Saturday, September 26, 2015

How To Get The Most From Writing Conferences

While we prepare for our next member interview, I thought we could consider how to make attending writing conferences worth your while. Fall is a great time to find a conference.

This is a picture from last weekends Ozark Romance Authors Conference in Springfield MO. It's a great and very affordable conference in the heart of Ozark Mountain Country. Check it out here:
If you live too far away from this conference, get online and search for writer conferences. There are ones all over the country and even on cruise ships. Wouldn't that be fun!
Here are some tips.
  1. If you can afford it, stay in the hotel where the conference is. Many times there is a reduced rate for attendees. Not only does this eliminate driving so much, you are sure to meet other attendees staying there and maybe make some lifelong friends. Or make important connections with the speakers.
  2. Pack a sweater - especially if you tend to run cold. Conference rooms are notoriously chilly. And wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Most conferences these days are pretty laid back in their dress code. But check ahead and make sure if there is a cocktail party or banquet, you are prepared with a little nicer attire.
  3. Take notes, lots of notes. Something may not resonate with you at the time, but later, a light bulb might go off and give you a great idea or inspire you in some way.
  4. At lunch, try to snag a table with one of the speakers. You will hear things and learn things that aren't necessarily in their presentation. It is also a chance for you to stand out from the crowd.
  5. If pitch sessions are available, please sign up. You may be nervous or maybe your work isn't quite done, but that's okay. Who knows what connection you will make or offer you will get.
  6. If author tables are present, be sure and visit them during breaks. Hopefully you have extra money to spend on books. If not, it's okay just to visit and ask them questions. Many also offer free stuff, like candy!
  7. Raise your hand - ask questions. There is no reason to leave a conference without your brain packed full of information.
Most of all - have fun. Take an extra day to explore the town you are visiting. When you get home, look up the connections you made online - either their web page, blog, Twitter or Facebook page. Keep in touch - these people could help you along your writing journey.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Most writers fall in one of these two categories. Some must outline and plan and plot, while others just begin writing and see where it takes them. And they will hardly ever switch and try writing the other way. It would be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole - uncomfortable and awkward.

Some plotter's have every single thing planned out from all the twist and turns of the story, to extensive character development. This can run into several pages before one word of the story is written. Other plotters have a less extensive outline, allowing for possible change of direction.

Most mystery writers are plotters by necessity. Twists, turns, red herrings, and bad guys all need to be ready to go.

To a pantser, an outline seems insane. They can't imagine trying to plan how everything will happen. It takes the excitement of discovery away. Just let the character go wherever they want and let the story follow. Of course, this usually means a very rough first draft which must undergo extensive re-vision. That's not to say the plotter doesn't have to revise, but probably a lot less.

Which kind of writer are you? And would you ever give the other way a try?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Murder wasn't on the itinerary when Lacey James and her friend, Stella, traveled to Ireland to help a friend. Expecting the sights and sounds of Ireland to soothe her spirit and provide background for her next mystery, Lacey became the prime suspect in an extremist plot. From the Book of Kells to St. Kevin's Monastery, Lacey is stalked by people demanding something that she does not have. Among ancient castles and legends in the Emerald Isle, Homeland security agent, Mitch Logan shadows her every move. He knows too much about her. Can she trust him? And who is Irene Bouchard, the redheaded bombshell that turns up every time Lacey is in trouble?

Please welcome fellow Sleuths' member, current Secretary and News Letter Editor -  Pat Elliott.
Who doesn't love a mystery set in Ireland? And the cover is so intriguing!

Here is a short interview with this talented writer, Be sure and follow the link at the end to her Amazon page. 

We just talked about writing habits on the blog. What are some of yours?

Living alone allows me to write anytime or all the time. But I procrastinate.  I need to do this – I need to do that. Anyone else a procrastinator?

      I raise my hand and look around for others. 

At what age did you first start getting serious about your writing?

I was published in the high school newspaper and I was hooked.
Where do you get inspiration for your stories? 

From travels and pictures, I imagine settings.  People I know or have met give me gist for my characters. Mix up their characteristics and viola I have a character that is good or bad or have flaws. Sometimes those people are only sitting at the next table in a restaurant or in church and I don’t know them at all.

Which do you enjoy more - writing the first draft or editing the final version? 

The first draft.  I hate editing.
What is your favorite color and does it ever play a part in your stories? 

My favorite color changes with my moods. I’m not aware of using color in my stories. Maybe I should start using color.

Thanks for taking the time to give us some insight to your writing process.

Pat's book Murder on Tour is available at

Thursday, September 3, 2015

JANO 2016

About JANO
During January, 2010, Sleuths’ Ink held it’s first-ever JANO challenge. Modeled after the popular National Novel Writing Month in November, JANO begins in, you guessed it, January.
Participants are challenged to write a 50,000-word novel during January. Join us and kick off the new year with a novel in progress! 

Two good reasons we picked January: 

1) You get an extra day to write. To complete 50,000 words during January, you only need to write 1,613 words a day.

2) The holidays are over. Winter has set in. What better way to spend a long, dreary month than writing a novel?

Over the past few years, participants from across the nation entered our challenge. Many of them reached their 50,000 goal, with a few actually receiving a contract for their completed JANO project.


Sleuths' Ink will hold its Seventh Annual JANO beginning January 1, 2016. Please join us and kick off the new year by writing a new novel or adding new words to a work in progress. 

Rules: There may be no actual writing on your JANO novel until January 1, but you may plot your novel and create character sketches before January 1, 2016. On that date, write like mad (no editing) the entire month in order to reach the 50,000-word goal.  

To celebrate JANO members’ successes, Sleuths’ Ink will sponsor a party February 5, 2016. Details are forthcoming. As always, during the party, prizes will be awarded to our JANO 2016 participants.  See categories below.  In addition, we're giving away a $100 grand prize to one lucky JANO participant at our annual December holiday party.  The winner of this grand prize must be a Sleuths’ Ink member in good standing as of February 1, 2016 and must have written a minimum of 25,000 words in 2016.


  1. First to 50,000 words in January
  2. Second to 50,000 words in January
  3. Third to 50,000 words in January
  4. Best Title
  5. Best First Paragraph 
  6. Most Unique Character Name
  7. Best Blurb – 100 words or less  

    KEEP IN MIND: a Blurb is often used in your query letter to sell your story to an editor or what is found on the back of the book to grab your potential reader’s attention.
 Participant MUST have written at least 10,000 words to be eligible for prizes
  • Must be on the janowriters yahoo email loop. (see below)
  • No acceptances after MIDNIGHT January 31, 2016 deadline. NO exceptions!!!
Attendees of the Wrap-Up Party judge the last four categories on February 5th, 2016 and prizes will be awarded accordingly. You do not have to be in attendance to win, but we encourage everyone within driving distance to come join the FUN!
JANO is sponsored by Sleuths’ Ink, a mystery and suspense writers’ non-profit organization in Springfield, Missouri. JANO 2016 Chairperson: Wanda Fittro