Monday, August 17, 2009

ArmadilloCon: first draft in Icelandic, and other advice for writers

All the advice that could be given to beginning authors has already been mentioned in my posts from writing workshops of the past (you can find more of them by clicking the "writers' workshop" tag under this post). Overall, I'm afraid all that could be said about speculative fiction has already been said in my earlier posts from ArmadilloCon and other conventions. There's no point in repeating it, so what's left? Jokes. Thankfully, jokes at ArmadilloCon are fresh every year, which is amazing, because the people are the same.

The writers who taught the ArmadilloCon writing workshop were trying to one-up one another on how badly they sucked when they were just starting out. Sharon Shinn: I'm a poster child for perseverance. I wrote 10 books before I sold one. Chris Roberson: I wrote 11 books before one sold. Sharon: But I wrote three or four after I sold the first one, that never sold. Scott Lynch, this year's Guest of Honor, can top that: he wrote 12 unpublished novels, many of them in high school. He never finished any of them before he wrote a novel that actually sold (I assume he's talking about "The Lies of Locke Lamora"). Thus, the skeletons in his closet are malformed embryo skeletons.

On revising your work: Most pros recommend completing the first draft of the book before revising, rewriting, or editing it. The alternative -- revising after you finish each chapter or page -- is not so good. Jim Frenkel, a Tor editor, says George R. R. Martin is an exception in that respect, and the worst role model to a beginner writer. "He doesn't go to on to write an new page until the previous page is perfect. And you wonder why his next book is taking so long?"

Sharon Shinn recalls what someone else has said on this topic. "Revising while you write is like drinking decaf coffee in the morning. Great idea, wrong time. Your first draft should read like it was hastily translated from Icelandic by a non-native speaker."

Ah, so I must be doing something right!

In other encouraging news (see, I said it was going to be all jokes, but there is some useful advice in there): yes, you can find time for writing. Julie Kenner wrote her first 15 books while working full-time as a lawyer, and the last seven of those with babies and small children (she has two). Martha Wells wrote some of her first books while being constantly distracted. At that time she worked in tech support, where she wrote programs in KOBOL. She worked on her novels while the programs compiled and ran. Her desk was in a very small space, surrounded by mainframe computers whose hard drives constantly made clicking noises. And since she was in tech support, people would drop in and ask questions all the time. So now she needs distractions in order to write, such as a television in the background.

I wonder which of my bad habits will one day turn out to be an unexpected blessing.

Pictures from ArmadilloCon 2009 are in my photo gallery. There are only a few of them there, but I'm adding new pictures every day.


kgj said...

Rumor has it you were going to post the reading list from the "What you should have read" panel here. Do you have that typed up?

Elze said...

I'm going to write a blog post containing all panelists' suggestions of books we should read, but it will take a while. First, I'm waiting for Eric Marin to email me his list, which was quite long. Second and the hardest part will be to figure out author names and book titles that other panelists suggested without writing them down. Since I never heard of some of those author, I don't even know how their names are spelled. So it will take hours of search, trying all the approximate spellings of authors' names, to find the exact matches. I'm not sure when will I have that kind of time soon.

kgj said...

I understand. I look forward to the post if/when you get around to it, but in the meantime I have plenty of things on my to-read list....