Tag Archives: manuscript

Conclusion of NaNoWriMo2017

Well, if you haven’t already seen, my project for this National Novel Writing Month was actually a manuscript I’d worked on last year, but now from a different perspective. I go into greater detail about the whys and whats in my previous NaNo post, but the short of it is, the manuscript needed a dual POV to make it work.

I’m glad I forced myself to churn out that creativity. As per usual, the pressure of NaNo helped me get my head in the game and just drive through it. I found myself absolutely loving the second POV, and found further points in the plot that could be expanded or re-framed.

A few differences from other years: the ‘dislike’ of this manuscript popped up sooner and actually continued until the end. Usually I get over it the last week. I think it’s because I’ve been working on this story for a while, and it’s a complex concept dealing with a lot of issues — from environmental themes to colonialism to white saviorism… all with very complicated people (because I can’t seem to write simple people). In all the complexity it’s easy to mess up.

There’s so much potential in this story, but that doesn’t matter if I don’t have the skills and ability to get there. Sooo at the end of the day, I think all my problems came from artistic doubt.

That being said, I still ‘won’ the thing:

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So I shouldn’t complain too much.

Whether or not the words are good is the next problem. But I think only a clear head and some serious beta readers are going to help me solve that. It would also help if the damn manuscript was finished — I haven’t written a solid chunk of the ending, basically because I have no idea how to get from point A to Z with any sort of clarity. Every time I try I end up down another rabbit hole!

I think that there are elements that need to come together in the ending that I haven’t teased out enough in the beginning and middle, so it feels awkward and weird. That being said the manuscript is sitting at 134k words so I’m not sure how much longer I can make this this… But, I can also cut later.

Anyway, back to NaNoWriMo.

As I mentioned before, my last work assignment ended in November, so I ended up suddenly having a lot of free time on my hands this month. So if anyone out there reading this is frustrated because you didn’t ‘finish’ — A) don’t compare yourself to me, I was probably doing a lot less than you, and B) hey now, whatever you wrote is WORTH it. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. NaNo is just a tool to get more words. 50k is pretty arbitrary when you think about it.

I managed to keep good habits, both writing wise and personally getting things done. I’m not sure I really *learned* anything more about myself as a writer, unlike in past years, which is a little disheartening. But it might click later what doesn’t seem obvious now.

But that’s all boring. The point is: more words! Whooo! I’m leaving the manuscript alone throughout December because I need a clear head, but I’m going to really commit to this thing next year. I need it done, so that I can see it whole and then revise for real. I’ve been planning and writing and fiddling with this manuscript for like two years. It’s starting to fester in my brain.

Anyway, that’s the conclusion of what I have here. It was a weird NaNoWriMo for me, guys!

How was yours? Any new insights into yourself or your manuscript?


Swiss Cheese Manuscript

Well my NaNoWriMo manuscript looks like swiss cheese right now with all of the holes in it. No, not plot holes – literal holes in the… plot.

(Okay, ‘plot holes’ is misleading. I’m talking about holes in the linear A-Z structure of getting from beginning to end. Holes in the… what else would you call it? GAH)

Whatever, the point is, the manuscript isn’t finished. There’s a decent chunk in the middle and the ending stretch is riddled with them — and I haven’t actually written the ending either.

Pfff – did you think it would be done, at only 50k words? No way, that’s like, half done in my world.

*cough* Anyway…

I started with 6610 words and ended up writing 62k. Sooo… the book is almost 79k words right now. I’ll probably add 10k more. (I’m repeating myself from my last blog post — moving on)

really don’t want to work on this manuscript anymore. What is wrong with me? I’m right at the finish line — the exciting part, it’s all coming together — and instead I’m daydreaming about other stuff. And, my main character for my INITIUM series is throwing images of naked men into my consciousness she’s so annoyed I’ve been ignoring her.

(Don’t ask… because I don’t even really know what she’s talking about yet)

Which is actually pretty awesome, because I’d been feeling a little drained from writing that series. This has been a great break. I think I scared my characters into talking to me again.

Now, I have one last thing I need to finish, a fun short story project that needs to be done mid-December… then it’ll be back to torturing Fairian and Daimyn. I’ve been mulling over this book three problem, and I’ve got some devious ideas…

But back to the point of this blog post. My November project needs some work before it’s even a real draft yet. I think I know what’s bugging me — I’m not used to writing in third person, and my main character isn’t compelling enough — but I’m going to let it sit for a little while. I need to do some research and devise a better game plan. This manuscript is definitely a lot more craft and less… intuitiveness. It’s good practice for me, but not something I’m quite used to.

