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Saturday, July 23, 2011

My First Writing Talk (AEBC Greater Vancouver)

Today I had the honour of being asked to talk about writing before the Greater Vancouver chapter of the Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians. This was the first time I've ever been asked to give a writing talk about anything, but most of the attendees were very beginner writers who wanted to know a little bit more about the craft, with the intent of sharing their stories with the world.

My first thought, on being asked was, "Wait, *I'm* being asked to talk about writing? But I'm barely even published!"

And then I realized that actually, I've been studying to craft for a very long time, and I have picked up a thing or two. I may not be super successful yet, but I can definitely address the basics enough for a group of people interested in getting started. This was an exercise in my own self-confidence, and personally, I think it went well. Below is my own outline.

* * *

Laura’s Writing Talk For AEBC Greater Vancouver

Talking about writing
- It’s a very broad topic
- There’s a lot that can be said about writing
- I’ll try to stick with basics today

1. Write every day.
- Even if it’s just a little bit.
- Writing regularly helps you get better.
- It’s like anything, like weightlifting or learning how to draw.
- Writing is a craft. And to get better at it, you need practice.
- It also helps you to find your voice.

2. Find your voice.
- We all have a unique voice. But finding it can take some work. And some practice.
- What do you have to say that makes you unique?
- Finding your voice, and your writing style, isn’t always about standing out from the crowd. It can also be about taking something ordinary and putting your own spin on it.
- What makes your heart sing? This is what I think is the most important part of today’s talk. Finding your heartsong, what makes you you, what you love to talk about, is vital. Why else would you be writing it?
- Obviously, you are not defined by your physical abilities. Or you shouldn't let yourself be.
- But what stories do you have to share that are both unique and show your empowerment?
- Can you engage the five senses? This is a whole, much bigger topic, but it can be part of finding your voice. Sounds, taste, touch, smell … all can help bring a story to life, yet a lot of writers, period, have trouble with engaging the senses.
- Edgar Allan Poe says: A short story should have a “single effect”. What is the effect you want to create with your story?
- That may mean you can’t include every single detail, because sometimes the things that seem cool aren’t necessary for the story.
- So, don’t get too attached to your writing. What seems important to you personally might not be for the tale at the heart of it. In fact, too much detail can bog down the story and cause the reader to lose interest.
- Which leads me to my third point …

3. Be willing to change what you’ve written.
- This is the hardest lesson in writing.
- And as often as I’ve learned it, it still keeps coming back to bite me.
- Me: I finished something! Isn’t it awesome?
- Feedback: Actually … it probably needs some work: for coherence, for consistency, and to make a good story
- Okay, so you’ve written a story. Yay!
- But unless you’re the next Charles Dickens (and most of us aren’t!) you’re probably going have to change it.
- When you get feedback, don’t get angry. Don’t take it as a personal attack. The person critiquing your work is not telling you that *you* are a terrible person. They’re saying that something in your writing needs work.
- Making changes to what you've written can feel painful. You think, “But I like it the way it is!”
- But you can’t be rigid. You have to be willing to make changes for the good of the story. This is how we learn.
- Remember, the first draft is *not* going to be perfect. So don’t get hung up on making it perfect. Because you’ll probably have to change it.
- Just sit down and start writing!
- Don’t try to look for errors until you’ve *finished* your story. Once you’ve finished it, then you have the entire picture and can make appropriate cuts.
- And then you’ll have a lot of editing to do. Writing “the end” is only the beginning.
- And that’s okay, because learning to spot errors in your own work is part of learning how to write.

And of course, something that came up in the discussion was an obvious point that wasn't on my original outline, but I think we all know by now from my recent posts that I am fantastic at missing a single important detail (like, say, renewing a freaking passport), is this:

4. Read. Extensively. You learn from what you read.

Thankfully, that point did get addressed.

I had a lovely time sharing some of what I've learned today. It was invigorating and fun discussing these issues with folks interested in getting started with the craft.

As for me? Back to editing my WIP.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mythology and Folklore (ConCarolinas Writing Panel)

The pages in my journal stuck together; that's why I didn't notice this set of notes until just before posting the last set. But here we are, with the final panel I attended. If you have any questions, please ask and I will elaborate. These were, after all, my own attempted transcription of what was said.

* * *

Mythology and Folklore

Authors: Stuart Jaffe, Jana Oliver, Natania Barron, Gail Z. Martin, Kalayna Price, Wendy S. Delmater
Moderator: Mason Lavin

Creating a mythology:
- Draw from another culture
- Study old cultures
- Trace myths back to their roots
- Don't just mine it halfhazardly for stories - know the myths
- It helps to absorb and process a lot of old myths.
- Look at how each culture views evil as a concept, how it is real to them.
- Read extensively.
- The reason myths have been able to last for so long is that something in them resonates with people.
- Be respectful to the original myth.

