Thursday, February 17, 2011

The (Short) Adventure at Life, the Universe, and Everything

Last night I discovered at the meeting with Stacy Whitman that my school was holding a type of writers convention targeted toward fantasy and science fiction writers called Life, the Universe, and Everything. And I found out it was happening today, tomorrow, and Saturday. Naturally, I wanted to go. So I registered late last night.

Sad thing, though, is that I work from 6-11am and have class from 1:35-6:30 on Thursdays, so today I could only go for one hour. I got off work a bit past 11, rushed home, showered, then realized I hadn't printed my registration, and since I don't have a printer and my roommates weren't home for me to use one of theirs, I had to rush down to the central building for the dorms to print it out, then speed-walk it to the one session I was able to go to, which was Killer Openings: the first paragraph will make or break your story with Stacy Whitman, Lisa Mangum, Dene Low, Jessica Day George.

To top it off, when I got there, I realized I'd forgotten my notebook, so I had to take notes on my phone. Hopefully no one thought I was just texting. Being on the younger side of the audience, we do have a stereotype for doing such things.

Some of the notes that I took on writing that beginning few pages include:
  • Show your voice.
  • Get the reader to care about something, usually a character or a problem.
  • Avoid telling too much backstory in the first chapter.
  • Avoid a prologue unless someone in the prologue is alive. Make a prologue for a good reason, not just to be, as Ms. George said, "fancy." Also, make sure it's not just a first chapter with a prologue as the title.
  • Know your audience to grab them in, and don't be too different (like writing a YA with so much gruesome torture your beta readers think it's a horror).
  • It's ok to start with a dialogue, or even an "ordinary" day of the character, as long as it's interesting. It creates stability and an introduction to the character's life.
  • Avoid the narrator being condescending to the reader.
  • Write for you reader, not an editor. The editor is the reader anyway.
  • Only start with what is relevant, there is no need to go into tons of detail that serve no purpose.
  • Try to write as if the reader is already in the world--basically, cut down on the explaining of what clothes or houses or transportation, etc. look like. 
I'm looking forward to tomorrow and Saturday! I only have one class tomorrow and no work, so I'll be there most of the day. And Saturday is completely mine. This is probably the most exciting thing writing-wise I've done.

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