Monday, March 19, 2012

I Need Your Charity

This weekend, a group of us Inkers (and our friend, Comrade Uhrey) attended the Writing for Charity Conference. The conference itself was reasonably priced, only one day, and included a barrel full of talented authors. I would highly recommend it.

There are a few pieces of wisdom I came away with that I wanted to share.

Clint Johnson, in speaking about writing and editing said, "The only thing you can't improve is nothing." And also, "Invest in yourself as a writer, not just in the book you're writing."

I also went to a class presented by Jeff Savage, who if I had forgotten is the coolest author on the planet, I was reminded. He talked about query letters, and his amazing four point structure to describe your book:
1- protagonist and why we should like him/her. 2- What is the protagonist's goal? 3- What obstacles will the protagonist face? 4- What are the stakes or success and failure?

For anyone who has written or will write a query letter, this advice is priceless!

Brandon Sanderson gave a class on plot, talking about when you make promises, dole out the information appropriately and have a sufficient ending that keeps the promises.

All in all, it was great. For the cost (even lunch was provided), a one on one critique with a published author, and the classes, this is the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to writers conferences. I just wish they'd change their logo because it looks like a girl reading on the toilet.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


True Story:  I LOVED Xanadu as a little girl.  I wanted to grow up and be Olivia Newton John.  I listened to the Xanadu record all the way up until 1992 (that is the fateful year we moved to Seattle and somehow in that move I lost all of the good records.  Simon & Garfunkel, The Beattles, Elvis, The Judds, Annie, and Xanadu).

Monday night my sweet hubby took me to see the musical Xanadu.  I was so excited until I realized that its a spoof.  Then I read the program.  It made me question my taste:
"Fans of the 1980 movie Xanadu, (all ten of you) and haters (many, many of you) . . ."

I was feeling rather embarrassed.  (Now truth be told, its been at least 10 years since I've seen it and I think I was a little disheartened when I did see it.)  I wish I had known going into it that it was a spoof.  I would have enjoyed it from the beginning.

Now, that was a really long intro to get to the meat of what I want to say to you.  Again I quote the handbill:

When ...Xanadu...opened to disastrous reviews and low box office performance, it sent shock waves through Hollywood.  How could Hollywood's hottest star, a magical roller derby, Greek muses, pop music, Zeus, and disco skating go wrong?

As a writer's group we've discussed this very problem: Cramming too many cool things into one plot.  Sometimes the idea factory gets going and we have all these AMAZING ideas.  But then our plot starts to look like a Xanadu disaster with roller skates and shockingly short shorts. (Quick side note: we saw this in a small theatre and had front row seats, which meant that I leaned back when the dancers kicked.  I was at eye level with Sonny Malone's thighs much of the night.  Way too much hairy skin for my taste.)

So, avoid being a Hollywood disaster and write down those cool ideas and use just a few for each plot.  This way you'll never run out of story ideas.

Happy Writing.

PS I am listening to the original Olivia/ELO soundtrack as I type this.  Sometimes music transcends crappy story-telling.