SAGA Genre Writers Con Part 3
We're back again dear friends!
We're back again for part three of my review of the SAGA Genre Writers Conference.
As a recap, SAGA is the professional development conference for genre fiction writers to improve their craft and business to become more profitable. (per the website)
And, if you missed part one, you can find it here: Link for SAGA Genre Writers Con Part 1.
And part two can be found here: Link for SAGA Genre Writers Con Part 2.
Before I get into the Sunday panels, let's talk about the location! I hadn't been to Winstom-Salem in forever. I went there in college with our choir to sing for a church service, but I really think that's the only time. The venue was the Downtown Marriott that is adjacent to an Embassy Suites. The hotels actually have a tunnel that connects them.
What I didn't love about the location was that it didn't have dedicated parking and you had to pay for parking in the city garage at a rate of about $20/day. File that in things to remember next time I go to a Con here.
Things I did love: Being smack dab in the middle of downtown Winston-Salem! I didn't feel like I had to have a ton of snacks all the time or spend money at the super expensive hotel bar. There were plenty of coffee shops and restaurants within walking distance. And by walking distance, I mean, two minutes away.
Friday night, we had Thai food. I was super stoked about this because we don't have a good Thai place in my town, and there were probably five Thai places in a couple of blocks radius of the hotel. JEALOUS.
We went to Charm Thai and it was divine. I had Thai tea (a personal fave), a bowl of Tom Kha soup with chicken, and Pad See Ew with shrimp.
The next day was Saturday. My friend Vikki had heard of a Mediterranean place nearby that was supposedly amazing. It wasn't as close as we had expected, but it was well worth the ten-ish minute walk to get there. On the way, a parade was lining up (we never did catch the occasion), and we had to race across to the other side of the road before the parade started marching so we would be on the same side of the road as the restaurant. We barely made it before potentially being trampled by a marching band.
The restaurant, Yamas Mediterranean Cafe, was AMAZING. And I'm pretty bummed they don't have more locations. Think about Chipotle, but with chickpeas and chicken souvlaki. I'm only bummed I didn't realize I could pay extra to try the grape leaves. I love stuffed grape leaves.
I would've went back to this place for dinner in a heartbeat. However, it got really cold by Saturday night and there was a tasty Mexican restaurant practically attached to the hotel called Tulum.
A large group of us piled into one of those big corner booths and enjoyed tasty
beverages and food there. I had a giant burrito smothered in slightly spicy queso and a very tall Dos Equis on tap.
The other cool find was this coffee shop about a block and a half away from the hotel called Bitty & Beau's. The vibe there was AWESOME. If I lived in Winston-Salem, I would be there all the time write. And they're an inclusive coffee shop that hires people who have disabilities. It was so amazing to see an establishment with radical acceptance and inclusivity.
The owner/manager was super nice. She stopped me to chat both days I came by for one of the best iced dirty chai teas I've ever had.
On top of that, they wrote inspirational messages on the cups.
"Believe in yourself."
I don't know if I just got lucky with that message because it was up next, or if they felt like I needed to hear it on the second day of SAGA, but that was the message I needed.
It's hard going to a writing conference. You have to face a lot of hard truths. You have to examine what you're doing. Where you can improve. Where you want to be. And sometimes the reality of how far you are away from your goal can hit you like a ton of bricks. I welcomed this reminder, and it really turned my day around.
Don't get me wrong, writing conferences are also full of amazing information and inspiration and making new writer friends and everything awesome. But there's a lot of soul-searching that goes along with it, too.
* * * * *
Alright, enough of my babble. The real reason you probably came here was to hear about the panels I went to on Sunday!
There were only three sessions on Sunday. Two before lunch and one after. The one after lunch was a Creativity Kicker workshop.
Writing Action - Stuart Jaffe and Michael Mammay
At 9am I attended a panel on writing action, specifically fight scenes, with Stuart Jaffe and Michael Mammay. I've already introduced both of these authors in the post about Saga Day 2 so if you'd like to know more about them and other things they presented, check out the other post!
