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Back from the SCWG conference, back to the world of the living

Posted by nightphoenix on February 1, 2010 in News, Output |

It was a long weekend. It was also an excellent, inspiring weekend. I imagine it will take a number of weeks before I even get through all the notes I took there, although I already have plans to implement some of what I learned into Shades right away. (Note to self- I must find some index cards.)

I did get the program done in time, by the way, and it turned out quite nice. Being me, I noticed one or two little mistakes I made…transparency inconsistencies, spacing a little off in places…but I doubt anyone else would see them. Of course, by the end of Friday, I was asking myself why we bother to place people in rooms beforehand at all, as the schedule of the day never actually matched what was in the program. Ah, well. I think everyone managed to get where they needed to go.

Part of me actually does not want to rehash the whole conference blow by blow, because I’d feel the urge to make a clever, witty narrative of the event and I’m too tired to do that. I met some great people this time around (not that I didn’t last year), and was actually able to have some lengthy chats with them. Denise Little and Debra Dixon were especially great…just all around fun gals to hang around with. I had my editor appointment with Denise, and she gave me some names of people to target and good advice. Katherine Sands was there again (I remembered her from last year); another great gal. I also got to see Susan Hubbard for a few minutes (she writes some of the best vampire books I’ve ever read), and I talked bad literature and bad movies with a gal my own age for about an hour on Friday night.

One of the things that I’ve taken away from this weekend is the urge to really start making use of this blog. You may notice that I’ve added a blogroll and a whole bunch of links. I tried to stick to writing and fantasy related sites, but one or two political ones may have crept in there. (By the way, if you read this and you have a blog, shoot me an email and I’ll go check it out.) One of the perks of reading and writing mostly YA is that most of the current authors are hip with the times and keep blogs, or at least have an online presence of some sort.

I want to start posting something in here every day. I’m also quite sure I’ve said that at least four or five times before, on various online blogs I’ve kept, and it just never happens. The problem is, I don’t necessarily have something to say every single day, and I’m the type of person where if I don’t feel I have something useful to contribute to a conversation, I keep my mouth shut. Given that tendency, what I may do is give myself a topic for every day of the week. That way, if I can’t think of anything else, I can at least post a song, or movie quote, or something. No issues, though! I do not want this to turn into a political blog. There are enough of those out there already, and I really don’t like talking about hot topics. I also have a hard time making myself stop once I do start thinking about them, which distracts me from things I’d rather be thinking about, like my stories.

So, look for that.

What else. The Goal, Motivation, Conflict workshop that Debra Dixon gave has really inspired me to go back through Shades and make sure every scene is pulling its weight. The most encouraging thing I took away from that talk was that I do GMC with all my characters pretty instinctively. I’m a character-driven writer. When I start to write a story, or when I go to turn a conceit or dream into a viable story, I usually start with one, maybe two characters. I ask myself what they want within the context of the conceit, and give them a bare bones reason why they want it. Then I make up another character who wants something that puts him or her in direct conflict with the first characters. Then I mentally plop those characters into the conceit and happily watch them create problems for themselves. Backstory arises from plot and motivation problems that come up (as in, I need this character to do something, therefore I must give them a damn good reason to do it). If I make the characters vivid enough, the plot writes itself. For instance, three or four years ago I had this vague milieu for a story and one really, really strong character, and decided to sit myself down and construct a basic plot. Two hours later the first initial outline of Shades was done. Two days later I had four chapters written. (Can you guess who that character was? *shakes a fist at a certain copper-haired Cowl*)

Instincts being what they may, I can already see how going though this process consciously will help me on initial plotting, and on rewrites. And I now have a much better grasp on Mask of Eldarmarch (that was the story I chose to work on during the workshop itself). It was interesting trying to work out goals and motivation for a character that I have to essentially treat as two different people in the story itself. But the split between Dustin and the Piper is the emotional crux of the story; they really do have different goals at the beginning, and are very different men. Only towards the end do those goals start to align…and once they merge, the mask becomes the symbol of that united purpose (instead of the symbol of living a lie). I’m not sure I would have ever been able to pin that down in such plain terms, had I not done that workshop.

Today, I’m going to get some writing done on Shades. Haven’t been able to do that for most of January. I’m also wallowing through a slow spot, which doesn’t help. My goal (!) is to have the first book of Shades finished by the end of March. It took me about two months to get halfway, so I’m figuring another two to complete it. At worst, mid or late April. I may need that extra month to polish. My bigger goal is to have the whole trilogy finished by the end of the year. As I’m hoping the later chapters won’t need as much work as the earlier chapters did, I think that goal is doable. But as always, we’ll see.

So, to sum up: Links! Blog goals. Writing goals. Here’s to productiveness.

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