This past weekend I attended JordanCon for the first time. Talk about an interesting experience. Right now I should come clean about something, I’m not a fan of the series. Believe me, I know, at that convention I probably would have been murdered if I had said something. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the talent behind the books, it’s that I couldn’t get into them. I’ve tried several times but just couldn’t do it.
It made for a very awkward opening ceremony, as my friend and I had no clue what all the jokes were about. Especially considering the fact that everyone there seemed to know one another.
Aside from that the rest of the weekend was an enjoyable experience. I’ll hit the highlights.
Flawed Worlds in Fantasy — Patrick Rothfuss and Deliah S. Dawson
After attending many writing panels over the years you begin to hear the same things over and over. However, some really funny stuff came out of this one. During the Q&A someone asked Patrick Rothfuss if he’d grown up with musically inclined parents because of the beginning of “The Name of the Wind.” Patrick’s response was very simple, “I make shit up for a living.” It pretty much set the room to laughing, though I did have to feel bad for the guy asking the question. Ultimately what Rothfuss was trying to get across is that not everything is from a writers personal experience. A lot of the times we just dream and consider what it would be like in those situations and make good guesses.
Kaffeeklatsch with Patrick Rothfuss
I was very excited that I made it in time to sign up for this. There were only ten slots and his filled up quickly, with me coming in at #8. This is my favorite thing with these writing cons, having the chance to sit in a more intimate situation with a writer you respect and getting to ask some more pointed questions. For this one I had a singular goal. Get him to sign my copy of the anthology I’m in — my first paid publication — that he wrote the foreward to. It was a huge honor to have that connection with him.
Whether or not he actually read my short is up in the air, but I’d like to keep that knowledge a secret. Ha!
30 Second Pitch — Brandon Sanderson, Harriet McDougal, Paul Stevens, and another gentlemen who’s name I don’t remember.
Apparently this is something they do every year. You bring your thirty second pitch and give it to the panel. They’ll tear it a part and give you some good feedback. When we got there, the panel mentioned a good pitch should be about a minute.
Wait a minute, I only have 30 seconds. I’ve been practicing 30 seconds.
Not being prepared to give anything longer, I went with what I had, fearing that if I kept going I’d start to ramble. The large consensus was that I didn’t have enough details, it was too generic. I felt it came across that way because of the time limit. I wanted to hit some general big points to grab interest. But I can see where I could drop in some good details.
My one suggestion for next year is that they speak briefly on what makes good pitch. Half of the time was taken up with explaining pitches, rather than taking them. I felt that if we had a chance to hear more pitches and critiques of them, we would have gotten a bit more out of it.
While my pitch was only, OK, what happened during the panel critique of it was much more important. I was able to let them know that I have an agent and it’s already being shopped around, and in fact, is currently at the slush pile at TOR where one of the panelists is an editor. From their comment, I gathered that another TOR agent is currently looking for YA with a male protagonist. Well look there, I have a male protagonist! After the panel was over I approached them to get that name and talk a bit more about the book. After a brief conversation I was able to make a good contact and get my book that much further into the system.
I know you’re wondering why I’m not using their name. Call me overly cautious, but I feel like they may appreciate a bit of anonymity.
Overall I felt the convention was a great one. Even if you’re not necessarily a fan of the book series, there is plenty of geekdom floating around. If you’re a SciFi/Fantasy writer, it’s another great place to meet with like minded people and talk shop. What more could a little writer ask for?
For my next blog I’m going to talk about writer’s responses on panels like above, and their (and hopefully one day our) responsibility to encourage new writers to take chances, rather than tearing them down.
Some of you are aware that last year I finished writing my first book. In addition to that I was very fortunate enough to find an agent willing to represent the book. Ultimately I’ve been hesitant to say much about the book or series in general. At most I’ve posted a few sketches of the main characters and made a few references to it here and there. If you look into my archive hard enough, you’ll actually find the flash fiction that kick started the entire idea.
All that said, I’d sent off the final draft to my agent who has been shopping it around to different publishers. This leaves us in the waiting game. Which, with the larger publishers, could mean months before we hear anything. And I’m fine with waiting. I really believe in this book and this series and I’m willing to see it done right.
So I’d been waiting, trying to determine what I should do next. General advice I’d read has been to never write the second book in the series until it’s been picked up. “It’s a waste of time if you can only sell the one. Write a different book for the time being.” Taking that advice I’d started looking into some of my other ideas. I’d even started on one during NaNoWriMo. What I learned is that I can’t write under that kind of pressure. I’d also learned that I hated the main character I was writing for that particular book — probably not a good thing, that.
That’s when my agent, Meredith Brown, swooped in and made a proposal.
Write the second book.
I’ll admit I was hesitant at first. Internet advice kept spinning through my noggin. But Meredith brought up her own good point, we want to be able to demonstrate how long it takes me to write a novel as well as show that I’m not just a one-hit wonder. She had a great saying, “You have all the time in the world to write the first one.”
Not wanting to let her down, I jumped on the outline. It blazed past. I was really amazed at how quickly I was able to put it together. Knowing the characters really helped, as well as having already figured out the entire series arc.
Then came time to start writing.
I’ve written the opening paragraph five times.
I’m still trying to write it.
It’s funny how all the things I’d learned with the first book are still giving me problems. Chiefly, that even though I’m having a hard time, I should just put something to paper and keep moving forward. I can always edit it later. But there is this clawing notion in the back of my head that I need to get this beginning right before I can continue. That it is going to set the tone for the entire book and if it’s off then everything after will be terrible.
You know what, I need to be fine with terrible. I need to be fine with everything being a mess. Because — as I’ve said to others before — you can fix a mess, you can’t fix nothing.
Get to writing you slackers!
And my slackers, I mean me.