WWC 2014, Days 2 and 3: All the Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson

Photo by Nazrilof

If you want to find out moar about Brandon Sanderson, please visit his eponymous web site.

I attended several of Brandon’s sessions at When Words Collide, but I didn’t take notes in any of them. I just soaked up the writerly goodness 🙂

On the Saturday, I attended “An hour with Brandon Sanderson,” in which Brandon shared his path to publication, as well as the highlights of his involvement in finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. Much of the information is summarized in the About Brandon page of the above linked site.

I love finding out how authors started out, how they made it work, and how they manage to make a living writing, which is a rare privilege (IMHO).

On Sunday, I attended Brandon’s two hour “The Writing Process” session, followed by a panel discussion he sat on about “How to build a consistent and original magic system.”

Both were fabulous.

I’ve read many posts recently about attending author sessions at conferences and conventions. The warning is that some authors don’t know what their processes are, or if they do, they speak to how they write only, without giving context or alternatives. Some are speaking as a form of self-promotion, or to get you to buy and read their books and don’t necessarily offer anything of value in terms of what the individual writer can take away and apply to their own work and process.

There’s nothing wrong with promotion, but it’s best not to dress such sessions up as workshops.

I’m happy to say that Brandon was nothing like that. He achieved his Master’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and subsequently took over teaching their SF&F creative writing class, which used to be taught by David Farland (from whom Brandon himself learned in his undergraduate years).

You can find links to Brandon’s courses and videos on his web site (linked above), but you can also find them by Googling Write About Dragons. Here’s a link to his 2012 and 2013 lectures on their site, and another to their YouTube channel.

Another great way to get your hands on Brandon Sanderson’s writing advice is to listen to the Writing Excuses podcast, which he co-hosts with Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. I started listening in the spring.

Needless to say, Brandon did a mah-veh-lous job of his workshop. The two hours flew by. He’d either enter into a topic by describing his process and expand out to discuss alternative methods, or, he’d cast his net wide, and describe the various approaches to an aspect of the writing life, and then describe his personal preferences.

I appreciated this, because, ultimately, every writer develops her or his own process, and there is no one correct way to write a novel. It’s a message that can’t be sent often enough.

As the saying goes, anyone who tries to tell you differently is selling something.

Finally, in the magic system panel, I was just fascinated about how the authors approached their individual magic systems and how they all applied the rule that all magic comes with a cost. There was even some speculation about writing a magic system without a cost, but, it was argued, that would be science and technology.


 

Next weekend, I have a few posts that have to take precedence: my month end (and NaNo) update, a post about my intrinsic motivations for writing, and a Caturday quickie on a blog award I received this month.

So My When Words Collide Wrap Post won’t arrive until the second weekend of December. In the meantime, Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday posts will continue and, just to whet your appetite, I’ll have posts coming up about teaching team building, the Humber Writers workshop I attended, a pupdate on poor Nuala, and the state of the driveway and yard now the construction season has ceded to snow.

I’ll even have a couple of book reviews coming up for my friend Jane Ann McLachlan. So, yes, December’s going to be a busy month on the blog.

Fare thee well until Tipsday and my book review of Jane’s The (occasional) Diamond Thief.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Nov 16-22, 2014

Can you rewire your brain to change bad habits, thoughts, and feelings? AlterNet.

The science of sleep on Brainpickings.

Brain scans reveal what dogs really think of humans. Brain.mic

An archaeological find with a great story behind it. The Daily Mail Online.

A 1300 year old book of Egyptian spells has been deciphered. i09.

A 2000 year old pigment can eliminate the third dimension. Confused? Just read the article. i09.

Five facts you should know about the women who shaped modern physics. Ideas.TED.com

Know your place in the universe. BuzzFeed.

The sound the universe makes. Janna Levin. TED Talk.

Could we actually live on Mars? ASAP Science.

 

Russian dash cams have caught another flash in the sky. They’re still trying to figure out what it was. IFLS.

The sixth extinction. It’s coming. It’s okay to be smart.

 

What does a murmuration look like when it’s not in flight?

 

MacLean’s interviews Joni Mitchell.

A light-based art exhibit by Bruce Munro. My Modern Met.

Six ideas from creative thinkers to shake up your work routine. Ideas.TED.com

What Finland is doing right for its students. The Conversation.

Soup to nuts and everything in between 🙂

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Nov 16-22, 2014

Roz Morris has some excellent thoughts on choosing a title for your book. It’s more important than you think.

On finding your theme with K.M. Weiland. Guess what? It comes down to your character’s arc 🙂

How your editor can irritate you, and why that’s a good thing. Anne R. Allen with Judy Probus.

Victoria Mixon outlines the three vital steps to creating your protagonist.

Dave King is back on Writer Unboxed with another Buffy-inspired post: Everything I need to know about character, I learned from Buffy.

