Take Off Your Pants – Libbie Hawker’s advice

One of our special guests at the HNS North America 2021 conference was Libbie Hawker. Libbie is a prolific and excellent writer with many novels to her credit. A recent favourite for me is The Ragged Edge of Night under the pen name Olivia Hawker. But I digress. Libbie put on two master classes, one called Take Off Your Pants and the other called Making It In Historical Fiction. Both were very well attended and received.

Libbie’s master class, Take Off Your Pants, was based on the advice packed into her book by the same name. The subtitle is “Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing”. After writing my first novel by the seat of my pants – what folks call a pantser – I adopted an outlining technique cobbled together from a few sources such as Elizabeth George’s Write Away. But Libbie’s advice has added another important layer that I plan to incorporate in the next novel (whatever that is!)

During the three-hour class, Libbie spent most of her time taking us through the outlining technique using a simple document which she develops for each main POV character.

What stood out for me?

  • the notion of specifically identifying the main character’s flaw, something that is a deep, personal flaw and a source of tension for the MC; something that makes interactions with others difficult
  • the need for the main character to recognize and acknowledge his/her external goal
  • finding a way early to to display the MC’s flaw
  • defining an ally for your main character who is someone that helps the MC at their most difficult moment and forces them back onto their path; someone who has power to move the MC’s heart; someone they always say yes to
  • the external goal is something a main character will obsess about, a goal that will compel them throughout the story; a goal that will push the story forward
  • identifying a theme that will help determine scenes that should be in the story; a unifying concept for the book that isn’t too broad and sweeping and that applies to all main characters in the novel

Libbie uses the outline to help build pacing into the novel and to create the sense of urgency that keeps readers wanting to find out what happens. With more than one main character, Libbie encourages writers to use different colours for each character so that when you weave the beats together, you can see which character is carrying the story at which points of time.

This is a very cursory look at Take Off Your Pants. Based on the master class, I feel there is something in Libbie’s book for every writer no matter what stage you’re at in your career. I’ve already purchased my copy!

Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker ~~ When it comes to writing books, are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” Is one method really better than the other?

In this instructional ebook, author Libbie Hawker explains the benefits and technique of planning a story before you begin to write. She’ll show you how to develop a foolproof character arc and plot, how to pace any book for a can’t-put-down reading experience, and how to ensure that your stories are complete and satisfying without wasting time or words.

Hawker’s outlining technique works no matter what genre you write, and no matter the age of your audience. If you want to improve your writing speed, increase your backlist, and ensure a quality book before you even write the first word, this is the how-to book for you.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

HNSNA 2021 – What a Conference!

Almost two years ago, I had the honour of joining the Board for the HNS North America 2021 conference. It’s a totally volunteer board charged with the responsibility of putting on a conference for historical fiction enthusiasts – primarily writers – every other year. HNS conferences alternate between those located in the UK, North America, and Australia and I’d attended four (London, Denver, Portland, and Maryland) and been a volunteer and/or presenter at three prior to joining this board.

With a stellar cast of experienced volunteers and former board members, we set about planning for 2021. One of our first board meetings involved a “big picture” discussion where each of us tabled ideas for something new and different along with broad objectives for the North American conference like enlarging our attendance to 500 people. We even tabled the idea of looking for a conference app to enhance the attendee experience! Little did we know what was lurking around the corner.

During the winter months of 2020, something called a coronavirus hit. In late May, the UK cancelled its 2020 conference due to pandemic lockdown conditions. “But the North American conference will be fine,” we told ourselves. “It’s more than a year away!” Just to be cautious, a subset of the board, including yours truly, began to investigate the topic of virtual conferences.

In November 2020 the board made the very difficult decision to shift the conference to virtual. For a few weeks, it felt like we were turning a massive cargo ship in the Suez canal as each member of the board revamped their areas of responsibility. What would the program look like if virtual? How would registration be affected? Would agents and editors be willing to take pitches via Zoom? What were the financial implications? Was the hotel willing to negotiate? How could we market a virtual conference? What about our guest of honour? Could we put the right technology in place quickly enough?

Under the leadership of board chair, Jenny Quinlan, we worked hard and applied a lot of creativity during the next few months. The ship turned. We opened registration in February and were delighted – absolutely delighted – as we watched attendance numbers surge. By June 21, 630 people had registered to attend.

All of the board except me gathered in San Antonio to manage the conference. They were joined by two authors who live in Texas and had volunteered to be on site. Because of Canadian cross-border restrictions, I remained at my laptop in Toronto running conversation rooms, moderating panels, keeping an eye on chat streams, and responding to registration-related matters.

It was an amazing week! Attendees praised the experience, the program, the conversation rooms. They loved ‘hanging out’ with their tribe of historical fiction enthusiasts.

As I said at the beginning, it was an honour to be on the board and to work with this terrific team. And guess what? Planning for 2023 has already begun!

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Spotlight on Sarah Woodbury

Another author featured during the HNS North America conference was Sarah Woodbury, whose success as an indie author is amazing. Sarah spent five years seeking a publisher for her first novel and during that time of continuing to write further novels in what has now become a series. She ultimately decided to ‘go indie’ and hasn’t looked back.

During her talk, Sarah spoke of traditional publishing and the layers inserted between author and reader: specifically, the agent, the editor, the editorial board and marketing department, the publicists and production people, the bookstores, and finally the bookshelves. Sarah believes that going indie allows an author to remove all of those layers and connect directly with readers.

Sarah also laid out her view of the key differences between traditional and independent publishing.

When Sarah ultimately made the decision to become her own publisher, she gave away her first book – The Last Pendragon – for free. In fact, she gave away 10,000 copies in three months. But she had five other books ready and soon published them so that her readers could continue with the series and the characters they’d enjoyed. Her strategy has paid off. She publishes across all retailers, not just Amazon, and has established a YouTube channel focused on medieval Wales where her novels are set. She now has 40 published novels and several series. Over the last five years, she’s sold 2.5 million books and now earns a six-figure income from her writing. And she writes 1000 words a day.

Sarah believes that getting rejected was the best thing that happened to her and left the audience with her view of the keys to success in the indie world.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be doing a lot of thinking over the next few months.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.