In June 2022, the International Writers’ Collective held our first post-lockdown event, a master class celebrating the fiction debut of one of our very own IWC students, Liz Prieto. We discussed Liz’s inspiration for her short story collection, as well as her experiences with self-publishing and tips for marketing yourself as a writer. Liz shared some inspiring words about her writing journey and the importance of developing a strong sense of community as you embark on a major project. This post captures some of the key takeaways from the master class.
Liz Prieto is a Venezuelan writer and poet who left her country in 2003. She lived in the middle of the isolated Borneo jungle for almost 10 years before relocating to Africa and Europe. Liz has taken classes with the IWC since 2019. My Broken Conuco is her first book, a deeply personal collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Venezuela.
LIZ’S WRITING TIPS
On writing about true events:
During the master class, Liz explained that she wanted to capture some of the tribulations of everyday Venezuelans amid the country’s current political climate. Many of her ideas were based on the experiences of family members and friends. This included some dark and difficult content, some of which was politically charged and risky to write about. For this reason, she decided to transform several of these experiences into fictionalized stories. During the class, we discussed how fiction gives us opportunities to confront political and social situations while making things more personal and accessible to an audience.
Liz recommended linked short stories as a means of depicting a wide range of true events in a way that feels believable, rather than overloading a compact cast of characters with too many dramatic experiences. Short stories can also make heavy content more digestible, by breaking things up for the reader. Liz also believes that, for beginning writers, writing linked short stories is a good alternative to tackling a full novel, which requires a different skill set and may seem daunting.
On the writing process:
Liz stressed the need for discipline. Set yourself a daily challenge, like writing 100 words every day. “It’s very important to have focus,” she said, “to have resilience, to try to see the big picture. Even if you like to write organically, always try to have your eyes on the goal.” She believes creativity is like a muscle, and you must put it to use before you can develop it. Be curious, go out and explore, and find your inspiration.
Liz also mentioned the value of beta readers. She found some of her own trusted readers through the IWC student community, which is a great place to form these connections. She later did an IWC manuscript review with me, which Liz said helped her create a roadmap for the revisions she wanted to complete before self-publishing.
If you opt for self-publishing, Liz believes you need to step outside your normal writing mindset. A clear strategy is essential for putting yourself out there and making the right connections, as is developing a thick skin. She said, “You need to put your insecurities in a box and make a plan for how you’re going to do this.”
When you encounter an element of self-publishing for which you lack the proper skills or confidence, don’t be afraid to ask for help. For example, if you don’t have graphic design abilities, find someone who does.
In terms of marketing, pick one or more social media channels that speak to you. You don’t need to be on all channels, but make sure you are engaged on the ones you choose. Twitter can be a smart option for books with a specific platform, like something political, because it creates direct opportunities for conversation with potential readers. Create a habit of posting on a regular basis. “The moment you stop engaging,” she told us, “is the moment you’ll stop getting [interaction] from your audience.”
Aside from fiction readers, you can also target other potential audiences by thinking about the themes and subject matter in your book. For example, a novel about a climatologist may also appeal to the scientific community.
You can listen to a full recording of this master class and others at our podcast page here.