NaNoWriMo is great for getting the words out — but they’re not always the best of words.

I hope you all had a great create NaNoWriMo 2016. And if you didn’t get to 50k — whatever. You still wrote, you got a little farther in your novel. That’s an accomplishment. We’re all proud of you.


#NaNoWriMo Update: I hate my novel?

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So a few days ago I wrote a rant about how much I hate my current #NaNoWriMo project. I can’t remember if I’ve hated projects before for NaNo — and I don’t have time to go back through blog posts and find out — but I’m pretty sure I’ve disliked or been disinterested in them before.

Anyway, this is what I wrote:

I don’t remember hating a manuscript as much as I hate mine right now.

My main character is kind of a bitch. Beyond that, she’s kind of boring. She also doesn’t have enough agency or drive, beyond the whatever monologue in her head. Sure, there’s supposed to be a big character arc (if I can do it right) but nobody is going to read to that point anyway if they can’t connect with her at all in the first chapter.

My world is also boring. I mean, come on. Enough of the western civilization-esque crap that’s been written over and over again. Why can’t I write something original? Why can’t I write something really poignant and fresh and part of a culture we don’t really know much about or something?

My stakes are also crap. I’m really good at making my characters comfy in their situations and finding safe places to hang out for moments in time. UGH.

Then there are my tropes. Oh Lord, the tropes. Every time I’m like — I’m going to this! And then — wait… it’s turned into that instead (which had been done a million times already, of course).

I suppose all of this would be okay if I trusted my ability to edit afterwards. I’m really good at line editing — but developmental editing I struggle with, a lot. Once I’ve written something, the box has been created, and I somehow get myself stuck within it. That’s why I usually end up editing and writing at the same time, because I can really think through what I’m writing and make sure I’m happy with when it gets ‘on the page.’ But with intense, fast writing like NaNoWriMo, I cannot think much about problems or situations that arise in the moment because I just have to keep writing.

I have done a lot more plotting this time around, but not enough to deal with everything that arises (does anyone, really?). So I’m spitting out words and new exciting things are evolving and some more disappointing things are developing, and I’m feeling… like I don’t know what I’m doing.

This may be partly having to do with some poignant writing advice I’ve absorbed lately (and feeling overwhelmed by), which is another blog post all together (upcoming).

But either way. Is anyone else having these doubts and problems? We’re halfway done with NaNoWriMo. How are you feeling about your manuscript now?

… and then something weird happened. Here, let me show you the results of this ‘weird thing’ that happened:

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That’s SEVEN DAYS AHEAD on my word count.

*cue shock and blank staring*

I’ve never done this before. Somewhere in all my insecurity I hit this weird plateau and just starting writing. It helped that I had several hours blocked away to write, and hit an interesting part, and suddenly my characters were talking to me, and I got excited about the current way my story is going.

I can feel the little doubt demons in the back of my head going — yeah, you’re going to regret doing this later because it’s too much like ____ trope.

And… somehow I’m ignoring them. I’m just writing my little trying-to-be-a-plotter-actually-a-pantser butt off and rather enjoying the ride.

But seriously — how is everyone else doing? Are the doubt demons kicking your butt? Are you hating/post-hating your manuscript?

 


Drive and Depth: Debating My Least Favorite Writing Rule

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I’m coming to the uncomfortable conclusion that I need to cut a lot from the second in the series I’m writing. I continually waffle back and forth depending on the day, of course. But there is a thread of truth in the idea that I’ve written content in this book that doesn’t drive the plot forward.

Does is portray intriguing characterization? Definitely. Rich emotion and relationships? Oh, yes. Interesting dynamics and world building? You betcha. Forwarding the particular thread of plot for this novel? Well…

It is the second in the series. So some parts of me say, there’s leeway! People will care about these characters now (as it is the second book), so they’ll want to read about these fun interplays that delve deeper into the dynamics of the world and how the characters fit into it (and each other)! Then I’ll bring in the real clincher for this novel, and off we go.

But the more I read, the more I get the feeling I really need to start cutting. Or, somehow, shorten the scenes I’ve written. There seems to be a lot of advice being churned out — or maybe I’m just now paying attention to it — about how every scene needs to drive the plot forward, to build on the scene before it.

