12 Writing and Research Tips I Learned from the RWA Writers Conference

my_tweet-58.pngIf you ever get to a Romance Writers of America annual conference, you’ll learn a thing or two…or 12. Sure, the workshops may be geared toward writers of the romance genre, but much of the advice taught is applicable to authors across the fiction spectrum. Intrigued now? Good.

I jotted down so many tips as I was working on this, I decided to break things up into two posts. This one covers the writing and research tips I learned from the RWA Writers Conference. Next week, I’ll recap marketing and branding tips.

Alright, enough intro-babble.

Tips about fiction writing:

1. The cornerstones for the first chapter are character, tone, plot, and setting. It must always state the main story problem. It should provide the main story question, “What’s at stake?” And the chapter should always hook people at the end.

2.  Scenes of a book are like links. They take the reader, link by link by link, from the beginning of the book to the end.

3. Evoke an emotional reaction for the reader. Book recommendation: The Emotion Thesaurus, a Writer’s Guide to Character and Expression by Ackerman and Puglisi

“The more the reader worries about your characters, the more they like the book.” Barbara Samuel

4.  The chapters between the first chapter and the turning points are all there to deepen the characters and raise the stakes.

5.  The main character of your story is the person who changes the most.

6.  Character goals should be specific. Avoid generality, passivity, or misinterpretation. That goal should spring from dissatisfaction with a situation.

“Every choice a character makes creates opportunities or destroys possibilities.” Damon Suede

7.  Read books that are comparable to what you’re writing. Learn from them.

8.  The world changes. That’s why genre boundaries have to be pushed. Use the element of surprise to make a book different.

“The minute you get boring, the minute somebody puts your writing down, and you’ve lost them.” Alisha Rai

9.  Enter contests. It’s a great way to get feedback on your book. You just may win. Besides that, ranking as a finalist or semi-finalist also equals great bragging rights on your website and book blurb.

Tips about researching:

10.  Use as many primary sources as you can. Check out books written by people who lived during the time period you are writing about, or who experienced the lifestyle that you are writing about. Great secondary sources are biographies or reference guides.

11.  Write down facts and place them in a binder, organized by subject, to retrieve the information later.

Katie Dunneback, @younglibrarian, suggests emailing an expert at a non-profit organization or museum. They enjoy sharing insight on their favorite topic.

12.  For setting, visit a town or country in person. Interview historians, visit museums, or take virtual tours online.

For comment below: What other writing and research tips should I add to this list?

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

Published by Rene Penn

Author. Blogger.

2 thoughts on “12 Writing and Research Tips I Learned from the RWA Writers Conference

    1. So glad this is helpful. I read your blog post about writing your “Warm Draft.” I love that you’ve gone to writing some of it by hand. Long live the notebook! 🙂 –RP


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