Monday, April 4th, 2011

I Shouldn’t Try to Do 2 Cons in 10 Days…

…because it leaves an awful hole in the blog. When time is at a minimum, this is where I usually cut first.

So: I owe a few words about Day 2 of the Don Maass class at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group Workshop in Allentown, PA last weekend, and a brief report about SynDCon in Rockville, MD this past weekend.

I’ll start by saying that if you get a chance to take a workshop with Don Maass: don’t pass it up. He’ll have you critically thinking about your manuscript within minutes…and by the end of an 8-hour session, you’ll feel like you’ve run a marathon.

His style is to tell to you choose a character or a situation in your book and then ask several questions designed to spur your muse to deliver a better product. When you’re done, you’re muse will want to hunt down Don and slap him – instead of your characters wanting to hunt you down for putting them in peril.

(And if you don’t understand that reference, you need to take a writing workshop with A. C. Crispin.)

Don gave a thought provoking address at lunch on Saturday, notably about the merging of genres in today’s market and the ease of e-publishing. One comment stuck with me: if you self-publish in today’s market, rather than go with a “traditional” publisher, you stand to make make more money in the short term, but you’ll fail to grow your audience base.

That’s something I hadn’t considered. It bears thinking about.

My favorite panel on Saturday was Jonathan Maberry’s Building a Writing Career. He offered several tips for making money in non-fiction while continuing to feed your fiction habit, and showed, as in his case, that if you keep at it, the jobs will come looking for you. Jonathan is a highly entertaining speaker, and he made what could have been a dry, boring seminar a delightful experience.

But there was much more than Don and Jonathan on Saturday: there were costume seminars, meetings with agents and editors, advice on your story’s opening, a writing contest, panels on marketing your work and more.

I highly recommend the GLVWG Workshop. I’m certain I’ll attend again.

SynDConSynDCon is a gaming convention held in Rockville, MD. This was the second year for it, and it attracted about 300 gamers. A few authors (Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Mike McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, Vonnie Winslow Christ and Diane Whiteside and I) were invited to host writing seminars this year as an added tract to the gaming agenda.

Diane and I had planned to host World Building 101 – a cross-over gamer’s-author’s workshop on how to create a fantasy world – but there were scheduling conflicts on Saturday and it didn’t work out. However, I spent a huge amount of time in the Dealer’s Room, and that’s always a plus.

(And this just means that Diane and I have plenty of time to gear up the seminar for next year. In the meantime, if you have any questions about mapping, climate, weapons, flora/fauna, peoples, etc., drop us a line and we’ll answer them here.)

Of course, we got to read from our work. That’s always exciting, particularly when you read to a rapt audience, as we did on Saturday. There were children in attendance, so I stuck with The Dragon’s Clause, rather than Blood Soup. (It doesn’t hurt that dragons are ever popular with gamers!) It was well received.

As for the gaming aspects of the con: a definite “something for everyone” kind of place. There were board games and card games in addition to the expected Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games – which ran all hours of the day.

And if you had no experience regarding a particular game or gaming system: no worries! Exhibitions and learning games were hosted just as often as the tournament play. The best part: something for everyone at all age and experience levels.

Will I be back? Definitely. Next year I plan on gaming as well as ‘authoring’ at the con.

You can see a few author photos on my Facebook page.

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Writing Prompt: An Alternate Point of View

Towering Pile of ManuscriptsI’ve just finished editing a scene in my (completed) novel which has given me fits and starts for weeks.

It’s (mostly) a conversation between two very strong women in which important revelations are made.

Both women are surprised at what they learn. Their feelings — and their intentions — are both relevant to the story. But I can only tell it from a single point of view. So, which should I choose?

That’s been my dilemma. And over the last few weeks, I’ve re-written the scene several times, first from one point of view, and then the other. And then I flip-flopped, and flip-flopped again.

Each time, the scene has become stronger and the dialogue more tense. Each re-write made the prose leaner and tougher.

I finally settled on a viewpoint, and it’s not that of the protagonist.

The fact is: even though my protagonist learns some pretty significant things about herself, the other character has more to lose because of it.

Literary genius Sol Stein suggests that a scene should be written in the POV of the character who is affected most by the scene’s content. This makes sense to me, and that’s why I decided to leave it in the point of view of the secondary character.

Bonus!   Writing from her POV stirred my muse to suggested additional plot layers, so the story has grown as well.

Here’s Your Prompt: Choose a scene you’ve written that’s not working for you. Write it from the point of view of another character. Be sure to include what this character thinks and feels and sees as the scene progresses. Be cognizant of how the flavor of the scene may be changed due to the alternate point of view.

If you don’t have an existing scene, write one! When you’re finished, start over and write it from the opposite POV.