Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Scoop on the Dreaded Fifteen Minute Appointment

I've had several people ask me what to expect when they having a fifteen minute appointment with an industry professional. Many even wonder if they should take advantage of an appointment. My answer? ABSOLUTELY. Even if you don’t have something to pitch, an editor, agent or even well known author can give you valuable insights to help you focus your career goals.

Let me give you some idea of why professionals agree to be part of the faculty.

They want to help you. By and large, those on the faculty at writers conferences are there because they have a heart for helping new writers. They know what it’s like to sit on your side of the table. Others have helped them achieve their goals and now they want to give back by helping someone else.

They’re looking for new writers. The market is constantly changing and there is always room for new writers. Recently I had someone ask me why a publisher is looking for new writers if the book market is shrinking.
  • First, it’s not shrinking—it’s changing.
  • Second, writers come and go.
  • Third, every choir needs more than one voice for each section. It’s the blend that makes the music beautiful.

Now, onto who you should speak with at a conference.
Editor (for books or magazines)—these professionals are a good choice for two reasons.
  • One—you have a project that fits their line and want to pitch it.
  • Two—they know the market and can give you an idea of their opinion about where it’s headed.
  • Three—they can give you input on an idea you have.
  • Four—they can give you career advice.

Agent—these are good for the same reasons above.
  • One—you have a project that fits who they rep.
  • Two—they know the market and can give you an idea of their opinion about where it’s headed.
  • Three—they can also give you input on an idea you have.
  • Four—they can give you career advice.

Published Writer—these professionals can do a lot of the same things. They can also:
  • Commiserate about challenges you’re facing as a writer.
  • Give you advice on where a particular project might fit or who in the industry might be looking for something similar.
  • Give you encouragement.

You’ll sometimes find other industry folks at a conference, such as marketing professionals, speakers, publicists, etc.

I encourage you to make your appointments and try not to be nervous. They are there to help, not tear you down. And a lot of good things can come from those appointments—way beyond career stuff. I’ve made friends, gotten validation that I’m not really crazy and had the opportunity to be prayed for and to pray for others.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scene and Sequel...Continued

by Pam Zollman

Quick Review:
Scene has three parts: Goal, Conflict, and Disaster.

A scene must have action that moves the story forward in some way. It has a goal -- it's going somewhere specific. It has conflict -- something that elevates the tension. It has disaster -- something that makes the reader want to turn the page to see what happens next; it increases the reader's interest.

Sequel has three parts: Reaction, Dilemma, and Decision.

Every Scene has a Sequel. Sometimes sequels are extremely short, so short, in fact, that you might not even notice that they're there. But when they're omitted, you notice...even if you're not sure why. You just know that something is missing. That "something" is usually motivation. Sequel gives the motivation for why a character does something. It sets up the following scene, giving it its goal.

After the disaster, your character has to figure out what just happened and what he should do about it. This tells the reader why your character has made a certain decision. It gives your character a chance to recover from the disaster, if even for a moment. It also gives your reader a slight break in the tension, although the decision that your character makes should ramp the tension/suspense back up again.

Next time we'll go into detail about the first part of Sequel: Reaction.

If you have questions, feel free to email me at Also check out AnAuthor World's website ( for upcoming events, workshops, classes, and conferences in the Upstate South Carolina area.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Get Organized for a Writers Conference

For those who’ve known me for any length of time are aware that organization isn’t my strong suit—at least not in the conventional meaning. My desk is covered in stacks of paper and the walls of my office are papered with rainbow hued sticky notes. It’s a system that works for me—but I quickly discovered it didn’t translate when I went on the road.

So I found another way to keep myself on track when I’m away from the office and my conference notebook was born.

It’s really pretty funny. The moment people see my notebook they immediately assume I’m this ultra-organized whiz. Actually, the opposite is true and my notebook is just a last ditch effort at self-preservation. Another thing I’ve noticed is that this notebook works well no matter what your natural bent toward organization.

The primary idea for this notebook is that it contains everything I need at a writers conference so I don’t have to dig through bags or be constantly returning to my room for something I’ve forgotten.

So let’s get to it!

First, I choose a one and a half inch three ring binder. Mine is green because green is my favorite color. I make sure there’s a sleeve on the front cover to slide a cover into because it hold my contact information if I should lay it down and leave it somewhere.

Next, in the front I have a small zippered pouch with a couple of pens and some paper clips. I can also slide in a small lipstick, some band-aids and tissues.

After that, I have a neat insert that holds several different size and colors of sticky notes.

Then, I add 4 pages of clear business card holders. I use the kind that are the size of a full page, so I have plenty of room to add business cards. I keep the first three empty and use them to store business cards I get from others. The last page is full of my personal business cards, so I always have plenty to hand out. (Don’t know what to include on a business card? I posted a blog on that here.)

