Saturday, May 31, 2008

Great Local Con

I heard about The Fourth Street Fantasy Convention while swapping oh-my-gods about Shadow Unit with another fan. It's the return of what looks like a fantastic, small con with amazing pros attending. It's the child of Steven Brust, Elizabeth Bear is the Guest of Honor, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Eleanor Arnason, Sarah Monette and Ellen Klages will also attend.
"Fourth Street is a small convention for people who are serious about good fantasy and good books– serious about reading them, serious about writing them, serious about appreciating them in all their various forms. It’s also for people who are serious about having a good time. It’s a weekend of high-quality, high-intensity, mind-stretching fun, focused on books– there’s a single track of programming that is at the heart of it all. When everyone sees the same panels, it leads to fascinating conversations in the consuite, hotel bar, and corridors."

WisCon Debriefing

I think I've finally come down off the post WisCon high enough to talk about it.  :)  For me, this was most certainly the best WisCon I've been to yet, although I did it very differently than the prior two.

The first year was all about panels.  Get to as many panels as possible.  If a panel is good, feel lovely and wonderful, and get a little ego boost from picking so well.  If a panel is bad, sit and try to get something out of it anyway, and feel a little silly for not having chosen very well.  Meet friends for meals and discuss all this very, very seriously.  Oh, and make sure all those friends are people you know from home - don't branch out too much . . . 

The second year was about finding a comfort zone.  Go to a lot of panels.  Feel free to leave if it's not so great, or if you suddenly realize that three hours of sleep was not enough.  Learn to be "open to the universe," that is, be willing to smile and say hello to people in the hallways.  Strike up conversations with total strangers.  Realize that you can get any writer to talk for at least 20 minutes if you just ask "so what are you working on?"  Realize you are one of those writers.  Forgive yourself.

The third year was all about people.  I went to some panels, but not as many as prior years.  I met a lot of people, and wasn't nearly as shy.  I felt comfortable, and even more than that, I felt at home.  

What was really cool about this year was that the comfortable-ness let my brain do other things: make new friends, think about my own writing, come up with new ideas for stories and for my own process.  It's like my brain woke up, and it has yet to shut down.

I'd gone through a bit of a dry spell over the last few months.  I was writing, but it felt a bit stale, and I wasn't generating ideas or coming up with cool turns of phrase in the car like I had in the past.  This past week has been different.  I've had to pull out a notebook on my drive to work every morning (don't worry - I only write at stoplights, or in parking lots if the idea is really good).  The protagonist in my WIP is speaking to me again.  I've got short story ideas falling out of my ears, and all kinds of things I want to research.  It's exciting!

I think one of the biggest things I was reminded of at WisCon was that I'm part of something that is so much bigger than just me at my desk.  There are people out there who want to hear my stories, and I can't wait for theirs.  Hey, I even found out there are real people reading this blog!!  (Yay!!)

We always say that writing is a solitary process, but I was reminded of how untrue that really is.  For every writer there are readers, and other writers, and fans, and publishers, and editors, and we're all here because we love this stuff.  The stories are what keep us going and bind us together, and that is very, very cool.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What I did over my WisCon vacation

So, another WisCon has come and gone, and after a weekend of feminist science fiction and fantasy I'm ready to jump back into my writing projects with both feet. But first I'd love to hear about your WisCon experiences. What was your favorite pannel? What did you learn that the rest of us should know? Who said something that really made you think?

Hope a little bit of WisCon leaks into your "real" world!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

From the Slushmaster

I wish I could remember how I found this great post by the Slushmaster of Realms of Fantasty. I'm sure a shout-out is due to someone, so thanks!

In this post, the Slushmaster goes over the opening of the 14 stories he picked up from the slush pile. What I found most helpful was the fact that what caught him for each story was different. In fact each story was entirely original. He wasn't just looking for one kind of story and the only thing that they had in common was quality. They were good enough to be published in RoF.

So, yeah, I'm looking at a new place to start my WIP...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Take your writing seriously and yourself not seriously at all and you'll be fine."
--Linda Zinnen
author of the middlegrade fantasy
"The Dragons of Spratt, Ohio"

"Hey, it's making stuff up for money! Have fun with it and all will be well."
--John Lescroart
author of "The Suspect"

It's all good, right? :) Happy writing!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Plot Made Simple

As a person who is sometimes plot impaired, I've often tried to grok the essence of plot. Yesterday my fourteen-year-old niece Sage was over to the house. She was telling me all about her latest favorite YA novel. She spent a long time explaining the set up, introducing me to the protaganist, describing her family, etc. Then she said, "Then a lot of bad, weird things go down and they have to figure it out." I had to laugh. She had just summerized three fourths of the book in one sentence-- and pretty much summed up plot in general, don't you think?
Hope your writing is going well!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Two Brains

"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter."  ~James Michener

I'm fully into rewrites these days, as are many of the Pixies.  I've discovered that I have two types of brain: Creative Brain and Rewrite Brain.  Creative Brain is a thrill seeker, devil-may-care type.  She likes to try anything, writing with big flourishes in multicolored ink.  "Oh, just throw it in there, we'll work it out later."  She's a big fan of "what if" and "how about" and "ooo look!"  She's got an energy about her - breezy and vigorous, obsessive and joyful and crazy.  

Rewrite Brain, on the other hand, is a more methodical soul.  She looks at things through a pair of half-moon reader glasses, a carefully chosen black pen in her hand.  She is a big fan of "oh really, are you sure about that?"  and "how does this character really feel about that?" and even sometimes "what the hell were you thinking?"  

I had thought that it was most important not to let these two ladies spend too much time together.  After all, they are at odds with each other - for every two building blocks of story Creative Brain builds, Rewrite Brain pulls down three.  Or so it seemed.  

Lately, though, I've been letting them play together.  Cautiously of course, but it seems to be OK.  Better than OK, really.  You see my first draft was a house of blocks built entirely by Creative Brain.  It was an OK house, but structurally shaky, and there were holes in the roof.  I tried to keep Creative Brain out of the process when I began to revise, allowing Rewrite Brain to push the blocks around and make what she could.  Problem was, when Rewrite Brain began to ask her questions, Creative Brain pushed her way back into the project, not just to answer the question but to suggest complete project overhauls.  

I balked at this at first - no way was I going to take all the detours suggested by Creative Brain.  I had my house, it just needed some tweaking.  Rewrite Brain was there for that.  But some of the suggestions were good, better than the original.  I began to see the finished product in my mind, and it was very, very pretty.  

So I've let them work together, my two brains.  We've had to rip a lot down and we've had to even redo some of the blueprints, but it's coming along.  And I must say, it's going to be beautiful . . .