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Showing content with the highest reputation on 06/10/2019 in all areas

  1. 3 points
    Being Weird on Purpose - Writing Speculative Fiction, as presented by Candas Jane Dorsey. This was my favourite panel of the conference. She talked about speculative fiction - What it is, and some tips on how to do it well. Her talk was quite dense and I know I missed writing down a lot, but here are the key points. All fiction is speculative. Even if it takes place in this reality, it is never 100% accurate. Towns are made up, dialogue is constructed. Inner thoughts and feelings or real people are speculated on. Humans love allegories. We generalize from experience until we see meaning in patterns. Speculative fiction offers patterns. Allegories can bypass human defenses and biases Realistic fiction is actually quite new, and was not the default historically. The term 'speculative fiction' first was used to be more inclusive of other languages and cultures that use a variety of terms to describe the same sort of thing There are many lists of things not to do, but all the 'don't do this' rules can be broken by a clever writer - you can break the rule if you do it WELL Spec fic vs literary - In speculative fiction the journeys the characters understand (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc) are often longer, and they tend to have outcomes. A literary story may cut short or not be fully resolved. A quote from someone I missed - "Fantasy is a self-coherent narrative', meaning that it doesn't subvert the elements of a story, it moves in a predictable way (of course there are examples of more experimental stories, but generally speaking). 'Delaney's Levels of Subjunctivity' Subjunctivity - The relationship between something proposed or portrayed (especially in science fiction) and reality; degree of realism or probability. She talks about Delaney's three levels of Subjunctivity as a way of figuring out if something is speculative fiction or not. 1. Reportage level - This writing described things that did happen, factual events. This covers things like memoirs, newspapers, news reports (barring fake news of course) 2. Realistic Fiction - Things that 'could have happened'. The didn't, but they don't violate the rules of our reality. So this is things like from modern mainstream literary fiction to romance, high literature, pulp fiction, coming of age stories adventures. They may have made up towns or people, but the rules of the world and the setting are largely the same as our own. 3. 'Could NOT have happened' level - Elves do not exist, dragons do not fly. No matter how realistic the setting (urban fantasy for example), it is impossible for this story to have happened. As soon as a fantastic element is included, it infects the story with this level of subjunctivity. Think LOTR, Harry Potter, ghost stories, paranormal romance, magical realism, surrealism, horror, fantasy, etc. Sci fi fits into a strange place with several levels of subjunctivity. It sits at 'could not have happened' based on reality right now, but extrapolating trends could push it into 'has not happened', or even 'has not happened YET'. Spec fic, and especially fantasy, has internal rules. You have to change the rules of your world so the cool thing you want to happen falls into the 'could have happened' level. If it falls into the 'could not have happened' then your world is either poorly explained, or you have a plot hole. Our worldbuilding when we first start out, often is like fanfiction of our own world, its incomplete, not fully realized. You get the DnD style of characterization, Bob has 12 strength points. But WHY is Bob strong, what made him that way? Your worldbuilding too will have consequences, your characters shouldn't trip over cool ideas and mess up the plot. She talks a lot about the work of Samuel Delaney, who has several books and essays that Dorsey uses to teach this subject. With spec fic you can say things that are metaphorical in the real world, but are interpreted literally in fiction. Consider "She gave her heart up willingly" The background is equally as important as the foreground with spec fic - ie, the worldbuilding that is needed to explain how this world works. "The door dilated" is the sentence she gave as an example. That one word, dilated, tells us so much about the setting. Doors are different here, perhaps designed to accommodate a different shaped being. Humans don't need round doors after all. What can we infer about the world from that one word? "The red sun was high" - This tells us that maybe there is dust in the air, or a sunset. But that's not the whole sentence. Heinlein wrote, "The rest sun was high, the blue low." - This tells us a lot more, there's two suns, so its not earth. This world might have different gravity, plants, ways of life. Even the shadows would be different. So much worldbuilding with just a couple words. It is unnecessary then to explain that 'Bob lives in a binary star system' Your own language is such an important tool in spec fic, you can use it in a very short way to create a whole world. Another example "The city floated over the plain this week." - The addition of 'this week' tells us that not only does the city float, but it is mobile and doesn't stay in one place. Spec fic readers love the detective work of piecing together the details. This is another reason why info dumps are bad. It removes the mystery and feels so clunky. Exercises: 1. In your WIP, find a lump of exposition/info dumping, and see if you can find one adjective, one verb, and one noun (at least one of each) to tell this information in a descriptive sentence instead. Are there are ways to use the senses to make it all snap into place? 