Christian Book Expo

I promised you all an update on the Christian Book Expo, so here it is!

One of my main goals in going to the Expo was to meet authors. I've enjoyed reading and reviewing books, and interviewing authors on WordVessel, so this was a must for me. I was able to meet DiAnn Mills (in the pic to the left), Christine Lynxwiler, Mary Connealy, Margaret Daley, Deborah Raney (pic below) and Colleen Coble.

Another one of my goals in attending was to take classes from some of the authors at the event. I wasn't disappointed.

The first class I took was "What Takes So Long?" with DeeAnne Gist, where she took us through what happens to an author's manuscript once it is sold--from contract to store shelves. Her publisher is Bethany House, and that particular publisher sends the contracted story out to five readers for their input on the story. Once their reviews are in, the editor sends the author Praise Points from the readers as well as Editorial Concerns with suggestions for revisions. She also took us through finding a title for the Marketing Department, cover suggestions for the Art Department, Line Edits, Galley Proofs, ARCs, and the printing process.

The second class I took was "So You Want To Write A Novel?" with Colleen Coble. Her suggestions:

  • Read current Christian fiction books, so that you know what is selling.
  • Read books on the craft of writing. (The ones she mentioned were Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, The Baby Name Survey Book for naming characters, and 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.)
  • Read current magazines for trends and story ideas.
  • Brainstorm with friends for unusual settings, characters, and story ideas. She went on to say that first thoughts aren't always the best, so be open to new ideas. Don't get locked into an idea too quickly.
  • Layer the plot with at least three layers (problems, subplots).
  • Research the market and publishers, so that you know what genres they publish and what word count they're looking for.
  • Research agents and know what they accept. Find out what they're looking for. "A bad agent is worse than no agent."
  • Attend conferences, not only to learn the craft, but to meet with editors without having an agent.
  • Be patient. It takes time--usually at least a year to write it and six to sell it.
  • Move on. Don't keep sending out the same manuscript. You learn to write by writing. It takes a while to find your voice, so keep writing until you find your strengths.

In "Drawn To The Bible Through Fiction," Liz Curtis Higgs and Randy Alcorn taught that in Christian fiction our stories need to show real pain and real hope--stories from the Bible turned to fiction that points the reader back to the Bible. Randy mentioned that fiction often carries the Trojan horse effect, where the story has the power to access the heart, mind and will of the reader, to reach people that wouldn't be reached by non-fiction.

Then in the "Joint Publisher Fiction Showcase," I was able to listen to authors Terri Blackstock, Davis Bunn, Mindy Starns Clark, Jerry Jenkins, Beverly Lewis, Rober Liparulo, Bill Myers and Janette Oke answer questions from moderator Liz Curtis Higgs and the audience. A few highlights:

  • Davis Bunn on co-writing ~ Make sure you both have the same thoughts on being guided by God in the story; understand and respect each other's voice; consider splitting the scenes or POVs, writing, then having the other add to/edit your work.
  • Mindy Starns Clark on writing male POV ~ run it past a couple of men readers to see if it's accurately written; on writing mystery ~ keep a file of what really happens in the story, then make the actual book show how the protagonist finds out what really happens.
  • Jerry Jenkins on the love of writing ~ Most writers don't love writing; they love having written. When a student asked him about the writing life, he said it was like having homework every night for the rest of your life. (My note: Amen!) I was really impressed by Jerry Jenkins' heart to help new writers.
  • Robert Liparulo on doing research ~ Develop the skill of calling people to interview them. Always shoot for the top of the topic you're researching--CEO of company, head detective, etc. Interviewing will also help you hear differences in dialogue.
  • Janette Oke on story ideas ~ Ideas are like birds hiding in the grass--you never know what's going to fly up. Writers develop a radar, and their sensory perceptions are heightened.
  • MY OVERALL TAKEAWAY ~ All the authors mentioned at some point the use of questions in their writing. What if?

The worship event Friday night was spectacular with Travis Cottrell, Max Lucado, Henry Blackaby, Liz Curtis Higgs and others. We had to leave on Saturday afternoon, but I'm sure Saturday night's event was just as wonderful.

I hear they are planning another expo next year in Dallas. I will definitely go back!

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