Have you ever wondered what exactly defines the audience of a story? I had never thought about it much before, and it didn’t really matter to me where a book fit, or where my stories fit, so long as people want to read them. But after attending J. Scott Savage’s “YA vs Middle Grade” class, which was my favorite at Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE) this year, I decided that it IS important to know these things, especially while your’e working on a story of your own. There are a lot of publishers who will take a manuscript that needs tweaking in order to fit the audience they’re looking for, but so much time and effort can be saved for both publisher and author by knowing what you’re writing in order to have your story easily categorized right from the beginning.
How can you identify who the intended audience is? You may be thinking that it has something to do with the content of the book — perhaps with violent content, the age of the main characters, the depth of the romance, or the reading level of the vocabulary in the writing. But violence can be glossed over, as well as romance, ages can be changed or omitted, and the words an author uses can be made more complicated or simplistic through editing. These things are definitely considered by publishers, but they are things that aren’t essential to the story; these are things that are more easily changed before publication, and aren’t what really defines intended audience.
In October 2017, a new novel concept popped into my head. Five drafts later, I packed my bags, put my two little cuties in my CRV, and drove ten hours to LTUE in Utah to pitch my completed novel.
Sometimes moms have to chase their dreams. (Shoutout to my amazing husband!)
My previous pitch sessions with publishers and agents taught me a lot, so during this round I felt like a tween wearing high heels for a second time. Hopefully my ankles were a little stronger for this round. I pitched my novel to two publishers while I was there and received two partial requests. One month later, I'm thrilled to announce that I just signed my first book contract with Immortal Works Press!
I went into LTUE this year with the goal to feel inspired and learn more about my craft. That led me to a lot of mostly empty, odd ball panels on things like “Weather Systems” and “Building Seaworthy Boats”. They were so much fun, filled my inspiration cup especially since my big WIP is on a mythology-based fantasy where angry Gods set their fury lose on an island with terrible storms and diseases. However, it was the “Finding Your Audience” panel with authors Josi Russel, M. Tod Gallowglas, and Howard Taylor that filled my Writing Craft cup.
The Life, the Universe and Everything Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy Conference is a local (to Utah) conference I always clear my calendar for. Not only is it my birthday present every year (February, anyone else?), but it’s an incredibly good value. Registration is only $50 for all three days (only $15 for students!), and you can always expect to have a wide range of artists present. From newbies and fans to published professionals, LTUE has something for everyone who loves the fantastic. Artists, Writers and Authors, Publishers, Editors and Agents, Graphic Designers and even Screen Writers. I’ve been attending LTUE for seven years. This year was my first year there since I published my fantasy novel Woven, and I got to attend the multi-author book signing next to big-wigs like Brandon Mull and Charlie Holmberg. Even Brandon Sanderson was there! It was a totally surreal experience, and I look forward to hopefully presenting on a panel in 2019.
My favorite class this year was the first on I attended on the second day. Maxwell Alexander Drake is an award-winning Science Fiction/Fantasy author and Graphic Novelist. He’s a blunt and unabashed presenter, whose main goal, besides delivering mind-blowing information about how to craft an incredible novel, is to offend at least half the people present. Apparently, writers are a pretty sensitive lot when it comes to the “right way” to write a book. He made it clear: his way is the right way, but it’s only one way. If you want to do it another way, disregard everything he says. But his way is the best way, of course. He managed to boil a three hour presentation into a fantastic 45 minute one. What follows are a few gems from his class, and if you want more, go buy his book (or read it on Kindle Unlimited!) “Dynamic Story Creation.”
The first thing he said that caught my attention is that we should always be asking, “What does this do for my story?” Sometimes, that means “killing our darlings” (Not babies. Never babies). If a scene or character doesn’t DO anything, it’s irrelevant and should be eliminated for the good of your story.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.