Jamie Raintree shares three strategies to stay motivated on long-term projects. Thinking through our fingers.

The seven roles of the healer archetype, on the Better Novel Project.

Julie Sondra Decker explores what happens while you wait. In propinquity.

Margaret Atwood came to Sudbury to celebrate her birthday last week. It’s the last time she’s going to make the journey, so we made a thing of it 🙂 TVO’s Steve Paikin (also Laurentian University chancellor) interviewed her.

And then the CBC’s Jessica Pope got a little Atwood action as well.

Ursula K. LeGuin at the National Book Awards. The New Yorker.

And the video:

 

Ursula K. LeGuin interviewed in The Paris Review.

Outlander’s Gaelic coach offers a crash course. Scotland Now.

Billy Boyd sings “Last Goodbye” for the final Hobbit movie. Entertainment Weekly.

Cary Elwes shares twelve Princess Bride Secrets. LA Weekly.

Seven strange and wonderful fan theories about fantasy and science fiction. i09’s Toybox.

See you on Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

WWC 2014, Day 3: Marketing your book with Jodi McIsaac

Jodi MacIsaacJodi McIsaac grew up in New Brunswick, Canada. After stints as a short-track speed skater, a speechwriter, and fundraising and marketing executive in the nonprofit sector, she started a boutique copywriting agency and began writing novels in the wee hours of the morning. She currently lives with her husband and two feisty daughters in Calgary, Alberta.


 

There’s a lot of competition out there, so you have to distinguish yourself.

In 2012:

  • 1.5 million print books were published
  • 347,000 traditional books deals were made
  • 391,000 ISBNs were assigned

There are currently 30 million books on the market. Only 500 of those will sell 100,000 or more copies.

There’s not much difference between the Big 5, small publishers, micro publishers, and self-publishers with respect to how much work the author will have to devote to marketing.

Ten authors per year might get marketing support.

Word of mouth is still the best way to sell anything.

  1. Write another book. Nothing sells backlist like a new book.
  2. Be professional. This is your livelihood. Treat it as such.
  3. Understand your audience. You’re a match-maker between your book and its readers.
  4. You need a web site. Also set up shop on Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing, etc.
  5. Mobilize your existing network. Never underestimate the value of family and friends.
  6. Build an email list. Mailchimp is great for this and easy to learn.
    6.5 (inserted for this presentation): Create a “street team” or “launch team.” These are people in your existing network who can be depended upon to help you make creative decisions like your title and cover and who will promote your book across their networks. As a perk, they get a copy of your advanced reader copy (ARC) so they can post reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.
    Obtain reviews outside your street team.
  7. Contact book bloggers. My personal opinion is that blog tours are a waste of time. You have to produce so much content, it’s rarely worth the effort. There’s no dependable way to measure the marketing value (i.e. how many sales resulted from the tour). If you feel you would like to do one, however, I won’t discourage you. You may get different results.
  8. Giveaways. Always budget for this, especially if you are self-publishing. You need to have enough copies set aside so you can give them away on Goodreads, or on Facebook using Rafflecopter, or during your in person events.
  9. Goodreads. Not only can you participate in giveaways, but you can also have book chats, groups, and other online events to support your launch.
  10. Paid advertising. This has not been proven to sell books. Usually not cost-effective. BookBub may be the exception.
  11. Social media. Focus on one and try not to get spammy. Asking your followers to buy your book continually can come off as desperate. You might actually lose followers this way.
  12. Traditional media and promotion. Have a press release and a media package ready to go. If you’re not sure what should be in your media package, Google it. There are a lot of great resources out there.

So when do you do all of this? You have to make the time. It’s not so much work/life balance as it is work/life blend. You have to find what works for you.

We then went through a brief example with the time we had remaining.


 

This is the last of the formal posts I will have on the When Words Collide sessions I attended. Do to my entry into the In Places Between contest, I attended the reading and judging sessions on Sunday morning and it limited the sessions I could get to.

Next week: I’ll post about Brandon Sanderson. I attended three of his sessions altogether and I didn’t take notes at one. I just soaked up the wisdom 😀 So this will be a kind of summary post with links to resources.

That will leave the wrap post for the first weekend in December.

See you again on Tipsday!

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Nov 9-15, 2014

Kindness and generosity can help your relationship last. The Business Insider.

Kare Anderson speaks about being an opportunity maker. TED.

The first real reason we need to sleep. The Business Insider.

Why psychological androgyny is essential for creativity. Brainpickings.

Like The Bletchley Circle? Read about one of the real code-breaking women the series was based on. The Edmonton Journal.

The grand unified theory of female pain by Leslie Jamison. VQR.

What has been discovered about the transmission of depression between mothers and daughters. Psychiatric Times.

Bryan Adams took these moving photos of wounded soldiers. The Independent.

