2016 Ad Astra – Day Two (Morning)


Day two got off to a weird start. I had a fantastic shower. Indeed, I loved every minute of it. When it was finished, I peeled back the curtain to see water all over the bathroom floor. For some reason, my brain decided not to put the shower curtain into the tub before showering. My jeans (a.k.a. my only pair of pants) were on the bathroom floor! I frantically waved the hair dryer at them. It was hopeless. Due to time constraints on breakfast, I went down to eat half dressed nicely and half dressed in pajamas. On my way, I asked the guy at the desk in my hotel about the connected mall. He said it didn’t open until noon. Disaster! After food, I talked to the guy at the other hotel’s desk, explained my predicament, and he presented me with a little box of bounce and gave very loose instructions on where to find the laundry room. I roamed the basement halls with my little box of fabric softener and my too wet jeans. I debated entering the Associate’s Only room but was sure I would be reprimanded and continued to wander in the bowels of the hotel. A staff member nearly ran into me and looked at me with incredulity when I explained my mission. He led me to a tiny unmarked room with two little machines and a chair. As I placed my jeans into the dryer, I felt relief wash over me, but it was not without challenge. For in that tiny room, there was little air exchange and the dryer was very hot. I had to prop open the door with my foot in order to remain conscious. At last, in triumph, I ran up the steps to my room to change and hurriedly pack the day’s necessities. I was a touch late arriving at the first panel, but given the morning’s hijinks, I felt OK about it.

In the “How to Outline and Plan Your Story” panel, we talked about pantsing being a good method for short stories and flash fiction, but longer works should have some sort of outline even if it doesn’t go further than 4-5 scenes.

  1. Know everything possible about the protagonist and antagonist.
  2. Knowing the premise of the story, which will bring about the inciting incident and hint at the ending. The premise should tell you if you’re writing a short or long work of fiction.
  3. Long pieces should be broken into the 3 Act Structure with minor climaxes before the major climax where the hero confronts the antagonist and the story resolves. Then overlay the hero’s journey on top of that.
    1. Make character sheets with common words/phrases they say, appearance/clothing, back story, favourite things, etc
    2. Setting outline to immediately immerse the reader in the world like Mad Max

Recommended resources were:

  • Blake Snyder’s – Save the Cat (beat sheet)
  • Donald Maass – Writing the Breakout Novel (workbook)
  • David Farland – The Kick in the Pants (editing passes)

Next, I attended a “Troubleshooting your Manuscript” workshop. As it was something I paid extra for, I’m only going to give some basic details. We talked about the opening scene being made of change, movement, conflict, suspense/unanswered questions, human activity/presence, setting, and narrative POV/camera view. Within that we talked about ways to go about it (sledgehammer vs introducing subtle details). We talked about how improper pacing and trivial dialogue lead to problems in the middle of the book. We talked about problems with character and dialogue tags. A good character example was Scarlet O’Hara because even though she is an awful person, many love her.

In the “Finding a Literary Agent” panel, I learned tips like trying a small handful and using Twitter to find out what kind of stories they are looking for. Query only one agent per agency as they often work together. Never write a query letter from the character’s POV. Get references if they do offer to work for you. Money only flows toward the author. Resources recommended were:

  • Query Checker forum
  • Query Shark archives
  • Writer’s Digest posts (examples of successful query letters)
  • #MSWL on Twitter

Next, I attended the inaugural panel “Welcome to Hellmaw”. I took no notes save what specifically spoke to my own writing. Want to know more? Check out the Ed Greenwood Group’s page.

The morning was capped off with another workshop, “DIY Publicity: Who to Contact and What to Say” where we learned about analytics and targeted queries for reviews. Recommended resources:

  • Alexa.com

Well, that was the morning. Stay tuned for the rest of Day Two later this week.

Ciao,
R~

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