A sudden revelation.
A moment in time where suddenly you understand the why of a certain thing. For a writer this can mean the plot suddenly unthickens and we know what we need to do!
This often happens when I am in traffic and completely unable to put said revelation into practice, but hey, we go with what we have, right?
I had several such moments of glory while in Seattle at the PNWA 2015 Writers Conference this last week. Fortunately I was able to immediately put my chicken-scratched notes into a more readable form via the little Android tablet, and these flashes of knowledge will soon be causing some positive changes in my current works-in-progress.
Over the next few months a lot of what the speakers and teachers had to say will filter through my mind and into this blog, but first I need meditate on it until I know what their insights mean to me on a practical level.
I attended two seminars offered by Scott Driscoll, who cuts right to the chase and explains his ideas clearly. One was on understanding your characters’ values and how the evolution of those core values fundamentally drives the story, and the other was on the inciting incident. Those two seminars dovetailed beautifully, and I had my first “I know what I need to do” moment after leaving the one on identifying and understanding the values (or ethics) your characters hold dear. If you ever get a chance to go to a seminar offered by him, I would recommend you do it.
Another speaker whose seminar really motivated me was offered by Bill Carty, on the intersection of ‘poetry and the everyday’ as a means for generating our own poems. (Yes, I have a dark side–I write poetry when no one is watching.)
I listened to my good friend, Janet Oakley, speaking on a panel about bringing the past to life, when writing historical fiction. That too had an “ah hah!” moment.
Bharti Kirchner gave a seminar on the five essential elements of a short story, and she is an intriguing speaker. As you know, I am a strong proponent of writing short stories as exercise, to develop your writing chops, and I came away from that class knowing how to organize my thoughts so that a short story will remain short, and not accidentally turn into a novella or an epic trilogy.
I wanted to attend the seminar on using language with intention that was offered by Terry Persun and his daughter, Nicole Persun, but I had a conflict and had to choose which class served a more immediate need, so I was unable to attend it. But all is not lost–I will be purchasing the download of that seminar. I had several wonderful conversations with Terry and he will be writing a guest post for this blog, perhaps on that subject.
Instead of that, I attended a class offered by Lindsay Schopfer on identifying the sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy so that when a book is published you can best identify your intended target audience. This is absolutely critical because when you go to publish, your publishing platform will always ask you what your “BISAC code” is. BISAC is an acronym for Book Industry Subject and Category subject headings, which are a mainstay in the industry and required for participation in many databases.
Knowing if you are writing Epic Fantasy or High Fantasy is critical when it comes to marketing your book to the proper audience, as die-hard readers of each sub-genre have strong feelings about what constitutes their favorite genre. Thus, there are certain tropes readers of those genres will expect, so proper labeling is critical if want your target audience to read your book.
Being able to immerse myself in learning the craft is absolutely wonderful, and I look forward to this conference every year. This year William Kenower offered the final seminar of the event. Bill is an intriguing, energetic speaker who gets his listeners involved in what he teaching. His seminar on reconnecting with your confidence was quite appropriate for me, as I sometimes listen to my inner critic and forget the joy I have in writing.
Other people spoke, Andre Dubus III and Robert Dugoni–-two men with vastly different experiences and different styles of writing, and yet both had something to say that moved me in one way or another. J.A. Jance, Nancy Kress , Elizabeth Boyle and Kevin O’Brien were on a panel that was fun to listen to.
If you are serious about writing, I highly recommend that you seek out and attend writing conferences. A great deal of good information can be found on the internet, but there is something about the networking and actually talking shop with the other authors that fires creativity and keeps the creativity flowing through the veins.
I suggest that you actively google writers’ conferences in your area, and see if you can find one that is affordable and offers sessions by respected authors in a wide variety of genres, and who are welcoming to authors who intend to go indie as well as those who hope to be traditionally published. It will be money well-spent.
An intriguing thing happened at this conference during the book signing event. A highly respected agent (who shall remain unnamed) stopped by my table and looked over my books. He picked up Tower of Bones, and leafed through it, checking out the cover and the graphics, and also the maps. Pausing, he asked if I was indie published, and I explained I was, through a publishing group, Myrddin Publishing. He then paid me the highest compliment ever–my books were “highly professional.”
That interaction proves how important it is to put your best work out there. When you do that, you can be proud to play on that not-so-level playing field.