Assembling a Talk OR How to be Prepared

This past month at RWA in NYC, Jeannie Lin and I gave a workshop on Voice. We were thrilled with how well received it was and had several people comment on how organized and prepared we were.

It broke my heart that part of the positive feedback was on preparedness. But, to that point, several people also asked what went in to having a workshop that flowed so well. So, here it is.

Jeannie and I both love to talk craft. We’re those authors who probably bore people staying up late to talk about books we’ve read that have struck us, what we’re doing in our own work, what people are talking (or not talking) about. Voice is one thing we always land on and we thought it would be a great workshop because so often when we were newer writers the voice talks we attended were inspiring but didn’t give us a lot of direction.

The other great thing about discussing Voice, something most writers have to find in themselves, is that we’ve literally been together since our first manuscripts. Not only did we get to see the evolution and journey of one another’s Voice, but we were the one who pointed it out to the other when it was found.

So we started the project of writing a craft book and pitching the workshop for RWA.

The first conversation we had is what we wanted to accomplish. This boiled down to sharing what we think Voice is and isn’t, giving clear and strong definitions and examples, reaching beyond the Romance community to give people who think in different ways touchstones, giving exercise to help find your voice. That’s where we started and we grew the base from there.

We realized quickly that we wouldn’t be able to discuss everything we wanted to discuss, let alone in depth, and that’s when the plan to co-author a book solidified for us even though we’d tossed the idea around before.

Luckily, the next steps dovetailed nicely: Pitch the Workshop and Plot the Book.

So, here’s what that looked like:

  • Elevator Pitch – Jeannie is a pro at boiling things down to their essence. Ours:

Voice: every writer has one. Every writer knows what it is, but not everyone can put their finger on how to develop it. Join best-selling and award-winning authors as they chase down this elusive element, discussing concrete tips and techniques for finding and enhancing your writing Voice so that it emerges, not merely as unique, but as a compelling force that has readers turning the pages for more.

  • Make a list of everything we wanted to discuss.
  • Prioritize the list
  • Create an initial outline
  • Apply to speak at RWA

This was all done over a meeting at Penned Con in the middle of the night and then a few email exchanges. Shoutout to Reader Angie Hulsman who put up with us.

Next step? Well, the next step was that we both had two other deadlines each. This put non-fiction thinking on hold for a bit, both of us mulling and making some Notes To Self. Then we got the email that RWA was extending the invitation to speak we’d applied for.

Now it was time to get serious!

  • Flesh out each point — information we didn’t have room for in the talk would still be going into the draft of our book!

We went back and forth with some emails. Decisions about how we’d run the workshop had to be made.

For example, we didn’t want to read our own stuff to demonstrate points. Sure, we would be talking from experience and sharing CP stories too, but we didn’t want to use our own work as, (1) we both believe there were far better examples from super-talented authors to share and, (2) we didn’t want the message to be lost in what could accidentally look like a sales pitch.

Then it was time to talk.

Jeannie came to Boston…for a day. I kid you not. She was in NY and thought she’d fly through Boston on her way home. We hugged hello and then got to work. We pounded through a ton seeing each other in person.

At this point, I’m sure most people would tell us we were prepared. But, we’re both a bit on the over-prepared is under-prepared obsession.

Two weeks later, after she’d revised our notes from our meeting, we went over the updated, fleshed-out outline for both the workshop and book. We used Google Hangout and I did a screen share of the outline so we could both see what was getting changed in real time. I emailed her the updated notes.

There was a ton of fine tuning here and I don’t regret the 1.5 hours at all. I believe this “extra” meeting is where our workshop really came to life and became something we were both proud of. The message became more clear, more organized, more easy to follow.

We exchanged about 4 more email tweaks and agreed to meet again at RWA.

At RWA we met for another 1.5 hour breakfast (Jeannie, Epiphany! We apparently do our best work over breakfast!)

Here we cut a lot down, trying to ensure that we had the most important points and examples at their essence. One hour goes quicker than you think when you want to share.

We also marked every single line with a BQ or JL to make sure we knew who was discussing what. This wasn’t just to make sure I didn’t shove Jeannie under the table and take over. It was to ensure that the talk was balanced (no one wants to listen to my voice for an hour…not even me. Maybe especially me), that the person who was speaking thought out their points clearly, that we stayed on task, and that we continued to move forward so the audience got the best information in the most concise way.

Jeannie made the corrections to our speaker notes and handout.

We got to the workshop a little early, asked everyone if they were sure they weren’t supposed to be in the Belle Andre talk, and ran over the outline to make sure we were on the same page one last time.

And then it was Go Time!

I know we had a ball getting to talk about one of our favorite topics. I hope that we gave people great information

We’ve had a lot of emails about when the book is coming out. We’re currently still drafting it, and if that’s what goes into a workshop, you can imagine the chit chats we’re having about the book.

If you want to stay informed about the madness we’re creating:

Jeannie Lin’s Newsletter: HERE

Bria Quinlan’s Newsletter: HERE

Our Craft Book Release Newsletter: HERE


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