Tag Archives: Writers Resources

Colorado Gold 2014: Great Conference But What the Tech?

Earlier this month, I attended RMFW’s Colorado Gold Conference. Wow, what a whirlwind weekend, packed with informative sessions on fiction writing and the writing business and so many great people to meet. Every day felt like two days because they managed to cram in so much great content. Although the sessions and keynotes were excellent, that’s not really the aspect of the conference I’d like to address.

One of my primary goals for the conference was networking, meeting other writers and sharing stories and experiences, and in that regard the weekend was a great success. I’m not usually a hugely outgoing person, so often in large groups such as this I find myself on the outside. However, as I mentioned in my previous post, the RMFW anthology Crossing Colfax, in which I have a short story, debuted at this conference, which certainly helped.

My conference badge included an “Anthology” ribbon so some attendees would see that and ask about my story. I also got to meet and chat with most of the other included authors—generally easy to spot because they also had the “Anthology” ribbon. The anthology has fifteen stories, and all but one of the authors were at the conference. Even before the conference, I’d begun following many of the authors on social media, so the conference was a nice opportunity to meet in person.

Smashwords CEO Mark Coker at RMFW Colorado Gold 2014

Keynote speaker Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, speaking during one of his sessions at Colorado Gold 2014.

In case I’ve not made this clear before, I’m a big believer in the power of social media. A conference such as Colorado Gold is a perfect chance to meet people face to face—but social media still can play a part. So, as I said, I planned ahead, following people’s blogs and Twitter handles who I wanted or expected to meet. In the days leading up to the conference, I began watching Twitter for the conference hashtag, #RMFW2014, to find other attendees to follow and engage with. And during the conference sessions, I tweeted out key points and quotes from speakers as they occurred, or retweeted what others had to say about sessions I didn’t attend.

This social media approach to conferences is something I learned when I attended technology conferences as a journalist. At those conferences, the IT pros in attendance frequently had two or three different mobile devices, all needing a connection, because in some cases they might need to be on call for remote assistance back at the office—therefore, a strong, reliable WiFi signal throughout all areas of the conference floor, including session rooms, was a must. At Colorado Gold, having no WiFi in the session rooms was a bit of a shock.

This technological omission caused me to evaluate how others at the conference appeared to use technology overall. So, as I sat in session rooms, taking notes with OneNote on my laptop and ready to tweet on my smartphone, I’d look around and see what others were doing. I was really rather surprised to see that most people, if they took notes, were doing so by hand: pen to paper. How very old school! Although I didn’t do any firm counts, I’d estimate that probably no more than 15 or 20 percent of attendees used a laptop or tablet for note-taking.

Long ago, I abandoned taking notes longhand because, one, I know I won’t go back and re-read them, and two, I probably couldn’t read my own writing if I did. Of course I know plenty of people feel there are benefits of using a physical pen and paper in helping you remember what you’re writing. My counter to that would be that I don’t need to remember—well, no more than a keyword, anyway. If I have some idea what someone talked about or who said it, I can search for a keyword—I don’t have to remember how long ago it was or what physical notebook it was in—and I can pull up the material. As long as I’m using something like OneNote on cloud storage, I can pull up that information not just on my PC/laptop but also on a phone or tablet—anytime, anywhere access.

Twitter also serves as a repository of notes: Whatever I tweet during a session or keynote remains in my tweet stream for later access as well. As mentioned previously, using the conference hashtag also makes tweets available to other conference attendees who might have missed that particular session. Additionally, when you get a lot of people tweeting from the same conference, it creates a sort of buzz around the event for those not in attendance—and quite possibly making them want to attend the next time.

During the conference, I had a conversation with three of the founding members of RMFW, Kay Bergstrom, Carol Caverly, and Jasmine Cresswell, about the early days of the organization. At some point, the discussion turned to writers’ use of technology, and Kay Bergstrom remarked that in the 1980s, writers in her circle were all early adopters of PCs and related technology because they saw how it made the business of writing easier. To my mind, writers today should take advantage of social media, cloud storage, and other current technologies for the same reason.

