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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Learning To Write (ConCarolinas Writing Panel)

Aaand now we're onto notes from the second day of the convention, June 4th. (My favorite day of the conference, but hey, it was my birthday and an awesome way to spend it.) The panel I attended following the amusing late-night panel took place bright and early the next morning. Considering how little sleep I'd managed in the few days beforehand (ask me about my wild and crazy Adventures With Passports!) I'm surprised I was even awake for this 9 a.m. panel.

But in transcribing these notes, I realized something fascinating about my own process: I remember the panel and the voices and the experience of the panel. Maybe not every single detail, but I can re-experience the feeling of being there.

So if any of these notes are a bit unclear or you would like me to explain what I mean, let me know. I'd be happy to elaborate in the comments section.

* * *

Learning to Write

Authors: A.J. Hartley, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, Joe Naff, Theresa Bane, Harry Turtledove
Moderator: Wendy Delmater (editor for Abyss and Apex)

What is your best piece of advice?

Harry Turtledove's Rules (actually, he admits with a grin, they're Robert A. Heinlein's rules*, but they're good ones!):
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put it on the market.
5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

Theresa: Don't take rejection personally. Publishers buy what they plan to publish 12-18 months in advance.

Joe: went the self publishing route, worked for him

- Read. You need to fill the well.
- You learn by doing
- You learn by rejection letters
- You learn by being rejected.

- You learn by practicing.
- Don't be arrogant  (don't assume you know how to write).
- You learn from feedback, editors especially.

- You learn to write by writing. By doing.
- Figure out how you write
- Revise after a few weeks away.
- Always revise.

- Write fast (his new mantra; wrote a first draft in 3 months)
- Get it down quick.
- Don't give up.
- Definitely put it aside for a few months.
- Know how to write on a sentence level.

Further discussion:

- Recommends The Turkey City Lexicon.
- Read your work out loud.

- Composes in longhand
- Reads aloud
- Find out what works for you

- Formal education **
- Literary criticism and appreciation is not being taught

Joe: Put some effort behind every time you write anything.

Theresa: Learn the Chicago Style manual.

- Recommends Strunk & White's Elements of Style.
- Know how to research!

Wendy: Recommends the Plain English Handbook.

Faith: Recommends the Magical Words Beta Group***

Harry: Know yourself before you know if you should belong to a writer's group

A.J.: Doesn't share with anyone until his first draft is polished

Theresa: Give detailed critiques - learning how to critique can teach you more about learning how to write.

Finding beta-reading group suggestions:
- MW Betas
- "Just Friends" portion of Craigslist
- The group should be the same genre as you!

Plotting Notes
- A.J. and David use the organic plotting method
- Know the genre, what the book is about
- Faith: Know your story arc. Then build your story on it.
- David: There is no right way to do this, period - what works on one book may not work on another.
- Joe: Know where you start, where you end, and a few steps along the way

Volunteer to read slush to learn more about how to write.

Recommended: The 10% solution by Ken Rand

About Time Travel, Parallel universes, and Alternate Histories:

Time travel
- Can be done well, just have to design it so that it's character driven.
- Interesting for character exploration

Parallel universe vs. alternate history
Two worlds (sideways) vs. going forward based on world where one detail from the past changed and worlds went differently from there on
If writing this: don't get too hung up on of the changed details.

* * *

* And this is the third separate occasion an author has brought them up - I heard them from Spider Robinson in 2002 and Robert J. Sawyer in 2005. They really are good rules and I really should make a point of following them better. I mean, the last thing I submitted netted me a contest win / publication. What's there to lose?

** I totally forget what this was a reference to. Possibly that it helps to have it? Like I said, I don't remember everything and this time I was so unclear or rushed, even I can't puzzle it out.

*** This is a fantastic group that I am happy to call my beta group, but to join you must first be a regular participant at Magical Words.

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