Archive for July 23rd, 2010

Friday, July 23rd, 2010 by Rosemary
Conference Survival

Sunday I head for Orlando for the RWA National convention. My first was in Reno, and I didn’t know anyone. I’d only been going to my local chapter for three months, and the size of this convention was staggering, to say the least.

I dutifully went to the orientation on Wednesday night… and by Thursday afternoon, I’d peeled the orange “first timer” ribbon off my badge. Orientation had given me some very useful information (some of which is on the list below), but they didn’t really cover “How not to sound like a clueless noob.”

But then,  there are some people who have gone to a lot of writing conventions, RWA and elsewhere, who could use classes in “How Not to Be That Guy (or Girl) at a Conference.”

So here are some conference survival tips: Both practical tips to make it through, and tips on how not to make your fellow attendees want to kill you.

1) Wear comfortable shoes (but maybe not too comfortable). You want to be able to walk, not look like you just came in from the beach.

2) Just because you have your elevator pitch down cold doesn’t mean you are obligated to blurt it at any industry professional who happens to get into an elevator with you.  Just the opposite. They might be in a  hurry to get back to their room to pee. That never puts ME in a receptive mood.

2A) Ditto times one hundred for the bathroom. I always thought the “pitch your book through the door of the stall” was a conference myth, but it’s been confirmed more than once. People really do pick the MOST inappropriate times to talk about their work.

3) When you go to a workshop given by an agent or editor, this *also* is not an excuse to pitch your book. Not even covertly.  “Would you be interested in a Western historical about time traveling werewolf who becomes the sherif of a one horse town and falls in love with the virgin card dealer at the local saloon?” is not what workshop presenters mean by “Any questions?”

3b) Likewise, “Any questions?” shouldn’t be used to ask an industry professional things easily researched on the internet, like “Do you represent extraterrestrial manage a tois stories?” or “How big should the margins of my manuscript be if I’m submitting electronically?”  (I’m not making up that second question.)

4) Don’t forget to take a breather now and then. It will get overwhelming. By Friday, I always have to take a few hours off, either in the quiet of my hotel room, or out of the hotel.

5) Be friendly, but professional, especially in appointments. Relax–your career does not hinge on the success of your pitch. Be a person an editor or agent would like to work with, and they’ll want to look at your work.

6) Be temperate. A social setting is a great place to let your colleagues meet the real you, as long as the real you isn’t a loudmouthed bigot or a sloppy drunk. Don’t be that person. Watch the booze.

7) Don’t always sit with your friends at conference luncheons. Take a chance, sit with strangers, and you might luck into a really interesting table.  (I know, I have trouble with this one. I’m more shy than I appear.)

8) Leave off the cologne. You will be in very close quarters in the workshops and at lunch. Many many people have allergies.

9) Go to the workshops! They’ve got great ones, given by all kinds of cool writers. Don’t just go to network, go to learn. You may think you know it all, but chances are, you’re wrong.

9a) It’s copacetic to slip out if you have an appointment. Speakers understand the conference is packed, and they’d rather have you tehre for a little while than not at all.

9b) It’s also okay to slip out if the workshop isn’t what you’d thought it would be. There’s too much going on to waste an hour on something that turns out not to be pertinent to your interests.

And speaking of talking…

10) Never ever bad mouth an editor, agent, or author, published or unpublished. Not in the bar, in the hall, in the bathroom, even when you THINK you’re alone. Publishing professionals all know each other, and they all talk to each other.

These apply wherever your writer journey may take you, not just to RWA. Some conferences are more relaxed than others, but when in doubt, you’ll never go wrong by being professional.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010 by Sasha White
Quite the Character

*** this is a repost from Candace’s post, to correct an error in the comments***

People keep asking me where I get my ideas for books. The truth is, I have no idea. One day I’m driving along, taking a shower, pulling my luggage of a carousel at an airport or sitting at my desk, and then boom some person is talking in my head and having a conversation. And it’s not me, or my subconscious, I know us both well. No, these are strangers who want to tell me a story.

Don’t send in the guys with the white coats just yet.

I’ve learned through the years that this is my creative process – part of the magic that helps me when I have no idea what to write next. My books begin with the characters and then I wrap the story around them. I don’t usually know much about them in the beginning, but I love discovering what they are about as we go along.

I learn these things on a need to know basis. As the story reveals itself, so do these characters and many times in the most interesting ways. I was so surprised when I learned the heroine, Gillian, of “The Demon King and I” was the CEO of her family’s company, as well as the owner of several art galleries around the world. She found such pleasure in art and it was something she was incredibly passionate about. It carried over into other parts of her life whether she was dealing with demons, or trying to solve a murder mystery. Art is a big part of who she is.

The art parts (that’s so much fun to say) are small tidbits throughout the book, but they help define who Gillian is. They show a softer more vulnerable side of her. I was also surprised to see how she interacts with her sisters. I never had siblings growing up and she had this bond with the women in her family that absolutely fascinated me. The little nuances, pet names, rivalries, Gillian shared these things as her story revealed itself.

The funny thing is, not every conversation these characters have in my head ends up in the book. I’ll be driving along listening to my favorite tunes, and Arath (that’s Gillian’s love interesting in the book, and he’s the Demon King) starts talking to Gillian about his brother and those familial ties. For the two hours I was stuck in traffic they had this discussion about family. None of that ended up in the book, but Arath revealed something to me that did. I can’t tell you because it’s a major plot point in the book. I had no idea he felt that way, and it made him more human to me.

There are people who sit down and must know everything about their characters before they begin writing. They even make note cards. I’ve nothing against other peoples’ process, but that would drive me crazy.  I usually know their names, but even that can change. But there is one thing in the beginning that I know, and it might help others to do the same. I know why I want to take this journey with this character. There’s a reason I’m climbing on board the Gillian train, so to speak, and she usually tells me right up front what that is.

When I finish that first draft I really do feel like I’ve been on an amazing journey. As I go back do my fluff and puff (revisions) I learn even more about the characters I’ve written and they continue to have conversations in my head. Sometimes I wish they’d go to sleep, and leave me alone. But then that’s part of the magic, and I really can’t wait to see what they do next.