Amazing buildings in Scotland. The Daily Record.

Some of the strangest and creepiest graves in the world. ViralNova.

A creative cartographer imagines a completely uncolonized Africa. i09.

The glow in the dark path inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Bored Panda.

Why tech leaders don’t want their kids using their products. The Unbounded Spirit.

Alberta fishermen find a fossil in the Castle River. The Huffington Post.

Nine TED Talks on how innovators are shaping the world of tomorrow.

Misnomers. Vsauce.

 

Just because it can be challenging to find your dog’s “presents” at certain times of the year. The dog tracker helps you find the dirt . . . Hack-a-day.

Sea otter pup cuteness. The Huffington Post.

Fun bubble experiments:

 

The Piano Guys. Ants Marching/Ode to Joy.

 

Hope you found some grist for your creative mill.

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Nov 9-15, 2014

Last week’s big publishing news in The Globe and Mail: Where is Simon & Schuster heading?

What Amazon’s strategy may mean for publishing today. Someone saw this coming. Rebecca Allen. The Digital Reader.

Are there things more important to writing than talent? Anne R. Allen says yes. Yes, there are.

Roz Morris explains how a good editor helps you to be yourself.

How much realism does your novel need? K.M. Weiland.

Pantaphobia. That’s it! Fabulous post on Writer Unboxed about fear and the writer by Myra McEntire.

Sometimes, you’re going to hate your work in progress. Read Chuck Wendig’s thoughts on how to get through it (over it? around it?).

Young writers working together to reach their NaNoWriMo goals. CBC.

Can you afford to be a writer? Deborah Mundy for The Toronto Star Books.

Why writing shouldn’t be your first career. ALLi.

Neil Gaiman’s eight rules of writing. Brainpickings.

Anne Lamott on the true gift of friendship and the uncomfortable art of letting yourself be seen. Brainpickings.

Virginia Woolf on how to read a book. Brainpickings.

How to build a fictional world with Kate Messner. Ted.ed.

 

How writing fiction is helping people with mental illness. CBC.

That’s all the tips I have for you this week.

See you on Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

WWC 2014, Day 3: Querying your YA novel

Panellists: Jacqueline Guest, Danielle L. Jensen, Jessica Corra, Shawn L. Bird, Karen Bass

Jacqueline GuestDanielle L. JensenQ: Do you query a trilogy?

DJ: It depends on your genre. Some say your novel has to be a standalone, but I’ve been successful querying a trilogy.

JC: It’s okay to mention that your novel has series potential, but you can go too far with this. I was once queried with a nine book series. That was too much.

SB: It’s good to know the career potential of the author, though.

DJ: Focus on one book in your query.

JC: It’s a business letter.

KB: It’s your pitch. Three sentences. Short, punchy, and pithy.

JC: Think about the backbone of your book. That’s your through line.

JG: You’re not selling to a reader. You’re selling to an agent or publisher. Don’t tease.

SB: The basic structure of a query letter is three paragraphs: pitch, comps, and bio.

JC: You need to mention genre, word count, and title.

DJ: You Jessica Corracould write: I am seeking representation for TITLE, a GENRE novel, complete at LENGTH (in thousands of words, rounded to the nearest thousand). I actually got my agent through a logline contest for Ms. Snark.

JC: Sometimes you don’t need an agent, though.

KB: Small Canadian publishers, no. Big publishers or genres, yes. Anything in the States, yes.

DJ: I’d die without my agent. She takes care of things

like foreign riShawn L. Birdghts. It really depends on your skill set.

SB: Sometimes, it depends on the agent.

DJ: I’d recommend Query Tracker.

JC: Jim Butcher proposes this formula for youKaren Bassr log line: *WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS*, *YOUR PROTAGONIST* *PURSUES A GOAL,* but will he succeed when *ANTAGONIST PROVIDES OPPOSITION*?

JG: Spell check, for God’s sake. You have two sentences to hook an agent or editor.

DJ: Your first five to ten pages must be perfect.

JC: We know you’re human, though. We’ll overlook something small.

JG: There are lots of library books that will help you.

DJ: Online critique groups can help as well.

Q: How do I know the agent is reputable?

DJ: Writer Beware, Preditors & Editors, and Absolute Write are three sites where you can check out questionable agents, agencies, or scams. If you post on social media or forums, don’t bitch about being rejected.

Q: How many queries do you receive and how many of those do you read?

JC: We have readers, so I don’t see them all, but everyone I receive, I read.

Q: You’ve published several books. Do you still slave over your letters?

JG: Yes. Every time.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Nov 2-8, 2014

Not a lot this week. Travelling and NaNo are taking priority.

Five tips from the stoics about happiness. The Business Insider.

 

How introverts react to the world. The Huffington Post.

How we’re wired. A video on left-handedness from It’s OK to be Smart.