I think I’m pretty good on the building from previous scenes. If the difficult of extracting one of my scenes without collapsing part of the story is anything to go on, I’m good at that part. But not all the my scenes necessarily drive the plot forward.

But then part of me wonders — what does that really mean, drive the plot forward? Sure, you’ve got the main storyline of what occurs that hopefully follows a theme, maybe teaches a lesson, hitting upon human moments and concerns. But then there’s this whole nebulous character part of it.

Characters are what drive the story. Characters are what make readers actually care about the story. But to have characters, you have to have characterization, growth, interplays and dynamics. Which I absolutely adore, both as a reader and a writer.

So how much characterization is too much? How much of the book can be character focused, and how much solely plot?

I know the aim is to weave both of these together, so they seamlessly slide into each other and catapult the whole story forward. So maybe my real problem is learning how to do that more effectively.

But that can’t be quite right, because I still have 148k words on this mammoth of a book, and even if I did still start the ‘action’ earlier and weaved everything else in later, that’d still be the word count. So I’m back to — too many scenes that involve just characterization.

Which brings me to my second complaint of the rule that all scenes must move the plot forward.

When I started writing, I was fascinated by making everything real. Real emotions, real interactions, real situations (well, as real as you can get with dragons flying around). While I’m not as obsessed with it now as I was then, there’s still a part of me that yearns for a plot to not be so straightforward.

Real life has dead ends. Clues that aren’t clues. Unfortunate bunny trails. Long walks that turn into long conversations that no one quite remembers fully, but they know what it felt like. Boredom. Confusion. Unclear motives. Self-loss.

I’m not advocating long drawn out scenes about doing dishes or being stuck in traffic for an hour. That’s boring. There’s a difference between relaying boredom and being boring. But at some point, I get bored with scenes that do nothing but drive forward. Life is fuller than that. Life has more mystery and more depth.

I want to stop and savor. Enjoy the world I’m immersed in. Really get to know the characters, and feel what they feel. Pick apart their minds and their motivations, and curl up inside their heads.

But. Too much can mean a story that drags.

So. Where is the line, do you think? Between plot and character; between drive and depth? Where do you draw your line in this tug of war?


Why You Can Write Two Books at Once… If One Is In A Series

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I began this post with the inclination that you shouldn’t write two books at once. Yet, the more I’ve researched the topic, the more I found that writing two books at once can actually be very beneficial.

I understood the cons of writing two books at once as this: if you’re working on two things at once, they’re bound to start looking like each other. It can create parallels in plot, and similarities in style and writing. Beyond this, each book teaches you something new for your craft; when you write two at once, it deprives one book of the lessons learned from writing the other.

But recently I’ve come across a few articles that argue that writing two – or more! – books at once can actually help your writing. Barry Lyga’s Rules of Writing Multiple Books at Once was especially neat. This is a gentleman who seems to write multiple books at once on a regular basis, and here are some gems of wisdom he offers to us all:

  1. When working on two books at once, the projects need to be vastly different from one another. Not only will this help the projects not resemble each other, but it also helps with burnout — if you’re not feeling up to writing one project one day, switch to the other!
  2. The projects should also be at different stages in the writing process. This is because of the same reason as right above — if you’re really struggling with one project, you can work on another that’s in another stage in the plot. This helps get you out of your head with one project and let you relax, all the while still being productive with another project.

He has other advice as well, more to do with writing in general (head over to his article if you’re interested!). But I thought the two points above were very interesting.

I had another thought strike me a few months ago, about this subject. I’ve been considering starting up writing another novel, in addition to writing the third in my current series. Except I was concerned that this would make the stories too similar to each other.

Then it hit me. That even if that does happen, it actually really works. Because in a series, the character’s are supposed to grow; if writing another novel shifts how the character (tone, etc) sounds — that’s what’s supposed to happen overall! It can be attributed to the natural progression of a series.

I mean, sure. Don’t let your stories sound exactly the same, in a series or not. But writing a series seems to naturally lend itself to writing other books.


Rambling Advice on Editing: #FicFest Update

I have zero desire to write this blog post, but I’m doing it anyway. I skipped/missed last week’s post, somewhere between laziness, picking up my (almost) mother-in-law for her month long stay, and furiously editing my manuscript for FicFest. So as I write this week’s, and I figure as long as I keep rambling, something will come out.