2. For the people of the world of fairy, or Mordor, the things we see in the books are normal. They don't require extra information and backstory. For them, magic (as an example) is normal. From your WIP, find a secondary or background character and write a short scene in which they go about their day. All the extraordinary things of your setting are normal for them. Show them being comfortable in your world. 3. Interview your characters, ask them 'Where is the voice coming from" - Why do they say what they say, do what they do, what shaped them? They shouldn't be there to dress the set, no Red Shirts or Spear Carriers. 4. Interview your 'really cool idea' too (your worldbuilding premise, the 'what if' question you are asking). To make this idea work, what needs to be different from our world to this one? Pin down what research you need to do. What are the long term effects of the idea? What plot elements have to happen to cause the idea, and what are the consequences of those plot elements. 5. Put two characters in a fairly commonplace setting, and put them through the 3 levels of subjunctivity in short scenes, or even a few sentences. What happens, what needs to change? How do the characters change in response to changes in the setting? Example - "A kid is sitting under a tree reading a book." Example - Meeting to talk about writing here and now in this room is very different compared to meeting to talk in Cambodia in 1076 when the Khmer Rouge were executing all artists and thinkers. Changing the setting changes the danger the characters are in, the tension, the choices they've made to even BE in that place.
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    This post will be a lot shorter than the one on social media. This presentation was by Carolyn Forde of Transatlantic Agency. She is an agent, she started by talking about what an agent does, then went into a question and answer period. Here's some of what she said. An agent is your liaison between yourself and the publishers. They pitch your book to publishers, negotiate the control, and follow up through the whole editing and publishing process. The reason you want an agent is because they have the knowledge, experience, and most importantly, the networking and contacts to get you the best deal possible for your book. Self publishing is a perfectly valid option. Yes, you get the full share of the profits, but also have to do all the work yourself, editing, marketing, dealing with amazon, creating a cover. Agents in Canada typically make 15% commission. Agents in the US usually make 20%, as they are often working with co-agents, and they each get 10% Have your manuscript as polished as can be before sending it to the editor. If this means paying for a freelance editor, so be it (Note, I've seen a lot of advice saying otherwise, as publishing houses HAVE editors, so take this with a grain of salt). When querying, have a thorough understanding of what your book is about, as in, what category does it fit in, what are the industry terms and buzz words that would describe it? Being accurate in describing your book in your query letters is vital. Networking is important, well as building an online presence. Agents and publishers absolutely google you and look at your online presence. I asked what is considered a large audience and she said numbers vary by agents preference, but generally 10k followers is seen as a small but buildable base. You need to be getting 6 figure followers or more before you are considered as having a built in audience already Query letter - you should explain why you are reaching out to that agent, why you think they are a fit for you. This means you had to have researched them first. Don't just blindly submit to everyone To learn more about agents check places like Quill and Choir (might be Canadian only?) and Publisher's Marketplace (paid, $25USD per month). The Marketplace has lists of which agents are taking on clients, and how many deals they've brokered lately. This allows you to make educated guesses about who is active and able to close deals. Querying simultaneously is not only allowed, but expected. It often takes months to hear back, and it isn't feasible to wait 4 months for a no before trying the next person on your list. Just make sure you let the agent know you are querying simultaneously Getting referrals from other authors is a great way to meet agents. Of course this necessitates being friends with published authors. Wait 3-4 months before following up with an agent to see if they have read your query yet. (This number varies a lot online from what I've heard but most sites agree that 2 months is too soon). Do NOT be aggressive and email them constantly, they will absolutely bin your book Try to go with an agent from an established agency. Becoming an agent is like an apprenticeship program, even if they are a junior agent they will still have the support and resources of the rest of the agency. Free agents do not have this support, and may not be able to get you as good a deal NEVER pay reading fees. There are some hybrid companies that are offering both editing and agent services, and some of these are legit, but generally the money show flow TO the author, not away. NEVER sign for lifetime rights to be given away. It can go wrong in so many ways. Series - When querying a book with sequels, don't mention them in your query letter. Say you have a standalone book (make sure it is!) that has sequel potential. If you are signed, THEN you can bring up that there are more of these books (Another reason I heard is that the publisher may have editorial feedback that brings your books in a different direction than what you had in mind, and you don't want effort to go to waste with books that may not fit after the first book is edited)