I always look for the technology solution. Whether it’s attending sessions at a writing conference or sitting alone at my computer to do some writing, I’m pretty sure there’s some trick, some procedure, that can help the day go a little smoother. But I recognize—and glancing around those session rooms at Colorado Gold was a great reminder in this—that not everyone, certainly not every writer, has the same approach to technology or the same abilities.

For the writers out there, I’d be interested to hear what role technology plays in your writing life. Do you struggle with social media and creating an online presence? Or do you navigate the online world with ease? Do you worry about how to handle backups of your digital assets (i.e., writing)? Do you wonder what the best program or application for writing is? Or do you have recommendations about any of these topics to help your fellow writers? Are you committed to writing longhand at least part of the time? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Other posts on RMFW Colorado Gold 2014:

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins

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RMFW Colorado Gold Conference: Looking Forward

Here we are, post–Labor Day. According to the calendar, it won’t be autumn for another couple weeks, but around here, it feels like fall already. The days have grown noticeably shorter. And although the trees haven’t really started to turn, the writing community will get to experience some Colorado Gold this weekend.

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) Colorado Gold Conference is an annual event held in the Denver area; this year it’s in Westminster at The Westin, this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Of course, if you haven’t already registered, you’re out of luck: As of a couple days ago, the conference was announced as sold out. Better luck next year!

For those attending, or wanting to know what to expect from a writing conference such as this, the schedule is packed with sessions on writing craft as well as the business of writing (submissions, self-promotion, agent pitches, and so forth). There’s also a healthy dose of sessions about e-books and self-publishing, which is a viable route for many authors these days; in fact, one of the conference keynote speakers is Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, a highly successful self-serve publishing service.

In addition to the sessions, attendees have the chance to meet and pitch their latest projects to editors or agents in attendance. It’s also a great opportunity to network with fellow writers, which is one of the things I’m most looking forward to. This will be my first time to attend Colorado Gold, although I’ve met a few people I expect to be in attendance through their blogs or other online presences; it will be nice to finally meet in person.

RMFW Anthology: Crossing ColfaxOn Friday night at the conference, there’s a book signing. This is also the launch for the RMFW anthology, Crossing Colfax. As I wrote several months ago, I have a story included in this anthology, so I’ll be on hand for this event, certainly, and I’m looking forward to meeting the other authors. I’ve read the collection already and was thoroughly impressed by the quality and variety of stories included—an eclectic mix, to be sure! You never know what you’re going to get with an anthology, and naturally I’m a little biased since I’m in this one. But this is a book I can recommend to anyone. Crossing Colfax is available now on Amazon.com.

I was surprised to read on the conference website that they don’t have Wi-Fi in the session rooms. I’m used to attending technology conferences where everywhere access to reliable Wi-Fi is essential throughout all conference areas. I mean, how else are you going to live blog the proceedings? Maybe for a writing conference, it’s not so important. However, I for one am not too happy about this omission. I’ll have to wait and see how much of a data hit it causes for me.

Anyway, I’ve got to start packing and getting ready for the weekend now. If you’re planning to be there as well, track me down and say hi! Tweet me @bkwins if you want to grab a coffee or other libation.

Titles Are Hard—But These Tips Make Them Easier

I’m in the midst of a dilemma as I need to come up with a new title for a story. The story in question is one that’s been accepted for publication and the title change is at the request of the editor, so of course I’ll change it. I wasn’t wild about the title I had when I submitted it, but I did feel it fit, and now it’s grown on me, which makes the change more difficult.

The thing is, titles are hard. Sometimes good titles seem all but impossible. There are times when the “right” title seems obvious; it comes to you during the writing process, it fits the work on multiple levels, and it sounds good to boot. But those cases are probably fairly rare. Yet you know that when you’re trying to sell a story or novel, the title is your first bit of marketing that an agent or editor or reader is likely to see. So, you want to get it right.

On the other hand . . .

How important are titles, really? Continue reading

Cloud Backup for Writers, Part 3: Using OneDrive

Several weeks ago, I began a series of articles on how writers, many of whom are not naturally technologically adept, could easily put into practice good backup procedures for their valuable documents by using cloud storage. We know we need to make backup copies of our writing files, but we don’t always know the best way to do it, and we don’t want it to be difficult and time-consuming. Right?