That’s what they say about writing habits every day, right? Just start writing anything, and the flow will come.

But anyway. Let’s talk about FicFest updates.

I received my edit letter almost a week ago… wow, has it been only a week? Yikes. It feels like it’s been longer. Anyway, I got the edit letter, and it’s been a little bit like having free access to crack ever since. It’s impossible to pull away. I’m definitely editing on the sly at work. I’ll find myself reading over her edits and making changes for hours and don’t even remember how I got there. It helps that she’s so freaking smart and spot on about everything.

I’ve run into my first problem, however: knowing the difference between a good change that improves my craft and story, and knowing when a change will alter the ‘heart’ of my story too much. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of comments by a mentor, an editor, a beta reader — whatever you’re happening to read over in that moment.

I don’t really know the answer to this yet, but I have gotten some great tips from writer friends and family.

My first piece of advice, coming directly from me, is this:

Read through all the advice and suggestions. Then, take a step back. Take each edit one at a time, and only that one at a time. Take the one suggestion and work only on that until it’s done (and maybe give yourself a time limit if you’re a super-perfectionist). Don’t try to do everything at once as you’re moving through your manuscript.

 

I started with finishing the line edits, and have just moved onto the overall suggestions; right now I’m working on making my setting more vivid (and ONLY on the setting). Once that’s done, I’m moving onto making a particular character from the past have a little more influence on the future, to not be quite so shrouded. Then I’ll be working on this one character quirk that needs to be further explained.

Do you see what I mean? Focusing on one aspect makes it a lot easier to digest and implement. I’m finding I’m not nearly so overwhelmed, and I can see each comment more clearly as what it is: advice, and intelligent suggestion.

Another piece of advice that really rung true for me was this:

Take each suggestion at face value (again: only one at a time) and look at it through the lens of what story YOU are trying to tell (you’ve probably heard this advice a hundred times, but for some reason this really hit me as helpful).

Be open to all suggestions and improvements. Consider everything carefully, after a few days to digest the comments you’ve received. Come at your story after a deep breath and a step back. Determine what kind of story comes across to the reader, and if it’s the story YOU want to tell. Some suggestions may change the story to feel like something else, or the characters to be like other people. It could be good. It could be great. Or it may change something too much.

Don’t cut off your nose in spite of your face, but keep true to the story you are trying to tell.

 

Does anyone else struggle with finding this balance? What’s your method to work it out? How about my FicFest friends, how are you all doing?


Revisions and Chapter Breaks

I’m finding myself revising the beginning of the MS I have been pitching. And not just a little edit, but a major revision.

Maybe I’ve been turning a blind eye… or simply not being as critical as I should be.

But a recent rejection made me take a second look at the beginning of my book. In their comments (I actually received comments!), they said some [hurtful] things that didn’t make sense. But instead of crying profusely or raging out at the world, I tried to take the middle ground: do a harsh edit using their actually helpful comments, and see what that gets me.

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When I do a major revision, I made a whole new duplicate document, saving the original, and made the changes in the new one. That way if I realize this was a terrible idea and only a self-loathing-induced fit, I could turn back to the original and forget the duplicate ever existed. Or, learn from the fit and keep some of the changes, but not have an irreversibly changed MS.

I realized as I tore apart my first few chapters… that I haven’t really looked at them in… apparently a long while. And I’ve grown as a writer in that while.

For example, there was a lot of unnecessary italicized inner-dialogue that could be turned into normal “showing,” making scenes much smoother without the sometimes jarring, emphasized italicized version of my MC’s thoughts.

Interestingly enough, one scene I wrote a long time ago, and distinctly remember being proud of, was actually superfluous and awkward. It was much too information-dumpy, and was something I could spread out and drop more casually in the story.

Also, my chapter endings were boring. I’m not sure how it escaped my attention that they were, probably focusing on the content of the chapters without thinking of the further-draw aspect. But with some scene rearranging, the chapters end with a little more enticement to read the next chapter. The new scene set up actually makes more sense and is smoother, too, which is interesting.

I came across an article recently (I think I pinned it to one of my Pinterest boards) about chapter endings. We’ve all seen the cliff-hanger chapters, which is the #1 way of enticing readers to continue on. But this article cautioned that it was possible to go overboard and make a book choppy; another way of ending chapters was to always end with a question, or the next piece of the mystery.