Things not to mess with:
- Nothing? We can take things and make it our own.
- Remember that myths stem from religion, and be respectful of that.
- It is possible to reinvent with respect.
- Our job as writers is to lie for a living.
- Do it well, and the readers won't care; do it poorly and they might care a *lot*.

Remember, it's fiction:
- Things can be changed in popular myth. Example: Vampires weren't originally allergic to sunlight.
- Tropes can be bent; just don't break it.
(Trope: an accepted standard in a genre/subgenre - usually what's listed on the back of a novel is mostly tropes, because readers can understand the story's subject matter quickly).
- Can take tropes and put them in a different setting, but it might be difficult.
- Myths can be used at the structural level.

Even Christianity is a Myth:
- The mythology is so complex and has many different traditions.
- Have to consider it all.
- The Church has evolved and changed, too, along with its myths and traditions; this goes back to its historical roots.
- Words change over time.
- The original Christian myth was not written in English.

Borrowing vs. cultural appropriation:
- Use care
- Research what you're borrowing
- Do it *well*.
- If using something real, get it right.
- Be respectful.

* * *

So, that's it for my ConCarolinas 2011 notes. I hope you've enjoyed them. Now the year is winding toward two other big events for me: Penny Arcade Expo at the end of August, and the Surrey International Writer's Conference. I have a few notes from SiWC that I wouldn't mind sharing, and I'll probably have a thing or two to say about PAX, too.

Watch this space for a post about swordfighting, too. ;)

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to this Saturday! I've been asked to give a talk on the basics of writing. This will be my first - wish me luck!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Should I Quit My Day Job? (ConCarolinas Writing Panel)

"I'm sorry, you can't fly."

I blinked. "What?"

"You can't fly. Your passport's expired."

4 a.m., June 2nd, 2011. I was so excited, I could barely sleep the night before! I was headed to North Carolina, the furthest I've ever traveled from Vancouver, and I was going to meet writers I admired in person! Can you say *squee*? I totally squeed. What can I say? I was excited.Waiting in the Air Canada lineup, I was darn near bouncing.

And then I was told that I couldn't go.

How could I have missed this tiny detail? I'd been planning my trip meticulously, even booking my flight and hotel months in advance so I could get a hefty discount. Renewing my passport wasn't even on my radar; my darling husband had mentioned offhand a few weeks previously that our passports weren't up for renewal until 2012. And I, dope that I am, didn't think to double check.

They calmed me down in good order. For a token fee (if you call seventy-five bucks token), I booked on a later flight, the red-eye leaving at eleven that night. And then I was told to go to the passport office and I *might* be able to get a rush job. For a fee, of course.

So, the rest of the day was spent rushing back and forth, withdrawing from the savings, acquiring a new passport photo, barely getting my forms submitted in time because I had to go home and retrieve my ticket as proof that I needed the rush; and then being told, at the end, that it "might" be ready in time. I barely stayed sane thoughout the process, but I lucked out with friends cheering me on via Facebook.

And when I returned to the office at 4 p.m., my passport was ready.

*meek yaaay*

I've been told by all of my American friends that such a thing is impossible in the States. I am grateful that I was able to get my passport renewed. It meant I arrived late to the convention and on very little sleep, but even after I "battled hostile customs officials and the Canadian passport bureaucracy to make the trip" (David's words, not mine, but lovely hyperbole all the same), it was so worth it.

And finally, early afternoon on the Sunday, it was nearly time for me to catch my flight home. I had time for just one more panel, one that featured nearly all of the Magical Words writers (among others), about the realities of a writing career. Enjoy!

* * *

Should I Quit My Day Job? (a.k.a. the Magical Words Panel #2)

Authors: David B. Coe, Faith Hunter, Stuart Jaffe, A.J. Hartley, Edmund Schubert, Rachel A. Aaron, Allegra L. Torres (a.k.a. the Chainmail Chick)

Probably Not:
- Unless you have someone in your family (e.g. partner) who has a stable job to support you
- How secure are your other income and benefits?
- Do you live frugally?
- As a writer, you can't live on advances.
- You can only safely quit your day job when you can safely live off your royalties (rare).
- The market can change.
- Little extra income streams can also help: e.g. investments,, side projects
- Frugality is vital. Are you really, truly frugal?
- The writing market is volatile.
- BENEFITS are the big thing you lose when you quit your day job (and believe me, they do matter. Health and dental adds up!)
- Control of everything is an illusion
- We can't control the market, or historical/world events.
- There is a major difference between quitting a job and quitting a career.
- So it comes to time management. Writing time plus job plus real life.
- It's better to treat writing money as extra.