This was the Craft track. The Business track at this time was about running a successful Kickstarter, and I am not there yet. Maybe one day!
Stuart has a black belt and has a lot of knowledge about that type of combat, whereas Michael is a military veteran. I've attended quite a few panels on writing action before at various Cons, and the main takeaway is always less is more.
The reader doesn't actually have to be told all the details. They can envision things on their own, unless it's something super important to the story, they probably don't need to know. You also need to consider your characters as well. Someone like Jason Bourne
is going to have a lot more awareness of their surroundings and how to use things around them to fight and their reaction to a fight is going to be different than an untrained street brawler or a rookie.
Basically, the person in the fight isn't going to go off on a tangent in the middle of the fight and start waxing poetical about the reason the fight is happening or feelings about during the fight. That needs to be reserved for a refection scene afterwards.
They also had some great information about writing epic battle scenes that I'd never thought about before.
If you have a POV character, as most of us do since 3rd person omniscient isn't usually the mode of perspective, and there's an epic battle scene, how is your POV character going to see what's going on in the battle scene? Will you have more than one POV? Will you have some sort of magic or satellite-like tech that allows the General to see everything happening? Will your POV char be waiting to join the fray from high atop a hill?
There was a lot more to talk about from this event, but ask me on stream sometime about writing fight scenes. I will go on about it.
They did recommend a couple of books I want to get, so I'll leave you with those:
The Writer's Guide to Weapons - Benjamin Sobieck
Men Against Fire - SLA Marshall
Social Media Marketing - Natania Barron
You really should go follow Natania Barron right now. I linked to Natania's Twitter in the title and website for the second link. I realized I'd seen one of her #threadtalks on Twitter before, but hadn't put two and two together.
I consider myself pretty handy with social media. In fact, I presented a workshop on Twitter for Writers many years ago at a small conference in Columbia, SC. I got to introduce a lot of people to the amazingness of certain aspects of Twitter, such as hashtag prompts and pitch parties like PitMad and Pitch Wars (that's on hiatus). But now Twitter is on rocky footing. I've been working to get my Instagram back up to speed and have just recently made a TikTok. I'm still figuring that out.
But, with the way social media is changing, and the fact that I'm always looking for advice for how to market myself for efficiently, I thought this would be a great one to go to!
The other presentation at this time was about writing Short Stories with Misty Massey. I'm sure it was fabulous, but short stories are not my thing.
Natania gave us some ideas for apps to use to help create better content and really honed in on the fact that you are your brand and you need to figure out who you are. The viral pet picture are great, but is that why you want people to follow you. If they follow you for the cute cats, are they also going to buy your books and engage with your book-related content. So balance is key.
And you need to decide how much of yourself you want to share. If you don't set your own boundaries, they will be made for you, and they may be less strict than you want them to be.
Natania recommends that you have at least a website (even if it's the bare minimum), one active social media account, and a content marketing strategy. The strategy should include a mission statement for your brand. You need to determine who your audience is, hy they should pay attention, what they are getting out of paying attention, and what you are getting out of it.
And be aware of how using social media makes you feel. If you absolutely hate it, then figure out how often you should post. How you can make it easiest for yourself and cause the least amount of stress.
Something I want to start doing soon is getting my TikTok and YouTube going a bit more. I already stream on Twitch, which is part of my community building strategy. I offer a space for other writers (and creatives in general) to come and focus and chat about writing and talk about our struggles and our successes. I hope that leads to organic readers in the future, when I have published novels, but that's not the goal of my Twitch community.
What I do want to do is start reading from my works-in-progress on TikTok and YouTube, once I do some editing, of course. I think that will be a good way to drum up some interest in my upcoming WIPs.
Some of the creator apps Natania recommended were Canva for graphics (LOVE THIS...I'm already obsessed), Pinterest (as a visual search engine. I've never really gotten into but maybe I'll give it another try), Tailwind (an app for posting to IG, not free), Mailer Lite (for newsletters), and Block Party (a tool to block everyone on a person's follower list if you need to get rid of Neo-Nazi's on your feed or something). Natania also recommended paying attention to analytics to see what's working and what isn't, although this will sometimes require monetizing your account.