You’re probably saying, “yeah I knew this already,” but for some reason I hadn’t taken that tidbit to heart when I wrote the beginning of this manuscript. The chapters just ended where it seemed like a good place, without really thinking about drawing people further. The later chapters, for sure… but those aren’t the chapters that publishers or agents will see first anyway!

So I feel a little silly. I’d been so focused on the ending, the plot, and the next book in the series that I hadn’t given sufficient time to the aspect that will actually make or break the whole dang thing.

Though it’s heartening to see my craft improving.

What is your favorite chapter ending/method? Have you realized something silly you were missing because you were so focused elsewhere? What is your latest ‘ah-ha!’ rejection story?


Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo 2015

I just glanced over my post I wrote last year for 2014’s lessons learned; it makes me chuckle quietly. The lessons there seem so obvious and foundational now, it seems odd there was a time I didn’t know them. And this was only a year ago!

But perhaps it’s really less of learning something new and realizing cognitively something you already know.

Anyway, moving on to the year 2015:

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Writing a shiny, shiny new idea and writing a novel you’ve painstaking planned for years have very different effects when you hyper-focus on them for a month. Last year feels like zipittydooda in comparison.

That being said, I’m really glad I focused on this novel for November. Not only because, I don’t know, I got 50k more words out for it (52k, to be precise, MWAHAHA), but also because, as always, more writer lessons learned. I don’t think it would be as poignant if I’d gone with a newer idea.

One of last year’s lessons was definitely reaffirmed – or more accurately, evolved: make it happen even when you don’t feel like writing.

Like I mentioned in previous posts, this novel was a lot more difficult to get long sections out. Sometimes I only wrote a couple hundred words and then got disgusted and stopped. But those words had more importance than I originally thought.

I’d always heard the advice, “write all the time, every day, even if it’s just a couple words” and kinda went “yeah, yeah, yeah” (like everyone, I’m sure). But I think I’m starting to really get what people are saying when they give that advice.

I’m not sure how to explain it. It wasn’t so much that making myself write every day created more creative energy, though sometimes it was true. And it wasn’t completely about creating a habit everyday, though that certainly was important and helped.

There was just something so soul-satisfying about making the time to write. It was like giving myself permission to take myself seriously. A month of believing in myself. Those few hundred words, though small, were still proof that I took my craft seriously.

(That’s not to say I didn’t get plagued by the writer-doubt demon. I have a whole ‘nother post on that coming up.)

In a similar vein, I gained a better grasp on my limits. We all know pushing yourself is important as a writer to improve your craft, but when you physically feel like vomiting it might be time for a break. Sometimes a hundred words is all I have in me that day. And I had to make peace with that many a day this past November.

This year was also excellent in teaching me to let go, especially with a novel I’m so emotionally invested in. I had to tell myself to let it go and edit later to continue on. I usually edit and write at the same time (think the Diana Gabaldon pep-talk, for those of you in NaNoWriMo who read that), streamlining the story as I move along and piggy-backing on previous edits to write more completely than writing for the ‘first’ time.

Also, I think it didn’t help I had no clear picture of the ending. I knew the vague ending, but not the details. It wasn’t until the last few days here that I really knew what it looks like.

But back to my point. I already know that I dislike an odd character development that occurred (and will be changing, thank you), and I’m afraid that certain parts did not come across as vivid as they should be. I also realized halfway through November that somehow my brain mixed up dates and my timeline is all screwed up.

But there was no way I was fixing that while getting word counts every day (work counts, mind you, I had to struggle for).

And I’m not going to fix any of those problems until the zero draft is done. The idea of fixing it all actually has me excited. I can’t wait to get my hands on the whole, completed thing and then start ripping it apart to make it better. I think it’s going to be the undertaking from hell, and I don’t have a lot of experience rewriting nearly a whole book. But it sounds fun.

(If I remember correctly, I completely rewrote a manuscript at 14. I think I can do it again.)

I’m not sure what all of these things mean as I move forward as a writer. I’d like to find a balance in writing, between letting my editor run the show and just completely blasting through words (i.e., the need to spend a lot more time editing later). But perhaps that means I just need to plot more than I pants.

Nevertheless, NaNoWriMo was great for helping me get this giant manuscript done. It’s sitting at almost 115k right now (O.O), and I’d probably still be sitting at 70k if I hadn’t used NaNoWriMo as a tool to get the words out. The end of the novel is in my sight and am hoping to finish in a week or two.