Be realistic:
- Writing full time is not a golden chalice. You can get lonely and depressed as a writer, too. So if you quit your day job, make sure you still have a life.
- When you work for yourself, you never leave work! You must make time to do so.
- $25K/year is a successful writer these days.
- If you're not doing this because you love it, don't do it!
- Remember you're creating a product to sell.
- 95% of writers have another job.
- A.J.: write fast!

Writing Fast:
- If you have no choice, sit down, put aside emotions and internal editors.
- Pantsing vs. plotting: you can't be a pantser if you have to write fast. Must have a plot/outline to work from.
- There's always something to get in the way - don't let yourself get distracted.
- Push the story through.
- Know that it needs to be done, so do it.
- Don't set unrealistic goals.
- Forgive yourself if the day didn't go as you wanted. Move forward.
- You must develop self-discipline if you want to do this for aliving.
- Leave blanks to fill in later, to move faster.
- Have an outline!

* * * 

I hope everyone's enjoyed this set of notes ...

Oh, crud. Just like that little tiny passport error (and believe me, I learned my lesson there!), I totally skimmed what I had, and I just noticed that I actually went to one last panel after this, one on mythology and folklore. (Which makes sense, but at this point the memories from Sleep-Deprived Sunday kind of run together.) I'll post that sometime in the next few days.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Faith-Based Initiative: Creating or Including Religion in Fantasy (ConCarolinas Writing Panel)

So, here we are with the second-to-last set of notes from ConCarolinas.

The convention was already winding down, or at least it was for me. Traveling as far as I did from Vancouver, I had to leave before it ended officially. But Sundays always seem shorter, no matter what the event. Probably because it's the last day. 

Something I realized after posting yesterday's notes was that all of the Sunday notes are a shorter than previous sets. Part of that may have been my own happy fatigue; part of it was definitely that there were more off-track conversations between readers and speakers that I didn't log, or noted with a single sentence. This is not a complaint. I'm sure it was more apt to happen because of everyone else's happy fatigue, and frankly, I've found Sundays at a conference or convention to be more low-key, period.

The subtitle is my own. The program read, "Faith-Based Initiative", but it made sense to add a descriptor here. Once again, please feel free to ask for clarification if anything in these notes doesn't make sense.

* * *

Faith-Based Initiative: Creating or Including Religion in Fantasy

Authors: Mason Lavin, Joe Naff, Edmund Schubert, Terry ?, Stephen Zimmer, Glenda C. Finkelstein

- Religion and belief in *something* generally exists in a culture; people lend themselves to belief.
- Creating a religion is a fundamental part of fantasy writing.
- "Miracles are just magic explained in another way."
- Can be fun to play on themes in real life
- Faith has consequences
- Faith is typically prevalent
- Superstitions exist, too
- You can evoke emotional response from readers
- Editors are looking for stories that will be *stories*, not preaching
- Readers don't want to be preached to, therefore, editors are looking for a good *story*.
- Story matters: there must be stakes and characters.
- How characters react based on their beliefs, what's importan to them, can affect the story!
- How the characters look at the world is important.
- A good story drives conflict. Sentient beings have moral codes, whatever that code is; it influences the choices they make.
- Really, it's most important to tell a good story.
- If using real religions, know about what you're writing.
- Know what lines your readers won't corss.
- We're here to entertain readers.
- Self-censorship: don't cross a line that makes *you* uncomfortable.
- What lines are you willing to cross? Could they have implications/consequences in your non-writer's life?
- Be respectful when dealing with other cultures not your own.
- Does your character have free will? (they should)
- What choices do they make?
- What drives the characters?
- Are your deities omnipotent?

Edmund mentioned: Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, which makes a point of:
1. Respect the rights of writers
2. Not allowed to publish anything strongly conservative - not advocating anything

* * *

My personal summary: Religion is an important facet of the fantasy world you create (even if that world is here on earth). What your characters believe often affects what they do, and the choices they make. And most importantly, the story matters most. (Y'know, in case that wasn't clear by the five times I made a note of it.)

Tomorrow, the finale (and one of my personal highlights from the con!): "Should I Quit My Day Job"? Or, as most of us MW fans called it, the Magical Words Panel #2.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writing YA (ConCarolinas Writing Panel Notes)

I'm back after a fantastic weekend on the Island, doing hyperbaric oxygen therapy for my MS. Which probably means very little to most folks reading this, but for me it's done wonders. I'll put it on the list of things to post about once I'm done with this set.

In the meantime, I promised that I would finish my notes from ConCarolinas this week. And starting today, I'm finally on the notes from June 5th, the last day of the convention. Today's topic (a *very* important one for me personally): Writing YA.

* * *

Writing YA

Authors: Jana Oliver, Diana Bastine, Dabra killeen

What teens like:
- Teens like angst.
- Romantic subplot - usually needed for angst
- Teens often read extensively.
- Teens read oder stuff.
- They love scary.
- Difficult words and vocab - Kids soak that up.

All about YA:
- YA has an extensive range: really sweet to really gritty.
- YA has chnaged in the last few decades, in words, language, and themes.
- YA often deals with current issues

Current trends and things to be aware of:
- Dark, negative stuff is more prvealent these days, but teens want to read this sort of thing. They *want* to examine these issues.
- Sexual situations: Have to be careful.
Librarians will classify too much sex and violence as adult.*
- Gay/homosexual characters and subjects are becoming more acceptable.
- Some controversy is usually good.
- It's more effective if you use profanity judiciously.
- What's acceptable in the UK is different from what's acceptable in the US.**
- "New Adult" - a new subgenre: books for college-age students

Further writing tips:
- Teens are more impulsive, can't see that they're getting into trouble. Characters don't/shouldn't have the experience to tell them otherwise; the story should reflect that.
- Be careful about pop culture references: it won't be contemporary years from now. However, it can be entertaining in the now.
- It can be good to engage your inner smartass when writing this.
- Characters change, become less good as they grow.
- If characters die, there should be a good reason.
- Characters must learn consequences.
- Some bad guys can redeem themselves.
- Good guys can't be perfect, and bad guys can't be all bad.

* * *

* I think this varies by library. The public library I used to work at was very liberal about classifying books, but this may not be true at every library, and geographic location may play a part (e.g. this libary was in a liberal suburb of Greater Vancouver, and other suburbs have been known for more conservative views.)

** And if you're in Canada, which as I quipped today gets it culturally from both sides, it can vary quite a bit. ;)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Using the Web as a Platform (ConCarolinas Writing Panel)

The title of this in the program was "Writing for the Web", but it was quickly made clear that this was a misnomer, hence the title you see above. This was a discussion mostly about what and what not to do as a writer using the the Internet, and how to harness the power of the web for your career.

As for why it's a.k.a. the Magical Words panel? This was the first panel of the con to feature only Magical Words authors. 

As always, the disclaimer: These are my scribbles, and how I best learn at panels. If anything is vague and you'd like me to elaborate, just ask in the comments.

* * *

Writing for the Web (a.k.a. the Magical Words panel #1)
Authors: Carrie Ryan, Edmund Schubert, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, A.J. Hartley

Magical Words began as the brainchild of David and Faith, and others were brought on board

- Began podcasting The Eclectic Review: random topic and reviews
- The podcast has helped him build the fanbase

The title of this panel is a misnomer. Really, this panel is all about the Internet and social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs).

Social media is selling yourself as a personality.

You should have a platform.

Twitter is about connecting with people online and finding opportunities. With short statements you can get out info and pass things on

Social media is not just about networking; it's about community and access to your tribe.

Don'ts and Other Words of Caution:
- Remember: The Internet Never Forgets.
- Don't share negative stuff at all
- Don't vent
- Don't post negative stuff about other people
- Be careful about what  you share
- If thinking about positng something personal: is that information already basically public?
- Online, you can share the title of your book. Do NOT share rejections and complaints.
- Remember, the publisher is always right: they sign the paychecks!

Using the Internet as a Platform:
- Limit yourself! Pick no more than 5 things to participate in to create your platform. i.e. of Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blog, website, etc.)
- Use platforms you understand.
- Best to do it yourself so that you maintain control.
- On your website, incorporate a "last updated".
- Use multitasking tools such as feeds to simplify your life.
- The best way to publicize? Write the best damn book you can.
- Remember that there is a difference between your author persona and your real-life persona.
- Simulating intimacy helps to create a conversation.
- Goodreads - can be useful
- Building a platform takes time, but word gets out.
- You need to be consistent, constantly active, and not just promotional; don't just network with the intent/vibes of selling yourself.
- Find people you like and opportunities will arise. The rest will come organically.
- Don't be pushy.
- Your blog/website should reflect your genre.
- You should include a brief bio.
- Never forget: your platform is your name.

* * *

Three more panels to go! I'll be out of town all weekend and probably not back until late Tuesday, so you can look forward to the rest after that.

And then I might go quiet. A bit. Or at least not post daily!

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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Writing Sex Scenes (ConCarolinas Writing Panel)

Well, the title pretty much says it, but the topic of this panel, which took place late on the Friday night, is mostly about writing sex scenes. I found it amusing and informative, and even though I don't currently write anything that calls for scenes of an overly-detailed nature, it still contained a wealth of useful points.

As always, these are my notes of what the speakers had to say, mostly in the order they were taken and sometimes reworded for clarity.

* * *

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Art of War (Con Carolinas Writing Panel)

Yes, I know, it's officially been an entire month since ConCarolinas. And I have been taking way too long to post these notes. I realized that I'm still on sessions I attended from the very first day of the convention!

So I am going to *try* to update this almost if not daily. One hopes, anyway - I'll be on the Island, away from the Internet this weekend. But I will try to get the rest of these out as soon as I can.

Here's what followed the Future of the Printed Word panel: The Art of War (or, writing battle scenes). Once again, apoloiges for any errors; this is just what I wrote down and I'm *pretty* sure I missed a thing or two.

* * *

The Art of War
Authors: David B. Wood, Rachel A. Aaron, Toni Weisskopf, A.J. Hargtley, Stuart Jaffe, Chris I-forget-his-last-name, didn't write it down, can't find my program and forgot to make a note of who the moderator was but it may have been him

The authors and how they use conflict/battle scenes:
David: historical fiction of family historyStuart: battle scenes in short stories
AJ: battle in fantasy novels
Rachel: fights in her novels, lots of blood
Chris: hard SF, many battles

General tips:
- There are different kinds of fighting for different kinds of fiction.
- Study weapons.
- If the battle has a historical setting, research it!

Authors' thoughts (discussion):

- Writing conflict/battle scenes has to do with the scope of the novel itself.
- Our culture is not raised with war in the same way
- Martial arts: helps you know what's possible, what's not
- You need to know what you can and can't do before you write it.

- Writes lots of battle and combat scenes
- If you're going to write it, you need to know something about it.
- Combat is driven by larger story issues.
- His character is an ordinary person in these situations (his terror drives his involvement in the combat)

Toni: Overdescribing can be a problem.

A.J.: Blow-by-blow account is too much, too choreograped, doesn't feel like actual fighting

Stuart: Real fighting is sloppy.

- Remember that a fight scene is still a scene, and must be treated appropriately (the stakes must be high, there must be a reason for the scene, the scene should flow and fit with the larger story.)
- The scene should move the reader.
- The fighting anime formula: fights escalate up until the boss fight
- Video games: the fight that culminates all the drama.
- Therefore, figure out the key emotion in the battle scene, and work to that.

- Warfare is endemic to our psychology.
- Battle scene in space: superior force vs. (???) force
- Crafted a battle scene based on a historical battle
- Studied battle tactics used and historical accounts

Conflict vs. War Porn:
- "When the description of the sword is longer than the description of the hero."
- When we get overly detailed
- When we forget all of the little details of what people are experiencing

Stuart: War porn is "here are the toys, watch them play"
Conflict: Actually showing what people are going through, finding the glory in that scene

A.J.: Make readers empathize, or the whole thing is pointless

- Murakami Masashi: The Five Rings
- All novels are about conflict. War just makes it more visceral.
- It's about the people. Human tragedy.
- Use conflict as a way to move (the plot of) your book.

- Battle is visceral, offence or defence.
- Swords and knives are inherently beautiful.

- Not just a male thing.
- Men overanalyze. Women are more practical.
- Night Witches (WW2 female pilots, widows with nothing to lose)

A.J.: There's an anxiety over female violence in our culture

- Battle should be a component to the story, not a focus of the story.
- Worry more about the character than the battle.

David: Recommends Write The Fight Right by Alan Baxter

- Chaos has to happen, but needs to be balanced with description of what's going on.
- Your character must experience/feel the battle, the emotion

- Envision the landscape

- Fallacy of the now.
- Our experience is not universal.
- WW2: The last time the US was truly, unequivocably on the good side/ the good guys

- The past is a foreign country. So is the future. But the readership is in the present.
- Be in the moment, don't be scared, that's how you survive. Be in the moment in the battle.
- You enter combat thinking "I am dead" and have to seize life.

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Next up: The Sex Panel!