 

Bizarre cloud formation seen in the Australian sky. IFLS.

The wildlife overpass near Sudbury is in the news. CTV.

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Nov 2-8, 2014

First, it’s Remembrance Day.

Remember our armed forces and veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made for us.

Thank you, from the everywhere of my heart.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/remembrance-day-draws-huge-crowds-as-national-war-memorial-rededicated-1.2831009


 

K.M. Weiland discusses random story elements in her most common writing mistakes series.

Her weekly vlog focuses on scene breaks and including the right number in your story.

Katrina Kittle writes about how to facilitate your writing practice. Writer Unboxed.

How to invigorate your endings. Mythcreants.

Women heroes in pop culture, by Nina Munteanu.

DIYMFA’s master class with Jane Yolen.

Changing the way your world moves, by Brandon Kier on Mythcreants.

Patrick Rothfuss responds to the Ivory Tower.

 

How Hugh Howey Writes. Copyblogger.

Guy Gavriel Kay reflects on his apprenticeship. The Guardian.

Margaret Atwood on ageing, generational inequality, and what she’s working on now. The New Statesman.

Kurt Vonnegut on the shapes of stories:

 

Camilla Gibb on making a living as a writer. The Globe and Mail.

Molly Crabapple’s 15 rules for creative success in the internet age. Boing Boing.

More Molly at XOXO:

 

Why we should all be reading more poetry. Arts.Mic

See you on Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

WWC 2014, Day 2: YA and the tough stuff

Panellists: Kimberly Gould, David Laderoute, Aviva Bel’Harold, Michell Plested

Kimberly GouldDavid LaderouteAviva Bel'Harold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michell PlestedQ: What language do you use?

DL: Keep your audience in mind.

MP: Look at Harry Potter. The Dursleys made him live under the stairs. That’s abuse, but it was painted realistically.

DL: Neil Gaiman thought of using homeless characters in Neverwhere, but reconsidered.

MP: Whatever you choose to portray, it can’t be gratuitous. The character and the character’s circumstances have to be essential to the story.

Q: Is there a difference between the Canadian and American YA market? I was at a Kelley Armstrong session and she said that the only thing you don’t include is boring.

AB: I don’t notice a difference myself.

DL: Some publishers may ask you to eliminate the profanity in either country. That’s okay, you’re saving words. I know kids swear, but we write dialogue that simulates reality. Real world dialogue would sound horrible.

Q: Don’t readers need to see themselves on the page, though?

MP: Yes, but a book that ends hopelessly is dissatisfying.

AB: Most teens want hope.

MP: No one wants to end up homeless, addicted, or any of the other hard things we write about. They want to know there’s a way out.

Q: Beyond a sense of belonging, do you offer solutions in your novels?

AB: Don’t set out to write a novel with a message. It can come off heavy-handed.

KG: Present options in your novel, not right and wrong.

DL: Solutions are facile. Even young readers see through that.

MP: If you offer a solution, it shouldn’t be easy. If your character is smart and capable, they’ll keep trying. The struggle is the thing.

Q: Horrible things are still happening in the world. Should we show people responding?

MP: The character may be too close to the situation to understand it, but the reader should be able to pick up on it (dramatic irony).

KG: Perspective or point of view (POV) is basic storytelling. Be honest to your story. Make it true.

DL: You can write about difficult situations. There are two books, It’s kind of a funny story by Ned Vizzini, and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher that treat teen suicide respectfully. What about the topics of child slavery, child soldiers, or gangs? These are issues that should be addressed.

MP: It’s not writing the story that’s difficult, but resolving myself to writing it. The Boy Scouts are a recruiting ground for child soldiers, but how do you write about that? It’s an inherently hopeless situation.

AB: Abuse victims have similar “unseen” problems. I couldn’t address them myself. I don’t have the experience or context to do it justice.

MP: It comes down to passion. If you’re passionate about something, then write it. Don’t write it because it’s a “cool” or “hot button” topic.

Q: There are books that address difficult issues out there. Deborah Ellis writes about the third world in her books and Sharon McKay tackles child soldiers.

AB: How do we bring these subjects to our readers with sensitivity?

MP: In one of my books, I address bullying. One of the characters is a foster child and the protagonist doesn’t understand. The story is about coming to that understanding and learning compassion.

AB: I think one of the problems is that we can write great books, but kids are reading less. We have to get them back and get them reading.

DL: Can we kill characters in YA?

AB: It’s life. We should not shy away from it.

KG: You have to be careful, though. Kill the right character for the right reason. Think of The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

AB: There could be a backlash. Consider Veronica Roth and the Divergent Series.

DL: Ultimately, it has to have meaning. It has to serve the story.


 

Next week: Querying your YA novel.

See you on Tipsday! Now, I’m off to NaNo-land 🙂