How about all of you!? Forget word counts and concluding numbers – what did you all learn? What was surprising about yourself under the pressure for this year/for the first time doing it?


Thoughts from the Willamette Writers Conference: Part Four

In my previous post, I talked about the end of the first day of the Willamette Writers Conference, and the beginning of the second. In that post I discussed what I learned about making book promotion fun, horror writing, perfecting a final draft of your manuscript, and different applications that can aid you career in writing. If you haven’t read it, you should go check it out.

I ended on a cliffhanger, right as I entered the room where all pitches to agents, film producers, and acquisition directors were held:

All of the “buyers” (those that were interested in pitches and what you had to sell) were all seated at two person tables with their name cards. I scanned around briefly and then finally saw who I was looking for: Kisa Whipkey of REUTS Publications.

Kisa Whipkey is the acquisitions director of Reuts Publications, a boutique publisher that takes the traditional publishing method and puts a self-publishing spin on it. Basically, they do things traditionally, but give authors more control and more percentage of the royalties.

As I sat down, a sense of calm came over me, and I got through my pitch really well. I explained my Concept and then my Premise (go to my last post to understand!), and then set up my two main characters personalities in one sentence, and then ended on the final conflict.

I was rather impressed with myself, actually. I didn’t stutter or act meek! And apparently Ms. Whipkey was impressed too, because she asked for 50 pages to be sent to her for review!

I’m still between elation and dead calm, because I know that my manuscript has to be next to perfect if I want this relationship to progress further.

If nothing comes of it, it’s been an amazing experience and a serious boost to my confidence. Meanwhile, I’m editing the heck out of my manuscript (again) and pulling all comments possible from my beta readers.

After my pitch, I was in a daze, and got in line for lunch a little like a space cadet. I’d signed up for a lunch with a panel of NY Bestselling Authors, and during being fed, attendees could submit questions via Twitter. I got two of my questions answered! The panel was good overall, and I got to sit next to some amazing writer ladies, one of which I taught about how to use Twitter as a writer, and how to find other writers. That was fun.

After lunch I headed to How to Develop an Author Platform, which was… unhelpful. It was a lot of generalizations and me being really confused as to how the information was helpful at all. So I’m going to skip over that bit, because I’m not sure if I was just being oblivious or if the panel really didn’t know how to impart information.

Anyway, so after that, I didn’t feel like sitting through another business related class, so I didn’t end up going to How To Negociate Your Book Contract Like a Pro (which I probably should have gone to), and instead went to Dream World: The Irreducible Image by Susan DeFreitas.

That was an interesting class. DeFreitas was an amazing speaker, and the class was based around those images or symbols in fiction that you just can’t forget, long after you’ve forgotten the main points of the actual story. She examples such as Pennywise from Stephen King, Daenerys suckling baby dragons from George R. R. Martin, and several other images from other authors.

DeFreitas said that creating those Irreducible Images comes from using both the unconscious and conscious brain. The unconscious brain holds those images and feelings that have the power to stick in your mind, and the conscious brain is the part that can be used to implement those powerful images into your writing. Apparently, the best way to tap into the unconscious brain is by dreaming. Those strange things that stick in our mind after dreams are the things that hold power as images in fiction; by remembering those strange things in dreams and using them in your writing, you can create the things that people remember, long after they’ve forgotten the details of your story.

It’s something to think about.

After that, classes were done with. I headed for the ballroom, where they had food and a few other things going on. I ran into a guy I’d briefly explained my manuscript before, and we set up at a table with two other people we barged in on (it’s fun to barge in on people. You make friends), and were soon followed by two ladies who one of the group knew.

The talking began. We had to try to be quiet, as there was an award ceremony of some such sort going on, and after that they showed a short film that won the Willamette Writer’s short screenplay contest. The film was pretty neat, actually.

It took me a bit to realize it, but one of the guys that joined the party was an agent I almost pitched to (named Dongwon Song). I only ended up pitching once because of money constraints and because I wanted to attend classes, and Whipkey won out because she mentioned she loved snarky characters and complex narrative (of which my manuscript is filled with).

