What I Got Out of the HACWN Conference This Year

As I’m writing this, I’m getting ready to head back to Nebraska.  I spent the past couple days in Overland Park, Kansas (which is a subdivision of Kansas City) at a writer’s conference.  Here’s a couple pictures on their Facebook page.  Here’s the website.

For the past few years, I’ve gone this conference except for two years when my husband was in Korea and I couldn’t get away.  There’s no way anyone wants to watch four elementary school-aged kids for 3-4 days.  But this is my favorite conference because I feel spiritually and emotionally refreshed.  It reminds me of why I write and, more importantly, why I write what I do.

But there are other takeaways I get from being there, which I’ll share in this post:

1.  I get updates on the changing landscape of publishing.

I do meet editors and publishers and learn about what’s happening in the industry while I’m there.  While I mainly self-publish, I do have four books with a small press, Parchment & Plume, which is an awesome publisher.  I don’t think publishers are going away.  At the moment, they may not seem like an attractive alternative to some (especially when we hear about the success stories of indie authors), but keep in mind, the success stories aren’t really as common as it may seem.  Yes, you might earn more in royalties per book, but it’s possible to sell better with a publisher.  There is no magical formula you can plug in that will guarantee sales.  All you can do is try your best and hope it works.

I think publishers will continue to be important.  They still lead to a great level of credibility (you’ve been vetted), they might have connections you don’t, and they can help with marketing.  Some publishers work with authors on the story, cover concept, etc.  I find a lot of small publishers will work with authors on what they want.  But the key is to find a good, reputable publisher.  For that, you need to do your homework.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to publishing.

Self-publishing offers a lot of freedom.  The author has full control over the content, cover, where the book is sold, what format it’s sold in (ebook, paperback, audio), the description, etc.  However, self-publishing also requires the author to do all the work him/herself.  Whether the author makes their own cover, formats, and edits their own book or hires out for these things, the author still has to make the call.  A publisher is an important assets for authors who’d rather not do it all themselves.

However, it is important that the author make their work as polished as possible before submitting a book to a publisher.  No publisher wants to wade through a ton of errors when working on a book.  Yes, they have an editing team, but a book that is well written and edited prior to submission stands a much better chance of being accepted than a book sent in its first draft form.  The publisher’s job is not to teach a writer how to write.  That is what critique groups, workshops, and books are for.

Also, if you are going to submit to a publisher, make sure you read their guidelines and follow them to a T.  If you don’t do everything they ask, chances are they’ll never look at your proposal or sample.  Plus, keep in mind the audience the publisher targets.  If you write a thriller, why would you submit a book to a romance publisher?  Sure, there might be a romantic subplot in your book, but if it’s not the main focus, then you need to find a publisher who publishes thrillers because that is the audience they are familiar with.

2.  Flash Fiction

Every conference I go to, I learn something new I can take home and apply to what I do.  This time, I learned about flash fiction.  I was familiar with the concept.  I’ve read a couple of flash fiction pieces.  They’re short.  That’s all I knew about it going to the workshop.  From time to time, I like to break out of my comfort zone and try something different.  Flash fiction sounded appealing to me because it’s a break from the full-length novels I usually write.

But what really piqued my interest was the idea of writing flash fiction stories about characters who are in my books or will be in my books.  These would be extras.  Maybe something that happened prior to the book, something that happened during the book but was never revealed, or something after the book ended.  I’m still trying to get ideas on how to approach this.  I definitely have some ideas on some non-romance stories, but since I don’t typically write other genres, it would probably be submitted in a magazine like Splickety.  Ben Wolf, the executive editor, was the one who gave the workshop on writing flash fiction.

Basically, flash fiction are stories that are 1000 words or less.  They have a beginning, middle, and an end.  They have a source of conflict.  This is something that tries to prevent the character from getting what they want.  The conflict can come from within, from another character, from a force in nature, etc.  It has to take place somewhere, of course, but you can’t afford to use too many words to set the stage.

A good example of flash fiction is one Lauralynn Elliott just wrote on her blog called “The Morning Glory”.  It has all the elements Ben Wolf was talking about.  I don’t know about anyone else, but it helps me have an example to get a better idea of how flash fiction works.  I did pick up a couple of the Splikety magazines, but since I know Lauralynn and can easily point to her post, here it is.

Since this post is already long enough, I’ll end things here.  If anyone has questions about conferences, let me know.  There’s stuff I haven’t covered but am not sure what interests you.

Other than that, I would love to know what flash fiction stories would you like to read about characters from my books.  These can be books I already published, books I am working on, or books I will/might write in the future.  So give me an idea of what character(s) you would love to read more about.     😀

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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2 Responses to What I Got Out of the HACWN Conference This Year

  1. Thanks for linking to my flash fiction story!

    One element in flash fiction, to me, is a surprise or something that just hits you. It should leave you thinking about it. It can be a shock, or something humorous. I think humor does well in flash fiction. So a funny story about one of your characters might work. Or something shocking they find out (or do). Flash fiction has to hit harder because you have so little time to tell the story. Does that make sense?

    • It does, which is what makes it somewhat intimidating to do. I’m used to working with a lot of words to get a message across. This will be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it. I have a couple ideas already, and one is more of a “Twilight Zone” kind of thing. Speculative fiction, I think. I’m going to write it and submit it to the magazine. Another is a historical western romance that has nothing to do with any books I wrote, but I’d like to get romance readers looking at my work so I want something romancy to submit. I was also thinking of doing some horror so I can finally start playing with that genre. I actually love dark fiction sometimes. I think it’s because it’s a break from what I usually do. I don’t think it’s not normal to explore that part of the psyche. What we do and what we write are two different things. I loved your flash fiction piece. That was right up my alley. 😀

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