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?
Assuming you are submitting directly to a publishing house without an agent here are some useful guidelines to consider.
- If you don’t here back from them, they don’t want it.
- Just in case though, check the house website, they usually list the time frame you can expect a response and what it means if you don’t hear back, ie they are running behind or it’s a no.
- Follow the guidelines carefully for the big items like Genre, length, exclusions. But if you need 1 1/4 pages for synopsis and it says one page, go ahead and use the extra 1/4.
- Do your homework. Publishers are not robotic rejection machines. They are humans and will get offended too.
- Sending something in for consideration below the minimum word count threshold is a deal breaker, for one editor on the panel.
-Why Editors Pass Panel
Amusing mistakes I heard from the Pros at con….
“After finishing the draft for the second book in the series, the author realized the character flying the plane, had died at the end of the first book.” (Purpose Driven Dialogue Panel)
A first time author was offered a publishing contract with a mid level house. The author took his contract to a lawyer for review. He picked a lawyer who did not work in publishing. The lawyer told him the contract was not good, that the house was trying to rip him off. The author sued the house. The house won because it was a STANDARD contract. So the author was out the opportunity to publish, out the cost of the lawsuit, and the author was blackballed in the publishing world. (Norwescon 2015, but so horrifying it had to be told again.)
When building “the other” in your world you want to push the reader out of their comfort zone but just enough that they can still see where their comfort zone is.
Another way to put that is go right to the edge of unrecognizable and then pull back just a fraction.
Keep in mind our world is pretty bizarre in reality, duck bill platypus anyone? Make sure your “other” is just a varied and weird as what we find here on this Earth.
-A Culture by Any Other Name Panel
Of course a lot of people in the writing panels wanted to know what the secret was to making it as a writer, to becoming that ten year overnight sensation, and finally we were told.
“The magic bullet is simple, write a lot of books that a lot of people want to read.”
Now then, don’t you feel all better?
Alright then, try this one on for size…
“Attitude not aptitude is the best indicator of future altitude.”
Funny, I thought that’s what the rudder was for….
-Writing is a Long Con Panel