There was a funny moment where Song realized I wrote fantasy and he represented fantasy. I smiled slyly and told him I wouldn’t force my pitch on him, and he laughed and said he’d listen for free. I decided not to, because he’d just gotten through his story about how he and his fellow “buyers” were stuck in a room from 9 – 5, changing people every ten minutes, and after a while it was nearly impossible to absorb was people were saying (how many people is that? 9 – 5 is 8 hours… every ten minutes there’s a new person, so 10*8 = 80? That’s 80 people A DAY, and this conference is 3 days. Holy moses on a cracker). The last thing he really wanted was to be done with work and drinking a beer and have some overly eager unpublished author trying to get him to listen. Besides that, it sounds like he’s really looking for High Fantasy, which mine doesn’t really fit into.

Anyway, I was between Song and a gentleman who was an expert in self-publishing, and got to listen to them duke out the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing for almost an hour. That was very interesting. And somehow, talking about farming and goats came up as well (if you’re hanging out with me over a few hours, you kinda have to figure I pull out the goat pictures at some point). Needless to say, I found some new friends at that table.

But it was great: as Song went to leave, he handed me his card and told me to email him. I don’t know if he’ll be interested in my project and want to take on fantasy that’s more Urban than High, but hey, the personal contact always helps. And he was great to talk to.

The next hour and a half was filled with more talking about all things ridiculous and writer-y, including us finding a lady who writes adult children’s novels. She was freaking great!

And that, my writer friends, about concludes my Willamette Writers Conference adventures. I did not attend the final day of the Conference (Sunday) because of money constraints of because it was my mother’s birthday, so I don’t have much information to impart about that day.

But! I met some amazing people, pitched my ideas to all sorts of friends and professionals who thought my work sounded great, and learned so much about both writing and how to pursue a career in writing. I’d say the experience was invaluable, and not necessarily because of the classes and professional contacts. That might be about 60% of it; but the rest is because of the newfound friends and the, well, nourishment of being surrounded by such talented and like-minded people.

If anybody can afford it, I really recommend going. There’s a lot more there than just classes and professional contacts, at least in my experience.

Hey, thanks for reading through my journey! I hope it was interesting and that you learned a few of the things. Anybody have any questions?


Thoughts from the Willamette Writers Conference: Part Three

Welcome to the next segment of my Willamette Writer’s Conference adventures! In my previous post, I talked about the first day and a half of the Conference, and what I learned about querying, researching for better authenticity in Historical Fiction, and World Building. You should go check it out, if you haven’t already. It was pretty great.

After the World Building class on Friday, I went on to a class called Beyond Book Signings: Making Book Promotion Fun by Kerrie Flanagan. I’m dreading the time when I need to be marketing my book, so I figured I needed to take this class. And actually, it was quite nice. Nothing revolutionary happened, but it was a great class for setting your mind at ease and realizing that marketing is not supposed to be painful. Her best advice, after discussing all the ways that influence people to buy books and all the ways you can reach people to buy your books, was this: pick one that sounds fun to you, and try it. Just one. Don’t worry about the rest. Don’t even think about them. Just do one. Do it the best you can. Because you’re not going to be able to do all of them.

Flanagan also said that the point of marketing was to gain loyalty. And there were 3 keys to gaining loyalty: connection, trust, and relationship. Connection is the start (finding a book on FaceBook, or having a conversation with someone who gets interested to buy you book), and then trust has to do with your readers believing they are going to get what you advertise: whatever drew them to you in the first place. As in, always putting out good quality fantasy. Or autobiography. Or romance. Whatever is your shtick. And relationship, the final one, is about engaging readers and making yourself approachable. Responding when someone says hey on twitter. Replying back to emails. Being connectable.

Her final note of advice about marketing was remembering these three things: Keep it Fun, Make it Memorable, and Build Your Tribe (of loyal readers). Overall it was good stuff, and put me at ease that marketing isn’t going to be complete awfulness.

After classes completed for that day, there was a social gathering dinner eating type event, and my brain felt like it was oozing out of my eyeballs. I could not believe how tired I was after learning and talking all day!

My newfound friend came back after her second pitch, which didn’t go very well. She was pitching a screenplay instead of a manuscript. and apparently film-makers are notorious for being uninterested and not getting back to people even if they request to see pages. Such a strange thing – I wonder why they come to conferences at all?

Anyway, after the dinner there was one last group of classes I decided to stay for. I ended up attending Tips for Terror, Hints for Horror, both because it sounded interesting and because I was curious whether or not my manuscript could be classified as “horror.” It’s an odd genre I don’t understand; I’ve seen books I didn’t think were that gross or psychological that were classified as horror, and vise-versa.

