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Improbability is in the Details
Abra Staffin-Wiebe's Journal
4th Street 2013: Writers Seminar 
11th-Aug-2013 12:10 pm
These are some miscellaneous bits that I found interesting/useful from the writer's seminar portion of the 4th St Fantasy convention, and perhaps a few thoughts inspired by it.

Random word definition: sitzfleisch
1. A person's buttocks.
2. Power to endure or to persevere in an activity; staying power.
3. The ability to stay seated for long periods of time--very relevant when attending conventions!

If you hit a replot point, stop and consider what this new book is and how to go back to the beginning and make sure the reader is cued/promised appropriately.

Keep a china marker in the shower for taking notes when something occurs to you. Or a scuba-diver's note-taking materials.

Writing exercise: Turn the idea up to 11, do much more. Follow the improv model of "Yes, and?" and keep going until you've gone way too far.

Try writing in different environments (coffee shop, etc.) to shake things up a bit, the same goes for the materials and means used to write.

When dealing with writing block induced by depression, stress, changes, etc., transitional tools can be very good--try a writing journal, freewriting, writing meditation, writing anything for a certain amount of time etc. (morning pages).

The Writing Life
Beware allowing the descriptive ("this successful writer does X") to become prescriptive ("a successful writer must do X").

Choose your own definition of success intentionally. Don't default to successful = rich.

"Never make your ax your taxi." Try not to use the same creativity energy for your day job and your avocation.

Instead of (or in addition to) a summary outline, try doing a structural outline of story, character arc, proportion of set-up, climax, denouement, etc. Can be a very useful editing tool.

Look for resonances between the beginning and the end. Does the end change the beginning? Does the middle add separately to both the beginning and the end?

Take it apart, check the pieces, and see how each piece is supported, linked, etc.

If a thing doesn't work, that doesn't mean it's wrong--the hard part is to figure out how to make it work instead of replacing it. Unless you need to replace it, of course.

Cover letters should definitely not fill the entire page, because that is where all the editor's notes are made (if handwritten).

Try setting a goal of collecting a certain number of rejections by a certain date. Remember that just because you think it's terrible doesn't mean everyone else does. Think of collecting rejection slips as finding the range on shooting a cannon.

Random word etymology: royalty - an income the king received for loaning out the use of his land.


To sell a thing to somebody, you need to provide both information (who wrote it, where is it, what's it called) and impetus to go to the website and get the thing. "I wrote a thing" is probably not enough for most people.

Print advertising is not worth it for first-time authors, because it mostly serves the purpose of informing people who already know you that there is a new thing.

When you have a publisher who has requested a full, it's not a bad time to query an agent and mention that (getting an agent is simpler when you have a publisher on the hook--this is like that, but easier).

Two weeks is the critical sales window that determines whether bookstores will reorder your books, etc. Run giveaways, etc. in the month before release. If serializing/podcasting, start a month or two before release date, include info on pre-order/ordering, plan wrap up several months after release date.

Filtering blog/social media into "writing stuff only" may be a mistake, since it can take away that oh-so-powerful personal connection.

All posts from 4th Street 2013: http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/tag/4th%20street%20fantasy%202013
11th-Aug-2013 10:45 pm (UTC)
All very useful, saw a few new ideas on here, so thanks for sharing with those of us who couldn't make it.
12th-Aug-2013 01:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks, glad you liked.
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