The next part is divided into sections with tabs. Each project I’m pitching has a section. Here’s what would go into a section.
  • A clear plastic sleeve containing my one sheet for that project. (Don’t know what a one sheet is? Click here for a post on one sheets).
  • An outline for the project—if it’s non-fiction.
  • A synopsis for the project—if it’s fiction.
  • A sample of my writing for the project. This can either be a couple of sample devotions (for a devotional book) or the first couple of chapters in a book (fiction or non-fiction).
I have several copies of my one sheet, outline, synopsis and sample—just in case the person I’m showing it to wants to keep it or mark it up with suggestions.

Finally, after the section for projects I stock the back of the notebook with notebook paper and extra clear plastic sleeves and tabs.

Extras, you can include in your notebook might be a bio sheet, a list of topics if you're a speaker or even a list of articles you might want to pitch. The nice thing about this kind of notebook is you can personalize it to fit your needs.

With this notebook, no matter where I run into an editor or agent, I’m always prepared. I literally have everything at my fingertips. During a conference I NEVER go anywhere without my notebook.

So what have you found to help keep you on track while at a conference? We’d love to learn from your experiences too.

Monday, July 11, 2011


by Pam Zollman

Come on, admit it. You slow down at the scene of an accident. You can’t help yourself. You want to know what happened.

When there’s a hurricane or an

earthquake or a bomb blast, you stay glued to the television. You can’t help yourself. You want to know what happened.

When you see a friend upset or crying, you want to know what happened. It’s human nature.

So what does this have to do with writing scenes and sequels? Disaster is the third building block of scenes. The first two, goal and conflict, are set-ups for the third, disaster.

Disasters can be huge or they can be small. In my book, Don’t Bug Me! (Holiday House 2001), Megan has to collect 25 different bugs, mount them on cork board, and label them for her science project. When she goes into her room and sees that all her bugs are missing, that a big disaster for her. In another scene, Megan works hard at catching a cricket, only to lose it as it slips between her fingers. Her little brother scoops it up and claims it as his pet. Although not as big as losing all of her insects, this is still a disaster. Be careful, though, of making the disaster so big that you character cannot recover from it or so small that your reader either doesn’t notice or thinks it’s “much ado about nothing.”

· * Every scene has a disaster.

The disaster, big or small, must be the result of the conflict. It can’t come out of left field, unless you’ve set it up in previous scenes. It can’t be there just for “effect.” It must move the story forward.

· * Every story has a disaster.

The major disaster of the story comes at the climax and makes the reader wonder if the main character will achieve his goal after all. A story, though, will have at least three major disasters (one at the end of the “beginning,” one half-way through, and one at the end of the “middle”) before the climax. All of these disasters are related to the main character’s goal in some way and prevent him from achieving it, while moving the story forward.

· * Every character has disasters.

Your character will have lots of disasters, most of which are minor, but all hindering him in getting what he wants. Your character grows through these disasters; they strengthen him. He learns from the disasters. You decide which conflicts and disasters to give your character based on his fears, his weaknesses, his flaws. When you hit him with these, you knock him down. But you never want to knock him down so hard that he doesn’t recover. It’s okay if it takes him a few minutes to get back up, but your character must get back up; otherwise, your story is over.

Conflict creates tension. Disaster elevates it. So use human nature and our curiosity and concerns about disasters – whether man-made or natural – to keep your reader on the edge of her seat.

* * * * *

You can contact me at if you need help with your story.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dress for Success at Your Next Writers Conference

Today I’m going to continue my series on getting ready for a writers conference. One of the most asked questions I get is about appropriate attire. Below is my opinion—you’ll find others who disagree—but it’s always worked well for me.

First let me say this, you’ll see a little bit of everything when comes to what people wear at writing conferences. But, and this is important, just because you see someone wearing it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate.

I always treat a writing conference like a job interview—and really that’s what it is. You are meeting people who are deciding on whether or not to invest in you and your work. It may be a small investment—like an article; or a large investment—like a book contract.

Here are the guidelines I use when I plan my conference wardrobe.
  • Business casual always works. For women, slacks, casual skirts, nicer jeans or capris. For men, slacks, nice jeans, polo’s, even some t-shirts if not sloppy. Suits are definitely NOT required. I like my style to look effortless and timeless.
  • Keep it comfortable, for shoes at least. I don’t know about you, but I can’t concentrate when my feet hurt. I try to avoid athletic shoes because of their ultra casual nature, but I would choose them if they were the only ones I could be comfortable in.
  • Dress in layers. No matter what the temperature outside—inside is always a roll of the dice. Some rooms will be hot, some cold. So I always try to top an outfit with a light sweater or jacket, and usually a scarf.
  • Leave the perfume (men, this means cologne) at home. I know lots of folks who get headaches from or are allergic to different strong scents—and their definition of strong isn't always the same as mine. Some conferences, like ACFW, bill themselves as perfume free. 

And although this isn’t actually a piece of clothing, you’ll need to choose something to carry. Men and women need something to tote their laptops, notebooks, handouts, business cards, etc. Pick something with a wide strap, because it can get heavy by the end of the day and don’t forget to pack extra pens, tissues and breath mints!

Now it’s your turn—how do you plan your wardrobe for a conference?