The class overviewed common elements and themes in horror, and then went through a few exercises where we did a mash ups of non-horror with horror to come up with crazy ideas. That was fun. Overall it was good info, but the most important bit was that my manuscript is definitely not horror.

By Friday evening I had a general pitch that I was decently happy with: it covered my complicated world in one sentence, the push of the story in another sentence, and then set up the personality of my characters and the dramatic line at the end. I was pretty happy just relying on general points to go with: I was going to come at my pitch with the attitude of a conversation. That way, I at least would engage and not be monologuing, which is never good. And if I memorized a speech, I’d just end up sounding robotic.

By the second day of the conference it was fun to be able to recognize people I’d seen around. It gave an easy excuse to start a conversation with someone. I ended up eating breakfast with the friend of the producer of The Amazing Race (who I also had met the day before) during the opening ceremony.

She and I both headed to The Pursuit of the True Final Draft by Larry Brooks. Since I’m at that stage in my manuscript, it seemed like a good idea. This class was… equal parts irritation and fascination for me. His personality grated my nerves a little, but he had great information to impart.

Brooks began the class declaring that you can’t write a story without knowing the ending. If you don’t know the ending, you’re not writing foreshadowing or the story itself. I’m not sure I agree completely, but he had a point, depending on what your story is.

The main gist of the class came from the idea that there 12 criteria you must master before your manuscript is complete. These separate into six core competencies (concept, character, theme, structure, scene execution, and writing voice) and six realms of story physics (compelling premise, dramatic tension, optimal pacing, hero empathy, vicarious experience, and narrative strategy).

Brooks went on to say that there were two main reasons a manuscript (or pitch) gets rejected, both because the manuscript isn’t final. The first is that that the story isn’t executed well enough, and the second is that the story idea itself isn’t strong enough. Then he started discussing the difference between concept and premise, which he emphasized were heavily different things. Concept has to do with the main idea of your story, the thing that is new or refreshing, and almost always has nothing to do with the hero. A story set in an alternative history, or on another planet. Or a story about ghosts. The hero can be the conceptual creation (superman, Sherlock Holmes), but most likely are not. The premise is the main, exciting “dramatic thread” that runs through the story: Character A has his life interrupted by X, has to accomplish Y by doing Z, but Character B (or environment, or whatever) stands in the way for PQR reasons.

Beyond that, you have your usual thread of storytelling, with the climax, plateau, etc, etc. Multiple premises can come from one concept (see multiple stories set in the same interesting world, like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern and numerous other stories set on Pern), which is where you see series popping up and so forth.

Brooks kept emphasizing, over and over, that most people didn’t know the different between concept and premise and didn’t have the distinction in their story (thus, they get rejected by agents and publishers). When he started talking about concept and premise, it took him almost a half an hour to actually define the difference and tell us what he was talking about. I got really excited that I thought I knew what he was talking about, and got irritated that he wasn’t being clear about the definition.

So when Brooks finally got around to defining concept, I raised my hand, and like a complete smart-ass, asked: “Do I get a gold star that I knew what you were talking about before you defined it?” He asked what the concept was, and I gave him the one I had for my story (which happens to be the alternative history/world setting), and he told me I was exactly right.

Which was exactly what I needed to hear before going into my pitch. One, because it was encouraging, and two, because tweeking my pitch just slightly had my concept and premise defined and distinct from each other.

The next class was Own Your Time Like A Boss by Cheri Lasota, most of which I was going to be able to attend before I had to leave for my pitch. Lasota’s class was mostly about applications and software that can aid a writer in saving time while reading, collaborating with other writers, and editing. She talked about applications like Scrivner, Write or Die, Grammarly, PicMonkey, and so forth, which can do very different things to help a writer and author in their career. It was good information overall, and though I did leave about half an hour before it concluded, and she sent her powerpoint slides with links to the applications to anyone who wanted them. So I have that to still go through.

Anyway, so I left early and walked to the pitch room, replaying my pitch one more time in my head. The teacher of the Hints for Horror class was actually seated next to me in the waiting room, so we chatted briefly while I tried to breathe through nerves and make light of my cold and quivering hands. Making light of things always helps. Make fun of yourself. Somehow, it works. At least for me.

Then 11:40 hit, and we all walked into the pitch room.

Aaaand that is where I’m going to leave you until tomorrow’s part, just because I’m evil. Stay tuuuunnnnned. 😉