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    Thanks for the welcome, @Penguinball ! I agree that short stories are good way to build not only your skills, but also your name. I wish you good luck on your writing and publishing adventures 🙂 I'm still working on my short story, getting the details down and what-not, so all I can say is the story is about a woman who inadvertently causes the demise of her people. Oh! Three years? Pretty elderly in terms of internet age lol. I'll definitely take a look at the archives for a peak into the past. Anyway, thanks again for the welcome 😄
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    Maybe more less common than out of place? Its a perfectly valid way of outlining. I fully understand the need to have a thorough, methodical approach to a problem 🙂
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    Below are links to things I was told are good resources, with some context of what they are used for. Social Media: Claim your author name profile BEFORE you start having publications out, so you can dibs the name, and have somewhere to direct potential readers. https://www.pinterest.com/ https://www.facebook.com/ https://www.instagram.com/ https://www.goodreads.com/ https://twitter.com/ Website Creation: These are two inexpensive, reliable options. There is also Wordpress, but it involves more money/knowledge of coding. https://www.squarespace.com/ https://www.wix.com/ https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/provision/?authuser=0#/provision Use to keep track of visitors and page clicks https://slack.com/intl/en-ca/ Good collaboration tool https://www.namespro.ca/ To register your domain name, get both the .com and your local country extension (like .ca or .uk) Other Resources: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ Paid website that allows you to see agent profiles and see who is making book deals. Good for seeing if someone is a fit for you before you query https://queryshark.blogspot.com/ How to write a good query, and other resources https://www.psliterary.com/ The P.S. Literary Agency (PSLA) represents both fiction and nonfiction works to leading publishers in North America, Europe and throughout the World, recommended for the query letter template https://www.victoriastrauss.com/writer-beware/ Writer Beware, calls out and warns of shady agents and publishing scams https://www.sfwa.org/ Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America - A professional association with a lot of industry clout and resources. The magazines on their list pay well. Canadian-Specific Resources: https://www.pacla.ca/ Professional Association of Canadian Literary Agents - Can look people up and see who's who https://prixaurorawards.ca/ Canadian Sci Fi and Fantasy Awards (Aurora Awards) https://onspecmag.wordpress.com/ Canada's only Speculative Fiction magazine http://www.sfcanada.org/ SF Canada exists to foster a sense of community among Canadian writers of speculative fiction, to improve communication, to foster the growth of quality writing, to lobby on behalf of Canadian writers, and to encourage the translation of Canadian speculative fiction. SF Canada supports positive social action. https://quillandquire.com/ Canadian book and magazine news
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    Some good general advice - have each detail do double duty. Each action, description, choice of dialogue should reveal worldbuilding, characterization, plot information. Easier said than done of course. Other advise I've heard is to foreshadow important information just enough for the reader to put the pieces together only a few paragraphs before the character does. That allows to reader to feel clever, but not TOO much smarter than the character/writer, and allows for the mystery to be satisfying. It can be hard to tell if you are putting in too much information and details, or just the right amount. This is where reader feedback is really important. Using alternate POV or other writerly trickery is a good way to avoid giving away too much too soon, the reader usually won't notice. Otherwise you have to justify WHY a character isn't thinking about or utilizing information they have, which can be done through foreshadowing and dropping in other details ahead of time.
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    I personally try to give information as it is either revealed to the main character or as it comes up in conversation. Now I'm not always successful because I spent decades reading epic fantasy novels written 40+ years ago where info dumps were pretty much the thing to do, but I've been working my damndest to get it practiced out of me. I'm a big fan of 3rd person limited, and those that I prefer to read are limited to the point where it's almost 1st person with no internal dialogue. Everything is either revealed via actions, dialogue, or scene. Seldom is much brought in via any kind of info dump at all. Even the limited first person I allow myself to read does this very well. If the character isn't finding it out for the first time, talking about it because they currently need to know something (which I find is very easy to fail at: the old dialogue because the reader needs it more than the character), or having it done to them, I'm not a big fan of it. My favorite way of finding the information. Not as easy to do as I would like, but I'm getting there. Roh
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