Tips from #PhillyWW

Hey everyone! I have the wonderful opportunity to participate in the Philadelphia Writing Workshop this weekend. It’s a two day event, so I just wanted to share my notes from yesterday’s sessions with all my writer friends today. There were quite a few topics discussed, so I’m going to share a few bullets points in each topic. If you’re interested in attending one of these workshops for yourself check out the website, follow them on Twitter at @writingdaywksp.

Writing a NY Times Bestselling Novel by Julie Gwinn

This webinar focused on the first pages of your novel and how to grab the agent/reader. Here’s a few tips:

  • Begin with a BANG
    • Open with action
    • Limit backstory (beware of info dumping)
    • Keep characters in motion
    • Show the action, don’t tell us about it
    • You need to engage the reader ASAP
    • Introduce the audience to your main character ASAP to build attachment
  • Establish the Mood
    • Know the mood of your genre. If you’re writing a thriller, readers are going to expect the dark and eerie mood of that genre.
    • Use small details to spur emotion, but be wary of adding too much “Purple Prose” that bogs down the story.
    • Readers read to experience emotions. The author’s job is to manipulate those emotions. Think about what your readers are wanting to feel when they pick up your genre.
  • Watch out for No-no’s
    • Don’t introduce too many characters all at once
    • Be careful of adding too much backstory early on
    • Watch out for using the cliché’s of your genre
    • Be careful of explaining too much (especially in regards to fantasy). You don’t have to give every detail about the world you built right away. Ease into it.
    • Cut out “weasel words” like may, might, could, can, can be, up to, as much as, possibly.
    • Cut out the “that” (“he said THAT she couldn’t” “We all know THAT everyone is lying.” Etc.)
  • Final thoughts:
    • Write what you know–reading books in your genre is important
    • Research the word count of your genre
    • Research comparative titles
    • Know your genre and age group
    • Have a strong network of beta readers
    • Finish your story! Write it to the end!
Query Letter Tips by Chuck Sambuchino
  • Understand the parts of the query:
    • Intro: the details of the story and why you’re submitting to this particular agent. Make sure to personalize and don’t just say “I think you’ll like this story because it fits the genre you’re interested in.”
    • Pitch: the plot of your novel. Don’t give away the ending. Introduce characters and conflict.
    • Bio: the part about you.
  • Study examples of queries and pitches by finding debut novels published within the past two years. Study the voice, first chapter, and back cover summary.
  • Get into writing groups and get critiques
  • It’s okay to have multiple versions of a query letter. Just make sure you’re tracking the success of each one.
  • With comparison titles, it’s okay to use “X” meets “Y.” You can use TV shows and Movies alongside books. Example: “This is a fantasy where Star Wars meets King Arthur.”
  • Do your research in building a query list and only query a little at a time so you can see if your query and first pages are successful or not.
  • Avoid Generalities when describing your plot. You don’t want to use text that can be interpreted multiple ways. Example: “Mary is sad and depressed.” Be specific!
  • Mostly importantly: Be professional at all times!
How to Market Yourself and Your Books by Lesley Sabga
  • People invest in the author alongside the book
  • Consider your audience and what platforms you will be able to reach your audience at
    • Facebook: most popular for adult
    • Instagram/Pintrest/TikTok: popular for MG to YA
  • Research hashtags used by your audience
  • Study and interact with the platform to help understand it before you start posting
  • Be mindful of what you post. The internet lasts forever. You don’t want to offend or create potential rifts between you and your readers. Consider how people will react to what you’re posting.
  • Don’t just talk about your books. Talk about topics that are important to you and topics you can build connections through. If the topics pertain to your book, that a bonus. Topics can be about cooking, hiking, gardening, anything that interests you.
  • Agents want to see querying authors on social media
  • You have to be your own publicist. Publishing companies can’t do all the work anymore. There’s no one better to talk about your book than you. Start locally.
  • Partner with other authors, artists, social media experts to get each other’s work out.
  • Tell one person about your book everyday. Doesn’t matter who. Word of mouth sells.

These are some tips from the first three webinars of the Philadelphia Writing Workshop. They may not seem like long lists, but to writers starting their journey, it’s a lot. Personally, I felt comfortable with the first two topics. I’m revising my manuscript and feel like my first chapter is getting to the best version it can be. I’m not querying any time soon, but I’m comfortable where my query letter is at currently. So, for the start of this workshop, I was feeling okay about the advice I was getting and where my book is at. But, unfortunately, that didn’t last long when the topic of social media came up.

I am not a social media expert. I hardly know how Instagram works and I’ve never delved into TikTok. I’m also an introvert. I don’t like putting myself out there, so the whole discussion of social media building was poking at my anxiety levels. I mean, how do you juggle so much? There’s so many different platforms. I don’t have the time to write my own stories. How am I supposed to maintain all these platforms?

The answer: don’t. No one can do it all at once. The best advice I was given was to pick a platform and start there. If you’re audience is mostly on Facebook and you’re comfortable with Facebook, start there. If you’re not comfortable with TikTok, don’t pick TikTok, people will realize you’re uncomfortable and that’ll do more harm than good. When it comes to social media, you need to ease yourself in. I’m trying to take things in stages. My novel is currently undergoing a revision and that should be my focus. No one should start querying unless their book is done. My plan is to finish my novel, and I’ll invest more into social media when I start querying again. In the meantime, I stick to posting on my website twice a week.

A lot of information gets thrown at writers during Writing Workshops. The number one thing you need to remember is to not let yourself get overwhelmed. If you’re overwhelmed with trying to juggle everything, writing will no longer be enjoyable and you don’t want to ruin something you love.

No matter where you are in your writing journey, I hope you found some tips here helpful. After today’s webinars, I’ll work on getting more typed up for anyone who missed them. Again, if you want to join a writing workshop, check out Good luck and happy writing everyone!

Published by Nikki

I am an aspiring author with one novel written and ready for representation and many in the works.

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