The Writer Magazine has named it Arizona’s best writer’s conference.
I had planned to attend Malice Domestic, which was cancelled, but my registration is pushed out to next year. This is the industry highlight for those who write traditional and cozy mysteries. I don’t write cozies, but many friends do. Two of my forthcoming novels are amateur sleuth, which, like cozies, is considered traditional.
Bouchercon, one of the largest mystery conferences in the U.S., is for mystery writers and fans. It, too, has gone virtual this year (registration ends tomorrow 10/4/2020). The $55 fee is slightly more than 1/4 of the in-person 2021 registration cost and will permit many more attendees this year. I’m registered and look forward to this event that many writer friends attend each year and speak of with fervor.
Business of Writing
I’m pretty well set with how to get my short stories published (7 are published, and 1 comes out in November), but am not sure what direction I’ll take for my novels. Self-publishing is highly likely for some, but I haven’t decided if that’s the route I’ll take for them all.
SinC and its chapters have offered a wealth of sessions that are helping me prepare for publication. For example, a workshop on launching your book and a 30-day course on editing and working with editors have given me current resources for pricing and selecting an editor, as well as figuring out what type of editor I’ll need most. A SinC New England Zoominar gave invaluable information on how maximize my Amazon author page.
A one-day workshop on working with editors led me to Digital Book World‘s 3-day conference. That highly informative program, with industry content and “how to” sessions, made the 3 days fly.
I have also taken advantage of several self-publishing online sessions. Although they were hard sales pitches for the vendors’ product(s), through each one I gleaned more information about the business end of publishing. It’s up to me to cobble it into a framework that suits my author business.
Staying up-to-date about income taxes for authors is always necessary. Again, SinC offers something just about annually, but I also research the topic on the IRS and other websites.
In addition, every writer who becomes an author (i.e., becomes published) should stay up-to-date on contracts, copyrights, and various other legal aspects of selling your work to or through others. Even indie writers usually end up signing contracts with artists for their covers, proofreaders or beta readers (something should be in writing!), etc. The Internet holds a wealth of information that’s at my disposal. I spend 1-2 days/month finding and reading these.
The business of writing includes learning about all the social media aspects so I can decide which platforms are right for me. Dana Kaye‘s podcast series has become a go-to listening experience. She’s dynamic, informative, and knowledgeable.
Until now, I’ve let my Facebook author page serve as my author platform. In September, I learned WordPress well enough to set up this site, and tweak the settings (background, colors, more intense font so you can read it, etc.). Presently, I am now mapping everything I’ll want from it. It’s getting time to “hire out” the expertise to set up a banner head, more clearly distinguish blog posts from static pages, create a space to put a few free short stories, and so much more.
Expanding My Knowledge Base
Despite everything going on regarding writing and the business of it, I have made time for a weekly series of webinars where notable guest speakers discuss controversial political issues. From Carl Bernstein, to Thomas Friedman, Congresswoman Karen Bass, CA Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and many more, this has been a fascinating series that my sister and I watch together by screen-casting to the TV.
Also, living with my sister means much more time to discuss financial issues. She’s a wealth investment manager who is well versed in taxes, so her range of topics is broader than someone who advises people on stocks or similar. It’s a different learning experience for me that may work its way into my books.
If I haven’t covered it all, someone will tell me I’m sure. This isn’t meant to be a guide to others as much as it’s a breakdown of what I’ve been doing for the past 4 months as I settle in to my new home in Arizona.
Lots going on. But for now, it’s time to go get my flu shot. Gotta stay healthy.