Megan La Follett – Storymaker Society
Megan La Follett
Author Archives: Megan La Follett

Lessons from StoryExpo 2017 – the conference that didn’t happen

The conference pass was purchased, a room at the Ace Hotel reserved, and flight booked. The class schedule was all set, and a pitch prepared. My custom Storymaker Society tote bag was packed with live video gear, and event-specific business card printed on my favorite paper stock. Three days until the big event. A chance to spend an entire weekend with writers, producers, and story enthusiasts!

Then an e-mail arrives in my inbox that I have to re-read three times before the news sinks in. Story Expo is “postponed” this year. A last-minute scramble to cancel reservations and come up with alternative plans. How could this happen? Story Expo was billed as “Comic-Con…but for writers.” This was the big 5-year anniversary celebration, and the conference had just moved up to a larger space at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Netflix was going to be there for pitches. Amazon Studios. Lionsgate.

“This year, 2017, unfortunately, we are going to have to postpone Story Expo due to a variety of factors, mostly lower-than-usual ticket sales. This decision was not an easy one and not one made lightly, but Story Expo has become known for being the premier conference for writers around the world and we don’t want to put on a conference where people’s expectations are not far exceeded.”

Announcement from Conference Organizers

I confess that my lesser nature immediately thought, “Well, one way to exceed expectations is to NOT cancel the week before.” But my better self admits that if it must be cancelled at such a late date, it was at least handled graciously. Tickets refunded, a comp ticket to the next conference, and there was still time to cancel reservations without penalty. I’m sure that there is more to the story than we can see on the surface. I reached out to the organizers seeking further comment, but have not heard back yet. I’ll update this post if that changes.

So what could have gone so wrong that calling the whole thing off was the right move?

From the limited picture that I have, I can see several areas that could have made a difference in ticket sales:

  1. The list of speakers was a blank page on the website for months leading up to the conference. I’d hoped to connect with speakers on social media beforehand, so I was checking this regularly. A week before the conference was scheduled to begin, the page was taken down entirely.
  2. The pitching room was originally set to open on August 1st. Then it was pushed back to August 15. Then September 1. I believe it finally went live on the 2nd. This was the first thing that made me nervous about the conference, but I’ve run into my own technical difficulties before so it wasn’t hard to give the organizers some slack on this point.
  3. There was no Facebook page or group for the conference. In today’s digital marketing world, that’s odd.
  4. There is an official Twitter account for Story Expo, but it has 18 followers at the time I’m writing this post, and no tweets.
  5. No one, literally, NO ONE was talking about Story Expo on social media. I tried to jumpstart some conversations by connecting with the few people who had tweeted from it last year, but there were only a couple of tweets about it.

Now, I work in social media and digital marketing, so my expectations might be different than the average conference attendee. And, the only other conference I went to this year was Social Media Marketing World, which was so amazing that it would be hard for any other conference to measure up. Slack channels for specific interests set up months before SMMW, hashtags galore, an active Facebook group for volunteers, a group for registrants, videos from the 2016 conference, space for attendees to easily add their own unofficial social events to the conference schedule… it was done RIGHT.

I keep going back to the promise of Story Expo: “Featuring world-renowned speakers, almost a hundred classes and exhibitors, Story Expo covers all aspects of story and writing – from craft to business to pitching to career.” I feel a little sick that it didn’t happen. I genuinely hope to see this promise fulfilled next time, and wish the organizers only the best.

How great would it be to have a Social Media Marketing World experience for writers? I think “Storymaker Society Conference 2019” has a nice ring to it. What do you think?

 

Author Interview: Courtney Shockey

The second author in our interview series is going to be… Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Short Story Horror author, Courtney Shockey! She’ll be joining us at 8:00 PM Eastern on August 31.

Courtney is married with two children, a janitor for four fur babies, and a she’s a Walking Dead fan (even though she hates zombie movies…they’re terrifying). She lives on the outskirts of Houston, TX, and works in the industrial field 50+ hours a week!

If you think you don’t have time to write, don‘t miss this interview!

