Last week I wrote about the importance of attending virtual conferences. Because they are so easy to attend – from your own home in your PJs if you want and usually less expensive than attending a regular conference (the conference fees are less, there are no travel costs, hotel, or food costs) – there is really no excuse not to go. This week I want to tell you about two seminars I attended at the RWA National conference that were fantastic (and I might mention one that wasn’t—and why).

Story Structure Talk

The first amazing seminar was one on story structure. If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I love story structure. I love the organization. I love exploring all the different ways people attack story structure. How they outline, or don’t. What structure they use and how. It all fascinates me and I think it’s loads of fun.

This talk was called Plot Smarter, Not Harder, and presented by Annabeth Albert. She talked a lot about “beats” – what I’ve always called the major turning points of a story. That would be the Inciting Event, First Major Turning Point, Climax, Dark Moment, and Resolution. What she looks at which is so helpful is the pacing of your story—which scenes are shorter, which are longer, and why. She begins by determining how long she wants her book and knowing how long an average scene is as she writes it (this she learned from experience writing books). She then does a little math to find out how many scenes she needs to write to get the length of books she wants. With that in mind, she can plan out exactly how much she needs to write each day, and long it will take her to write the book.

Once she has these basic calculations (and she gave websites where there are calculators to help figure this out for you), she can look more closely at which scenes need to be longer (if they’re more exciting, more happens, a more important realization needs to happen—whatever) and which need to be shorter (not as important or perhaps shorter for suspense reasons).

I find this idea so fascinating. Not only plotting out your beats but thinking hard about how much time and energy each is going to take to write. Not only planning out your book but the time it’s going to take you to write it. Brilliant!

She also highly recommended a couple of books on plotting I hadn’t read. I’ve just started reading Super Structure by James Scott Bell, which she recommended (I’ve read and loved his book Writing From the Middle. This is a follow-up to that book). And I’ve got Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes now sitting in my TBR pile. I’ll let you know what I think of them!

Podcasting Talk

The other wonderful seminar I attended was one on podcasting by L. Penelope. She presented a great, information-filled seminar. I now not only know how to start my own podcast, but I’ve begun the process!

I am so excited to announce that beginning next Friday, September 11, 2020, Pru Warren and I are going to be hosting a podcast called The Writer’s Block Party!

We are going to be having a weekly discussion about writing, the craft of writing, editing, marketing, self-publishing – everything a writer needs to know to be an author today. We’ll start off by me answering some of Pru’s questions (she’s a newbie). We’ll interview authors and industry professionals once a month, and answer questions sent in by listeners. So…

If you have any questions you’d like answered, send them to me!

I’ll have the website up soon – (yeah, it’s long…) – possibly even by the time you read this blog. There you’ll be able to see what episode is coming up next and post questions to be answered on the show. And, of course, there will be past episodes… as soon as we have some. Lol!

So, back to my main point – if you attend a virtual conference and presenters are good and give good information that is actionable, there’s so much you can do and create based on that information. Now, if the presenter isn’t good, then you’ve got a problem.

The Third Talk

As I alluded to in the beginning, while these two talks were fantastic and the speakers absolute fonts of wisdom and ideas, not all were. I attended one talk – by someone who claimed to have a master’s degree in education from Harvard, no less! – that was a complete mess. She was supposed to be giving information on a particular type of publishing (if I say, I’ll be giving away who this was and I don’t want to disparage anyone publicly) but all she did was say I did this and I made a ton of money!

She couldn’t say how she did it except that she made a lot of mistakes and we shouldn’t do it the way she did it. But we should absolutely do this and we’ll make so much money. Well, that’s not exactly helpful. She could (in a very convoluted, round-about way) tell us what not to do, but not what to do.

Her talk was completely disorganized flipping this way and that. There was no straight line of logic or information and she couldn’t even tell us how to publish in the way she was recommending. It was a waste of time! Well… I have to say, I didn’t waste a lot of time there because I simply moved to another talk.


So, there are always fantastic talks, good talks, and, sadly, some that are not so good. On the whole, however, it was very well worth my time and money. I learned a lot. I connected with so many new people in the virtual hang-outs. And I had an easy conference experience from the comfort of my own home.

So, people, please send in your questions for my new podcast and be prepared it starts next week! And please remember, I’m always available to answer your writing questions in my other hat as a book coach.