I have attended three panels so far. Last night I went to one comparing Big Press, Small/Independent Press and Self Publishing. I think that the most interesting element of that panel was getting a feeling for just how fast the publishing world is changing.
The first panel this morning was on writing a synopsis for a novel. I liked Irene Radford's advice the best. She gave a good concise description of writing a synopsis:
- Start with your main character and their goal - usually including the emotional "want."
- Introduce the opposition/conflict (villain).
- Indicate what emotional growth the POV character needs to overcome the opposition.
- Give the 3 turning points - opening hook, "damned if I do, damned if I don't" moment and the murder and mayhem of the climax.
Last, I went to the First Pages workshop where we had (anonymously) submitted the first 250 Words of a story for the panel to comment on. I got some good feedback on the opening of the "Amulet of Aranos" - the most important being that I need to use adjectives more sparingly.
Tonight, I go to my Round-Robin session, by the Fairwood Writers, where "The Silvered Swords" will be discussed...
The Round-Robin session went well. I now have a pile of manuscripts full of comments to read. Perhaps the most discouraging part was that the most common comment was that I still write in the passive voice too much. I wish I could find an exercise workbook or something that would help me really understand what the passive voice is, and how to avoid it.
It's like when I had an aha! learning fractions (they're really just division). There is something about writing in the passive voice that I just haven't had the aha! about yet. It's so easy for others to spot, and yet, so far, I just can't seem to do so... Maybe I think in the passive voice.
Anyhow, the rest of the comments were encouraging - except that not very many folks seem to be reading or writing Sword and Sorcery, even though I have heard "we get a lot of Sword and Sorcery" in various places. Really? Sign me up, because all I'm seeing is urban fantasy and steam-punk fantasy. Maybe we only really notice what we are less interested in and after devouring what we are interested in, are always on the hunt for more.
I went to several good panels yesterday. The first was on the Writer/Editor Relationship, which was probably the least informative, but still interesting. Perhaps the most useful part was the little list they created at the end of the discussion of the most common mistakes:
- Get your commas right.
- Don't write a cliché - write a unique character with unique problems.
- Get the editor's name right or use Dear Editor or Editors (and not Dear Sir).
The second panel was on disasters that might occur during a book launch/marketing process. I think the best advice was to actively peruse communication with all parties involved, double-check things (politely), and follow up if you haven't received an answer.
The final panel I went to was the best - it was very well moderated and had useful information on selling short stories. I already use Duotrope, but was pointed towards another website, Ralan, as another resource.
Just now, I am on my way to another panel on Online Markets...
I think the two most useful pieces of information from the Online Markets panel were to research markets and editors in print anthologies, and strategies of evaluating online markets that you are unfamiliar with. It was also interesting and encouraging to hear stories from professionals about successes, failures and their masses of rejections.
I am going to go to a panel on critiquing at 1pm, but then I think I'll head home and get some rest. I think one of the things that is hardest about the Con is the insistent back ground noise... Or if you're in a pretty quiet panel room, it's usually pretty stuffy.
The critiquing panel was pretty good. A particularly useful topic of discussion was learning your own critique cycle - i.e. how long it takes you to take in a critique and be able to use it. First off it is good to allow yourself the time you need, but it is also important to learn to condense it so you can use the information faster - even brainstorm with the critique group for new ideas and solutions to problems.
I am still at a stage where the panels at Norwescon are quite useful from a technical and professional point of view. However, I can see that after a few more cons and a bit more experience, I will have advanced beyond many of these panels. I hope that I will then be able to network with other writers and enjoy some of the panels that are more fun or general interest. After that, I hope I will be at the point where I will be able to be on panels and participate from the other side.