I was actually very disappointed that a schedule conflict kept me from participating in Allen Wold’s wonderful writers’ workshop. I have participated in 4 so far, and will continue to do so until he kicks me out. I have heard from two other participants who enjoyed it, although they were disappointed that there will be no follow up session on Sunday.
Deciding that a quiet morning would be very restorative, I didn’t get to any of the morning panels I had planned on, so my con day started, once again, with hall conversations. I was very pleased to join the Magical Writers group for lunch at Boardwalk Billy’s, although our group size overwhelmed the restaurant staff.
After lunch, I attended the Worldbuilding 101 panel, moderated by Wolfgang Bauer, with panelists James Kempf and Anthony Thomas. They talked about starting with the culture of “your” world, rather than necessarily the geological history. I particularly liked the advice to “start with a small community, then ripple out to the larger world around them. Don’t try to do it all at once.”
They talked about how important it is to balance the new (to the reader) with the familiar, so that they can connect with one or more key characters – in writing moreso than gaming. What makes you *care* about the characters? A game called Dawn of Worlds was mentioned as a great exercise in worldbuilding. I will have to look that up.
Another good piece of advice was to set “hooks” for later use. You don’t have to invent everything all at once, and you certainly don’t have to reveal it all at once. A good method to reveal to the reader can be to use the Outsider character POV, allowing the reader to learn with the Outsider.
Wolfgang touted building a “World Bible” or concordance as you go along, to help you remember all the details that you’ll inevitably forget over time. Wiki was praised as a tool for this, even if not public. But if it *is* public, then your fans can become your continuity police and advisors.
Talking about retrofitting when you do make a mistake – up to you whether to reveal it or massage it into the existing storylines. But dedicated fans usually know. Sometimes the best thing to simply mea culpa and move on.
Sometimes using a different POV can explain why a story is told differently from another characters POV.
Tracks, a novel, have to check the author’s name, about a robbery in which many different POVs are used to describe events, so you don’t know who actually committed the crime. (Reminds me of Inside Man with Clive Owens.)
China Mielville wrote an essay about “what’s lifw like when you’re not rich and powerful” – a good way to think about worldbuilding is how the “little people” or “average Joes” live.
Again, the panel highlight of the day was the Magical Words seminar, “First Five Pages” with Misty Massey, Faith Hunter and David B. Coe. They talked aabout the pressure of editors to wade through material, and how vital it is to grab them right off the bat. Faith said a good opening had to have a pivotal point for later use in the story, a strong voice, and immediacy. She praised Misty’s Mad Kestrel and David’s Thieftaker as meeting all these requirements with attention-grabbing opening scenes. “The story begins where the events leading to the climax begin to matter.”
There was a lot of discussion about tropes, and the danger of using/overusing familiar themes or “hooks” – such as the doorbell/phone waking someone with bad news in the middle of the night – tvtropes.com is a good site to review lots of tropes.
A few stories praised for great openings:
Ender’s GameFiniovar Tapestry
Spirit Thief (Rachel ?)
Dresden #?, “The building was on fire and this time it wasn’t my fault.” !
On Kindle, you can get the “preview” and print it out to mark up what works or what doesn’t – great learning exercise!
How to avoid the “info dump”? If things aren’t happening fast enough, start someplace else in the story. Marion Zimmer Bradley said, “Start the story where things begin to go wrong.” David said he heard advice that back story should be in the last 2/3s of the book. Faith said you could also dribble it out over the whole story as needed.
What’s the last bit of advice before sending your manuscript out?
Misty: Move on to the next thing! Don’t wait on the glacially slow publishing industry, or you’ll never get anywhere.
David: Put your manuscript away for a few weeks, so you can approach it one last time with a reasonably fresh eye, separating the writer and editor mindset.
I enjoyed a lovely dinner offsite with friends – the only downside was missing the final Magical Words seminar. I spent the rest of the night in the Magical Words party, hanging out with friends old and new, laughing hysterically and still learning and sharing lots of insights on writing. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
And I bought a corset. *grin*
June word count: