Norwescon was a mixed bag, but then life is really. So a quick post for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The good: so many interesting topics I struggle to pick which panel or event to go to in a given hour, which in some ways was also the bad. There were numerous hours where I wanted four panels. Yes, some of that was due to my having a varied interest but some of the seemed like awkward scheduling. Take Friday at 11: So You’ve Finished a First Draft (how to edit), Catching Reader Hook, Line, and Sinker (how to write a great first page), Beta Better (how to give good beta), The Reader & Writer Pact (writing for your readers), and Single Combat for Writers: Creating Believable Violence. That’s five classes for writers all in the same hour.
The bad: stayed in the hotel. Oh dear god was it loud, ALL night long. I will stay elsewhere within walking distance next time.
The ugly: It’s never a pretty thing when a panelist introduces themselves and then immediately says I don’t know why I am on this panel.
I loved meeting different authors, interacting with them, getting unique points of view. Heck, having a few things driven into my head with repetition. I found time to go to a few readings this year which enabled me to find new amazing authors to read, so woot for that. I hesitate to say I made new friends but I definitely made possibilities for new friendships. And that is what it is all about for me, the endless possibilities
How do you get the critical yes? That one that will open a door just a tiny little bit and let you wiggle a toe in there?
Be prepared when someone asks what are you working on.
-Leave out the back story.
-Leave out the excuses, the hemming and hawing, and the half apologies.
-Be succinct and watch the non verbal or sometimes even verbal cues.
be yourself. Connect as a human to another human.
down boy, we’re talking about writing it effectively. I have to be honest though, I love the panel on writing erotica. It is so amusing every year. This year I jotted down the following…
What am I trying to accomplish with the sex scene?
If it doesn’t sound like the characters, it will bounce the reader, and not in a good way.
Focus on the plot of the story so that the sex, when it comes, is the pay off. Get the reader ready, so to speak.
If all else fails, switch genders to keep things fresh or get multiple people involved.
Asymmetrical Warfare: High tech big force against a small guerrilla force for whom survival means winning. The big force’s desire to crush the little force is what makes the little guy important, what gives him weight. Asymmetrical Warfare makes the big guy look bad either way you cut it. A) you beat up the little guy – ass. Or B) the little guy beat you – wimp.
Unconventional Warfare (as a special operations definition): training an indigenous population to overthrow an unlawful ruler or gov’t
but you can also describe it as dirty warfare, some might be legal, some might not.
As a side note, one of the panel members spouted this little ditty: the # 1 group to lead a terrorist organization? Western trained humanities majors, followed by doctors and then engineers.
Na na na na na na na I wanna start a fight – Pink
Think about your dialogue as an action scene. It’s a verbal fight, a verbal spar. Everyone wants something. Each character has an agenda.
People don’t respond perfectly or even appropriately to what is said.
People don’t speak in complete sentences.
Your characters pattern of speech says something about them. Use dialect as a subtly applied flavor, not as a sauce.
Sometimes saying nothing is the most powerful answer.
-Purpose Driven Dialog Panel
This was a new term to me. Qualia is the idea that some of our experiences are so subjective we have no way of knowing if others experience them the same way because it’s all an internal experience. Like the color green for example. Just because we all agree that this is GREEN doesn’t mean we see it the same way or we might actually see it exactly the same. That’s the point, we have no way of verifying that subjective experience from person to person.
That’s something that you can use to focus on the details when creating an alien world or culture. Small details give a resonance to the work.
Another tip was to get a few scientific facts right in the start of your book and then most people stop fact checking you. LOL
-A Culture By Any Other Name Panel
If I heard it once, I heard it 400 times at Norwescon. Twitter, twitter, twitter. Sigh. I’ve been avoiding twitter. But then on the flight home from Legoland this young woman sat in the seat next to me. She pulled out a book, so of course I asked what she was reading. Two and half hours later we landed in Seattle. I knew all about her life including she just left the agency she was with for four years and launched out on her own as….drum roll please…a social media marketing expert. Her advice, Twitter.
Fine. I hear you. The universe has spoken loudly. I signed up for Twitter.
This post won’t be full of quotes from Norwescon but since I did come to this conclusion at con, I include it in this month of wisdom. Last December I started getting up at 5A so I could write before my son woke up and sucked all the time out of my day. After all how could I call myself a writer if I was not actually writing.
The problem was, I was miserable. Miserable. Miserable.
In fact, I seriously considered quitting writing.
All the people who kept telling me to just keep working away at it. Keep posting and publishing and eventually I would garner a following because my writing was sooo good, infuriated me. More years of this getting up before dawn to be miserable? AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
So I decided at con to quit.
My alarm clock that is. I get up at 7 maybe 730 now and I’m happy. My bio-rhythms just don’t like to get up that early. How will I find time to write you ask? I started giving my kiddo one hour of free screen time a weekday on the basis that he will not bother me for anything short of a German Invasion for that hour.
“Put the reader in the world, immediately.”
“Do not obfuscate what is going on to the point that the reader no longer cares.”
“It is easier to be overly subtle than to be too direct.”
“Hit them with the clue stick harder than you think you should.”
“If your reader feels left out on the inside joke, they’ll leave your book.”
“Do not mislead your reader. The unreliable narrator is a bad idea. Example: It was all a dream or was it? Avoid parlor tricks and slight of hand.”
“Do not insert yourself into the novel to explain what it all really means. Do not insert yourself at all.”
“You have to hear the click of the door closing at the end of the novel. Satisfy your reader, but leave them with some work to do, some question unanswered.”
-Catching Readers Hook, Line, and Sinker Panel
When you’re building that alien culture, the one that will make your Sci Fi novel un-put-down-able, think about where your alien culture can meet humanity. The purpose of the alien culture should be to hold a mirror up to ourselves.
An example given on the Culture By Any Other Name panel was this…
You’re traveling in a space ship that has catastrophic engine failure. After floating aimlessly about for enough time to be desperate you encounter an alien culture. They have a replacement engine for you. They’ll happily give it, for a price. T
hey want kittens in return. More over they want the kitten’s owners to come and give the kittens as a sacrifice. What do you do? Do you make small adorable children bring their precious wiggly kittens to be devoured? Or do you say no and continue to aimlessly float praying someone else will come alone to help you before you all die?