M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nuggets of Wisdom

No read today -- though I started reading Lee Child's new mass paperback, Gone Tomorrow.   At first, glance you think the opening description is lo-o-o-o-ng, but before I was ready to skip pages, I could feel the tension building -- all with the subway doors opening and closing with Reacher contemplating the Israeli terrorist screening list.

How fast was slow?  I thought I just barely scraped the beginning.  When I went back and looked, I was almost at page 100.  This even though I still had a headache from the bright lights at the NCW conference last night.

The Northern Colorado Writer's Conference
The following occurred in no particular order, so be warned I'm being my normal incoherent self.

First, I want to praise Kerri Flanagan, the director of the Northern Colorado Writers.  She's been doing the conference for five years, and each year some new useful new tool appears.  This year's gem was a spiral bound notebook with presenter info, session handouts, and lined pages to write on scattered through out -- all in alphabetical order.

Veteran conference goers said repeatedly that this was one of the best they've attended.  Summary opinion.  It's small enough to talk to a good share of the writers, and the presenters were all stellar.  I agree, but it's nice to know others agree with me.

Being me, I might quibble about the food -- but Kerrie didn't cook it.  (The Hilton people did.)   I'm lucky to live where I do -- even if I was ready to move from the place two days in coming here -- back in 1966.

Granted I couldn't go to all the sessions that looked useful,
but here are some nuggets of wisdom
from my notes.

Stephen Cannell (A-Team, The Rockford Files, and the Shane Scully mystery series) just happened to be doing a promotional tour through Colorado, and Kerrie snagged him for our keynote speaker.  I just listened without taking many notes.  Most important thing he said, in my opinion:  Don't take yourself too seriously. .

Mike Befeler, a mystery writer of "geezer-lit" (Paul Jacobson, "It's Murder ..." mysteries) won a medal of bravery for competing with the session:  Agents Read the Slush Pile.  His comment about mysteries -- that the murder has to occur in the first 20 pages -- applies to all books, I think.  Only one might say: something significant that changes your main character's world.

If you're feeling down, you might consider John Calderazzo (a multi-published writer who teaches at Colorado State University) words:  Writers seek the wonders of the world.  I think this is true regardless of genre.

Then, there's Trai Cartwright, a former screenwriter trying to convert to novels, who always blows my mind away.   Some of the things she said:
Focus on the hero (MC) and what s/he wants.
Something must happen in each scene to move the story.  
(characters facing conflict, a partial solution, and a reversal that makes things worse.)

Then, a whole quote from Trai:  "You know what your strengths are.  If you love writing dialogue but scene description isn't your forte, don't sweat it.  Write the scene to your strengths, knowing that after you get out the initial burst of inspiration, you'll go back and work on the other components in another pass."  This applies to scenes in screenwriting and chapters in novels.

Page Lambert, a mostly literary writer from the examples she read during her session on "Creating a Sense of Place",  gave the all important advise that writer's should use all the senses in creating descriptions.  More important, I thought she gave a neat device to eliminate back story:  Use an artifact to bring memory into the scene you're writing.  I think that'd also apply to something in the surrounding.  [A tip:  This is very similar to including action as your dialog tags.]

Todd Mitchell, a YA author (The Traitor King) and CSU professor, gave lots of many pointers:
Be sure your dialog is feasible.  Read aloud.
Subtext of dialog gives more info about characters than what's said.
You need to know what each character wants to have happen in each scene.

Joe Monti, of the Barry Goldblatt Agency, talked about why there are few books written for boys.  The circular reationship:  publishers don't think boys over 11 read, so they published few books for YA boys other than spy stuff, so boys don't read.  Who says marketing people know everything.

Monti did make one thing clear:  Your book cover is the most critical thing for your book's success.  So, if your cover sucks, make this the turf where you insist on something better, even if it's your first sale.

Those were the sessions I attended.  All were worth while -- even if I had to spend money to attend.   

My most fun moment at the conference:    
  
Got into line for food and discovered Rachelle Gardner, agent extraordinaire, in front of me.  I just had to mention the picture of the pristine desk she put on her blog.  She admitted the picture didn't show the over-stuffed bookcases in her office.


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