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
“Constants when they come home from war: Loss of Mission, Loss of Purpose, Loss of Camaraderie. “
“The longer you are in the more you see the mission as your self. Doing for others is your purpose. You are with your team on a purpose that means more than any of your own lives. Then you come home and it’s gone.”
“When you come home you start to wrestle with the questions you didn’t have time to think about while deployed.”
“Those who serve give up a large chunk of their civil rights to do so.”
-After the Guns go Silent Panel
-Use original cover art. Try deviant art to find an artist or piece you like. Be sure to pay them for it, don’t steal(plagiarize). It’s rude and really bad karma.
-Use a professional editor, but have them do a test chapter before you sign on with one.
-Establish and maintain your brand.
-Identify your alpha fans and let them help you. Heck, beg them to help you.
-Your next book is your best marketing tool. You cannot over saturate your market.
-Level Up Your Self Publishing Skills Panel
“Every thing should be designed to get the reader to the next step. The first sentence to the first paragraph, the first paragraph to the first page, the first page to the first chapter.”
“The problem with a shock opening is you either need to keep the book at that level the whole time or there will be a down dip. Intrigue is always a better choice than shock. Intrigue about a character or about the plot.”
“The hook has to be integral to the story but not give the story away.”
“Suspense is about what’s coming next, not about what’s going on now.”
“Do not require the reader to have read the story to understand the first line.”
-Catching Readers, Hook, Line, and Sinker Panel
“Writers will give you writer feedback. How they would have written it. Readers give you reader feedback, how they experienced reading your book.”
“Try to get better writers than you to beta your novel.”
“Careful with how much redrafting you do, you could be washing out the good stuff.”
How much editing to do? One author says “The story stays but the words change as I pump things up.” Another says “90% of my words stay but I am a slow perfectionist writer.”
-The Art of Writing it Again Panel
“Originally the book cover was designed to sell the book to the book store, who judged solely on the cover whether to buy something for their store(s). Now, cover appeal is all about how it looks in a tiny square on Amazon.”
“If you are using a traditional publishing house, chances are your book cover will get art from the slush pile assigned to it. Few houses ask an author’s opinion on cover art until they make a name. The bigger the house, the less say you get.”
“A soulless picture on the cover is not going to connect to readers no matter how beautiful it is.”
“Europeans don’t like people on their covers. Consider a different cover for your European market.”
“Above all be true to the story and deliver what the cover promises.”
-Book Cover Hero(ines) Panel