In “Cloud Backup: A Brief Primer for the Practicing Writer,” I explained why I think cloud storage is a safe, reliable backup method that writers can easily put into practice. Next, in “Cloud Backup for Writers, Part 2: Using Dropbox,” I showed how you can set up and use Dropbox as an automated backup system for your important writing files. (As a bonus, I also wrote about “When to Use ‘Backup’ vs. ‘Back Up’” for all the grammar geeks out there.)

Microsoft OneDrive logoUp now is a walkthrough of using Microsoft’s OneDrive for automated backup. The delay in getting to this one is a result of Microsoft’s change in its service from SkyDrive to OneDrive, which was announced just as I started on my series. The service is basically the same with a new name, although I guess there are some new incentives built in for extra free storage. The switch to the new name is mostly less complete at this point.  Continue reading

Cloud Backup for Writers, Part 2: Using Dropbox

If you read my last post, you should understand why I believe writers should use cloud storage to back up their writing. However, even if you’ve signed up for a cloud service, you might not be making use all of its features, either because you don’t know about them or you haven’t figured out how to set them up.

dropboxlogoPerforming file backup can be a tedious and, therefore, often overlooked task, even when you recognize how important it is. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just save your writing on your local computer as you normally do, and then it would automatically back itself up to the cloud? Well, that automatic sync feature is something you can do with Dropbox, provided you set it up correctly.

Let’s take a look at using Dropbox and how to take advantage of some of its best features. For these instructions, I’m using Windows 8.1; if you’re using an older version of Windows or a Mac, you might find the screenshots and some of the steps slightly different for you, but generally the principles should work the same.  Continue reading

Cloud Backup: A Brief Primer for the Practicing Writer

Part 1: Why Should I Use Cloud Backup?

OK, raise your hand if you’ve ever lost a digital copy of something you’ve written. That could mean that the file became corrupt, your computer itself crashed, you lost a thumb drive or disk, or maybe you just forgot where you saved the file. Looks like just about everyone’s hand is up. A bit sad, but to be expected, I suppose.

For writers—that is, people who identify themselves as writers, engaged in the craft of creative writing in whatever form—losing your work can be particularly devastating. Which is why it’s important that you have good backup procedures in place and keep your writing works in multiple locations. Using a cloud backup provider usually lets you set up an automated backup procedure, and the saved files are offsite, so loss or damage of your local computer won’t affect the backup.

With current technologies and the variety of cloud storage options now available, setting up reliable backup has never been easier. But, because I know many writers and other creative people can be somewhat technologically phobic, I’d like the take some time to demonstrate, step by step, the process of setting up a cloud backup strategy that runs automatically to protect your most precious documents. In follow-up posts, I’ll show how you can use Dropbox and SkyDrive to get great protection. First, however, let’s look at what cloud storage actually is and how you can use it safely.  Continue reading

What Writers Get from Writing Groups

I’ve been meaning to write a post about the importance of writing groups. You know, how as writers, we need the support of a community of likeminded and similarly inclined insane people (i.e., other writers) to occasionally pull us out of the imaginary worlds spinning around inside our craniums and tell us there is hope and reason to continue. There’s probably some other stuff they do as well.

Then I spotted a recent blog by an Australian writer on the same topic that more or less says much of what I probably would have said. The writer is Kelly Inglis, and the post was titled “Collaboration In The Writing Community.” Here’s the bit I find most pertinent:

Your spouse, sibling, parent or best friend is not likely to give you entirely honest feedback about your beloved manuscript, but a fellow writer and critique partner will. They’ll tell you what works in your story and what doesn’t. They’ll tell you if your dialogue is stilted or if your characters are boring. They can tell you why something doesn’t work, so that you can take their advice and improve your story.

It’s not that your friends and relations aren’t trying to give honest feedback, but rather that they typically don’t have the critical reading skills that as writers we must develop. And it might also be that those well-known to us—best friends, spouses—could be predisposed to like whatever we churn out so that they simply aren’t capable of seeing the flaws.  Continue reading