Where to find Courtney

Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Amazon  GoodReads  Facebook Street Team

If you’re in the Houston area on September 2, you can meet Courtney in person at the All The Books author event!

Upcoming Releases

Courtney has three books releasing this year:

Children of Darkness: Genesis (Book 2 of the Nightmare series)

Finding East (Book 3 in the Soul Magic series)

Memories of Joy (the final installment of the Selene’s Pass trilogy)

Author Interview: Carly Eldridge

Mark your calendars! August 27, 3:00 pm Eastern, my friend Carly Eldridge will be joining us live from New York City for a video interview! If you love fantasy that is contemporary/real-life + magic, then you’ll want to check out A Chosen War when it releases on August 29.

Author Bio

Carly Eldridge is a fantasy writer who calls New York City home; where the vitality of the metropolis, with its rich history and culture, provides an unending source of inspiration. She can often be found exploring the city, in awe of its always surprising display of art, beauty, and raw American grit.

Where to find Carly

Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Upcoming Release

Read more about Carly’s book or order today (release date 08/29/2017 from REUTS Publications): A Chosen War

Join the Conversation

Have you joined the Storymaker Society Facebook Group yet? Click the picture below!

Is your writing stuck in Training Wheels Protocol?

Yesterday I had a free birthday ticket to my favorite cinema that was about to expire. I'd already seen Wonder Woman twice, so I wasn't sure what I was going to use the ticket for. Then I realized Spider Man: Homecoming opened this weekend. Honestly, I'm so conditioned by recent incarnations of Spider Man to shy away from movies featuring the webslinger that I had completely missed that a new one was coming out! But this one is part of the MCU. And I loved the teaser of the new Peter Parker we got in Captain America: Civil War.

I'm so glad I picked Spider Man, because it ranks right up there with the best of the Marvel movies. There's a lot I could pull out of the movie to demonstrate excellent storycraft, but it's a bit too soon to do that without risking spoilers. So I ask you this question instead: are you stuck in developing your "craft?" How many years will you spend becoming a better writer...and never finish writing a book?

Peter Parker was indignant to discover that the suit he'd been given by Tony Stark was programmed to be in "training wheels mode" - and I'm sure you can guess what he did about it. There's a time in a writer's life to really focus and hone in on writing skills and understanding story structure. In fact, I'll link to a couple of my favorite books on those topics at the end of this post. But there's also a point where you have to switch off training wheels protocol and find out what you didn't know you needed to learn!

How do you know if you need to hack the protocol? Here are ten warning signs that you need to press pause on the things you do to become a better writer...and do the BEST thing you can do to become a better writer - get to "the end" for the first time:

  • You've purchased more than four books on writing in the past year.
  • You've been part of a critique group for two or more years, and you've been rewriting the same chapters for just about that long. 
  • You've been to a writing conference and pitched to an agent. But you don't have a complete manuscript.
  • You have a notebook, a Google Drive folder, or a Trello board with half a dozen (or more) half-fleshed out story ideas. You've never finished one.
  • You're an officer in your writing association - which means you haven't had time to actually do any writing.
  • Every time someone asks you how the book is going, you cringe and change the subject.
  • You participate in #pitmad every time it opens up, and your twitter pitches couldn't be more popular! If only you had a book finished so you could respond to the requests. 
  • You sign up for NaNoWriMo every year! And life, family, and Thanksgiving happen and the cursor on your draft document gets stuck.
  • You have a binder full of handouts from writing workshops. The instructors all know you on sight.
  • Your vocabulary includes these phrases: five-act story structure, the hero's journey, character development, plot arcs, character webs, subplots, backstory, "show don't tell."

How many of those sound painfully familiar? Any others I should add to the list? Perhaps "owning stock in index cards and colored pens?" Tell me in the comments below!

In case none of those warning signs pointed to you:

How Do You Like My Moustache Now?

If you haven't yet had the pleasure of watching SyFy's Wynonna Earp, I'm jealous - because I'd love to watch it again for the first time!

