Takeaways from FRW’s Fun in the Sun Conference

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending Florida Romance Writers’ Fun in the Sun mini-conference. This was the first time they’d offered a land conference. Last year’s conference took place aboard a cruise ship. It will return to sea next year.
As I’d only ever attended National’s, it was nice to connect with local romance writers, and now that I’m a member of my local chapter (only made sense right?), I hope to call them my friends soon.
I thought I’d share some of my takeaways from yesterday. I hope I haven’t botched the opinions and sentiments expressed by the presenters. (If they are reading, please accept my apologies.) These takeaways really resonated with me, and I suppose that’s why they are my takeaways. <haha>

Carla Neggers (NYT’s Bestselling Author):
  • Fill your creative well as a constant practice.
  • Turn away the “energy vampires.” Have rules about how you’ll engage with them.
  • Don’t get bogged down by craft. Liberate yourself. Don’t sweat focusing on GMC, character arcs, etc. especially if that keeps you from writing. You can always review those elements later.
  • Writing isn’t punctuation. Ms. Neggers gave an example of how a book reviewer once said that Harry Potter would’ve been a better book had JK Rowling not used so many adverbs. We all had a hearty chuckle over that one.
Debra Holland
Dr. Debra Holland
Dr. Debra Holland (USA Today’s Bestselling Author and Golden Heart Winner):
  • Follow your intuition. Early on, Dr. Holland turned down publishing opportunities because they didn’t feel right. Editors had wanted to stray from her vision of her Montana Sky series. Following her intuition turned out to be a very smart (and lucrative) move.
  • Don’t get tied into a contract because you are afraid it’ll be your only opportunity. Make sure you hire a literary attorney to look over all contracts and that a contract feels right for you. Again, follow your intuition (which was the central theme of her speech).
  • Make sure when reviewing a publishing contract that you can still publish *short* stories on your own. She stated that there can sometimes be long gaps between books coming out, and by being able to self-publish short stories, it can help maintain reader engagement.
  • If self-publishing, think about doing a free prequel to garner interest.
  • No matter if self-publishing or traditional publishing, when doing a series, think about how you can create multi-entry points into your series. A series doesn’t have have to be linear. Suggested multi-entry points included prequels, sub character stories, and holiday-themed shorts.
I really enjoyed the agent, publisher, and editor panel which included Agent Marlene Stringer, Editor Charles Griemsman (Harlequin Desire), Editor Kristine Swartz (Penguin Random House), and Publisher Karen Thomas (Cleis Press).
  • Ms. Thomas highlighted the difference between erotica and erotic romance which is ALWAYS appreciated by me. (It’s a topic I plan to write about here in the near future.)
  • When speaking about dream book heroines, Ms. Swartz said she loved strong females who “are not so put together that I feel bad about myself.”
  • Everyone on the panel agreed they’d be open to seeing heroines who are older than twenty-five.
  • They agreed there is a move in romance to include more Happy for Now (HFN) than Happily Ever After (HEA) endings. HFN is becoming more common with families changing and people waiting until they’re older to get hitched. Plus, for some, marriage may not be the ultimate relationship goal. There’s more HFN seen in separate books of a series that follow the same couple.
  • While Romantic Suspense and (traditional) Historical Romance is on the rise, they reminded writers to not choose a genre because it’s hot. What might be selling at the bookstores right not, could very well be lukewarm in a year. Write what genre works best for you.

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