All in all, some great things to consider as I move forward in my marketing campaign.
Creativity Kicker - Vikki Perry
The last workshop was another interactive workshop with Vikki Perry, the long time NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for the Columbia, SC, region. The other option during this time from was about strategies to sell books at conventions, but since I don't have any published books yet, I decided to kick my creativity into gear.
I've done this workshop with Vikki before at a NaNo event, and I hosted it on my stream the other day, which led to some hilarious and fantastic short stories.
The way it works is that Vikki created a spreadsheet with 20 different character types, settings, plot twists, random objects and names. You roll a D20 to get your prompts and then spend 20-minutes writing a story with those prompts.
I'm going to include the links to the stories from my stream the other night so you can get an idea of how these work. They're fairly short and totally worth the listen. Moreso Cofu's (who says he isn't a writer and did a fantastic reading of it) and Eljay's (because it was a complete short story). I was distracted with channel stuff and didn't get to finish mine.
Eljay's 20-Minute on-stream Creativity Kicker Story
I also had the pleasure of getting to read Eljay's story outloud! Eljay is a regular viewer and stream participant and longtime friend, so I was thrilled they shared their story to be read on stream!
It was a fantastic experience and story! I got to tap back into my theatre roots.
Character Profession: TWO Doctors
Plot Twists: Plane Crash, Kidnapping
Settings: Castle, Library
Items: Robot, Book
Cofu's 20-Minute on-stream Creativity Kicker Story
My partner Cofu who swears he isn't a writer. We're trying to convince him otherwise.
Characters' Profession: Computer Programmer and Witch
Plot Twist: Kidnapping
Items: Deck of Cards
Rosie's 20-Minute on-stream Creativity Kicker Story (not finished)
And my story that I didn't get to finish because I had to attend to chat and a cat.
Character Profession: Princess and Lawyer
Plot Twist: Car accident
Settings: Haunted House
Items: Box of Markers
Hopefully you enjoyed those, if you took the time to watch them, and got an idea of how much fun and how inspiring a creativity kicker can be! We had a blast! That's the most fun I've had on stream in a long time, and I have a lot of fun every time I stream.
During the workshop at SAGA, we also did an "Expand a Sentence" where it starts with a generic sentence that you expand on. And then a short prompt exercise where there were a lot of random items on a table and you chose a few to write a story about.
I'm thinking about using a couple of the stories I started and expanding on them this month during Camp NaNoWriMo!
Anyway, I've rambled long enough! That was the end of SAGA, sadly.
It was an amazing year. I cannot wait until next year. We're planning to move to Kentucky by next spring, but I don't care how far away from SAGA I get, I plan to do my damnedest to go every year. I highly recommend you look into it as well.
Whether you're already published or working on edits or haven't even started writing your first story but know there's a story inside you, SAGA will have something for you. Not to mention the awesome people you get to meet and hang out with!
In the meantime, we will be attending ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC, on June 2nd-4th. Another fantastic convention with a great track for writers (as well as programming for paranormal, general geekery, crafting, and lots of other great stuff.)
Come join me on Twitch for Writing and Productivity Sprints!
April is also Camp NaNoWriMo! I will be hosting sprints at my usual times of Wednesdays at 8pm EDT and Fridays at 1pm EDT.
I will also be adding a weekend stream for Camp as well. Most likely Sunday afternoons, but keep an eye out for posts about when I go live.
This coming weekend, April 7th-9th, is the 8th OHHOW (One Hundred Hours of Writing) event. For Camp, it's the Weekend of Writing Wildly (WoWW) where we have 50-hours of consecutive writing sprints on Twitch! I am stoked to be
participating for the 8th time!
I will be streaming at 10pm EDT on Saturday April 8th. But come check out all the other great streamers and take the chance to connect with a wider writing network!
More information can be found at www.ohhow.net.
Thanks so much for sticking around!
Be on the lookout for my IWSG blog hop post on Wednesday and Camp NaNoWriMo updates coming soon!
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