I confess, when I first heard the show's name, my reaction was an immediate hard-pass. Despite being a country girl by birth and at heart, I moved along in my life without giving it a second thought.

Fortunately, some friends set me straight on Twitter. (Thanks, Geonn Cannon!). Now go hit Netflix and enjoy bingeing the first season. Then come back and enjoy the rest of this post without getting anything spoiled...

Okay, you're up to speed? Very good.

And you're welcome.

The delightful and enigmatic Doc Holliday, with his amazing stache, is responsible for the title of this blog post.

He's also the perfect example of why this show works so well. He's not shoehorned by the writers into the role of a villain, hero, or even anti-hero (though he generally lives closer to that last category). The external conflicts he has to deal with perfectly highlight his internal conflicts, and each one forces a reveal of his character's TRUTH.

The very best conflict arises from the intersection of what a character needs to believe and the inevitable antagonism caused by another character's truth. In season one, Doc's driving motivation is that he hates the Earp family. Each choice he makes rests on that belief. He needs to make someone pay for the misery he endured for decades, and he hasn't forgiven his best friend - Wyatt Earp - for what he sees as abandoning him. Wyatt's dead, but his heirs are still around to blame.

So where did this TRUTH intersect with Doc's antagonist in season 1? Wynonna is the hero of the show, but she's definitely the antagonist in Doc's story. She's the Earp heir, and the only accessible target for his revenge. The problem for Doc is that every time the plot throws the two of them together, she's a mirror he has to look into; until finally he realizes, and speaks aloud, the truth that she IS him.

How so? Wynonna hates herself for a choice she made that cost her everything, a choice that went sideways. She's bent on revenge, as much to avoid having to face her own guilt as to get justice. When Doc can no longer believe that the Earp family is his enemy, his truth is disrupted in one powerful moment.

Notice that as soon as this happens, a new antagonist is presented to Doc. This time, his motivation is aligned with Wynonna's goals; but his TRUTH hasn't really changed! His new motivation - make the Stone Witch pay - comes from the same foundational belief that he has been wronged and thus someone must pay. The disruption caused by his revelation about Wynonna gets us closer to that immovable foundation. His choices remain consistent with this now-clarified TRUTH.

This is why I don't use goals or motivation as one of the five key story elements. They can, and should, change based on context, circumstance, and relational shifts. Real character growth can even happen without a shift in TRUTH. This is what keeps a character consistent, even when choices/actions over time seem at complete odds (i.e., attempt to sick a demonic stalker on Wynonna, then save Wynonna a few episodes later). 

And when that truth does change? That's when you know you've hit the pivotal moment in your story. In the climax, a character succeeds in changing the world to match his/her truth, or his/her truth is broken by the world. Either way, the character's world is never the same.

Can you think of an example of each type of resolution? World-changing and truth-changing? Comment below!

A character succeeds in changing the world to match his/her truth, or his/her truth is broken. Click To Tweet

 

 

5 Classic Defenses for Criminal Story Neglect

1. I need to learn to write gooder, your honor.

BUSTED: If you can tell a friend your story idea, you can write your story.

There’s no workshop, class, conference or book that will do more to improve your writing than finishing a book. This isn’t going to be the book that sweeps the best-seller lists. But you’ll never get to that book if you don’t finish a few others.

Forget about spelling, grammar, or perfect plotting. You can improve all of those later. Tell the story! You’ll always be improving your craft, but no level of craft will get you to “The End.” Only writing will.

2. I don’t have a TARDIS or a maid. How can I possibly find the time to write?

BUSTED: Later is never going to come. Every author writing today has a life just as full and busy as yours. They write in the bathroom in the hotel on family vacations. They write at their kid’s hockey games. They write at night, they write on lunch breaks.

If the thing preventing you from writing a book is the myth that you’ll have more time later, you need to spend a day at a writers’ conference and ask what daily life is like for people who have finished a book.

3. So. Many. Ideas.

BUSTED: Your mama had a favorite, and so do you.

You walk into a chocolatier in Paris, and the place is filled with the most delectable delights you could ever imagine. So you’re going to leave without eating one? Or you can’t decide, so you get a variety box. You still have to eat one first. It’s not going to be the white chocolate one. Which one will it be? You’ll get to the others later. Maybe only a little later…

4. My story has already been done.

BUSTED: It’s never been told by you before.

There’s this weird phenomenon, this certain stage of writing your book where you’re near the end and you take a reading break and somehow you pick the one book out of your towering TBR pile that is EXACTLY LIKE YOURS. How will you prove you didn’t know about the book, and you’d already named your characters before reading it, and ohmygosh that line is in the last scene I wrote almost verbatim!!

Dori has an answer for you.

This happens to everyone, from newly aspiring authors to seasoned, best-selling professionals. Just keep writing.

5. The story got stuck. I had to put it out of its misery.

BUSTED: Don’t euthanize the poor thing! Get it into the emergency room for surgery!

Maybe your first story will have a limp. Shoot, it might have a missing leg! But that’s no reason to let it die a slow death from neglect. Move around the part of the plot that just won’t resolve. Type a few asterisks and leave a note that says, “something brilliant”, and write the next chapter. Come back to it later, and you may find that the problem has untangled itself!

What’s your defense?

There’s no workshop or class that will do more to improve your writing than finishing a book. Click To Tweet

The Stories That Never Get Told

You have the journals full of ideas. Worlds that came fully formed into your mind. Characters with hopes, fears, dreams, and problems. Heroes and heroines you feel like you’ve known all your life, with a story to be told. You’re compelled to find out just where those stories will take them.

Then the shower ends, and you rush off to work. A baby wakes up and it’s time to be super-mom. You rush to write down the new thought before leaping into the fray of daily life.

The stories never get told.

The characters never get the chance to overcome their enemies, or die trying. Instead, they die of neglect.

Melodramatic? Only to people who don’t understand just how real these characters are that waltz, run, or climb hand-over-fist into our minds. Not to writers.

I’ve killed many potential heroes, heroines, villains, friends, lovers, and others. 99% of the time, it’s a slow death, unplanned and unfit for a warrior. A few times it was MUCH more creative and interesting.

I have the skills to write. As a developmental editor, I’ve spent years honing the craft. I’ve journeyed together with many aspiring authors until they became published, helping them get to the heart of their stories and polishing every little clockwork piece that goes into making a memorable book. So why did it take me so long to finish my first book?

I’d go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line to bet that you have the skills to finish your first book. So why haven’t you?

It took me an age, but I finally figured out why. It’s not a lack of time. It’s not a lack of desire. Definitely not a lack of ideas!

Do you know what the secret is?

Community.

Every successful author I’ve ever been fortunate to call friend has one thing in common. They joined (and showed up to) their local chapter of Romance Writers of America; they found a meet-up group of writers (and showed up); they found a local guild or a NaNoWriMo group (and showed up).

They didn’t try to do it alone. Even introverts who can live happily in an imaginary world of their own making need the encouragement, inspiration, accountability and lessons learned that you only get from a good community.

Next time you’re at a book signing or in a twitter chat with your favorite authors, ask what kind of community they had when they were still aspiring authors. The answers will vary, but I wager you’ll never hear “none.”

There’s one more commonality of successful writers (and, no, it’s not coffee…can you believe some people prefer hot chocolate or tea?!?). They have a process. A way of approaching story planning, habits to keep them going, and possibly vodka to get past the “this is the worst book ever written” hump to the finish line. The drink of choice may vary. The presence of a process does not.

So there you have it. Commuity + Process = the foundation of Storymaker Society.

Storymaker is about helping you free the characters stuck in your mind, before they fade away. It’s about helping you find your process, and providing community to journey right along with you until you finally, triumphantly, type THE END. Period.

How about it? Are you in?

Are you ready to get your first book written, before 2018 sees what’s coming?

Here’s what you do next:

  • Sign up to receive "5 Steps to 5 Compelling Character-Driven Story Concepts." Use it to come up with (or narrow down to) your five best ideas. It's free, and within a minute of opening it you'll know if Storymaker Society is a good fit for where you're at right now in your writing journey.
  • Then, register for an Elemental Storymaker consultation, where together we'll work through the process of picking your one best idea to finish FIRST. It's the best $49 you can spend outside of a bookstore.
  • Consider applying to be a Storymaker Founder. You'll get to join me in the very first 5X5 Storymaker course, where we'll spend five weeks developing the five story elements that will keep you from getting stuck... and you'll receive special Founder pricing for all future courses and events. Only 10 seats are available for the founding class!

If you’re not ready to start getting your stories to the finish line… for shame!

Ok, I’m sure you have a good excuse. For now, could you fill out the short survey linked below so I can understand how I could help you in a way that fits into your life RIGHT NOW?

 

 

Storymaker Toolkit: CoSchedule for Consistent Presence

Without question, CoSchedule will become one of your favorite tools since the sonic screwdriver. You can’t reverse its polarity to accomplish mind-bending, physics-altering feats of Time Lordship, but it will turn you into a social media ninja. If you use (or plan to use) WordPress for your author website, this is a no-brainer. You’ll be able to run all of your social media posts from the same page you publish your blog posts. If you don’t use WordPress, keep reading and you’ll see this tool is still worth a trial run so you can decide for yourself.

If you use (or plan to use) WordPress for your author website, this is a no-brainer. @CoSchedule Click To Tweet

So, what is this newfangled contraption? It’s a dashboard where you can make your social media strategy into something more than a nice idea on paper (if it even got that far…we’re all about honesty here). In one place, you can create a month’s worth of posts to every major social media platform (the individual plan includes up to 10 social media accounts), from one piece of content, in less than five minutes. No hyberbole. I just did it this morning while my Nespresso was running, and my latte was still hot when I clicked “publish”.

The folks behind CoSchedule have a sweet little video to show you how it works:

Favorite Features

  • It streamlines posting to Instagram. I tried for years (literally) to maintain a presence on Instagram and successfully posted about once every 18 months. Here’s the funny part — I used Instagram, in that I followed some awesome accounts and regularly opened the app. I just never posted! The brain can work in mysterious ways. With CoSchedule, I can design and schedule an Instagram post within my blog post, receive a notification on my phone when an Instagram post is ready to go, and five seconds later I’m done.​ Now I post at least once/day. Slight improvement.
  • If you don’t have a task management system in place that you love (and you will NEED one if you’re going to share your stories successfully), CoSchedule has one built right in. I use Asana because it’s what I’ve used for years and the habits I’ve built are too valuable to give up, even for an excellent alternative. If I was starting with a publishing/task management system today, I’d use the one inside CoSchedule.
  • Managing multiple brands on CoSchedule is incredibly easy. With labels, drop-down account selections on each social message, and color codes, in one glance I can easily track what I have planned for my book launch, for my one-person marketing team blog, and for my friend’s midwifery business that I run social for. Hovering over one scheduled post on the calendar makes the connected posts pop out. Just. YES.

  • The support crew knows their stuff. The library of information and tutorials is genuinely useful – and every training webinar or free course I’ve completed with CoSchedule has been worth every moment of my time, with immediate impact on my social media reach and engagement. When I factor that in, the $30 monthly subscription fee is such a steal that I should be thrown into a paddy wagon for it.

WARNING: The power you gain through CoSchedule may blind you to a dangerous trap.

It’s a beautiful thing, to be able to send the signal out in every direction with one click. But be careful. Don’t scream into the ‘verse with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears. Social media isn’t meant to be one-way communication. You still need to spend time on your 2-3 key platforms, actually engaging with your audience and your colleagues. A tool like CoSchedule is meant to make your presence CONSISTENT. Only you can make your presence worthwhile!

A tool like @CoSchedule makes your presence CONSISTENT. Only you can make it worthwhile! Click To Tweet

Ready to give it a try? Good news – you can use my referral link and help support Storymaker Society!

START YOUR FREE TRIAL