Notes from Writers Coffeehouse, Feb 2018

Attended my first Writers Coffeehouse in a few months yesterday. I’m glad I did; I came away feeling more like a “real” writer, connected to a community of fellow writers, than I have in a long while.

Plus, our host, Scott Sigler, gave us a system for tracking our progress week by week that I think will help me with my current novel.

Many thanks to Scott Sigler for hosting, and to Mysterious Galaxy for letting us hold it in their (frankly awesome) store!

My notes from the Coffeehouse:

  • sports in stories: do enough research that you can color in the character; less detail is more: more detail is more chances to screw it up for people that know it; be specific, but drop it in and move on
  • vocal tick, physical mannerism, first name last name: stephen king’s technique; uses for secondary characters as a flag or anchor for readers; establishes it all in one paragraph, then uses throughout
  • the scorecard: set a weekly goal, meet it, challenging but doable, set consequences if you don’t make it (scott loses a bass from his collection for two months)
  • not sure what to do? write a short story. you’ll accomplish something, and if your brain is distracted by something, that’s what you should work on next
  • scott sigler: “how to write your first novel” on youtube: unorthodox writing advice
  • his scoring system is based on a page: 250 words.
  • when writing first draft, it’s pure words produced
  • second draft: each word counts for half, so double the word count goal and achieve that
  • third draft: each word only counts one third
  • calls with editor, agent, etc: counts for half (ex: 1,000 words an hour means a half hour phone call counts as one page)
  • what about research? doesn’t count. research doesn’t pay the bills
  • characters, relationships, conflict: all that matters. do just enough research to enable the writing. that’s it
  • research trick: find and read a kid’s book on it; they’ve distilled it all for you
  • outlines? depends on how much you use them. if you do: single-spaced, count each page of outline as a page, timebox the work (ex: 2 weeks to get the outline done)
  • another reason to put off your research: sometimes only when you get to the end do you know what you need to research (backspackling the grenade needed in chapter 30)
  • query letters? that’s business, so half-count; set a reasonable goal, like one query letter per week (that’s twelve queries in a quarter, not too shabby)
  • and track what you’ve done: on paper, or todo lists, or however, but record your daily work, and total it at the end of the week
  • when you make it: celebrate it!
  • beta-readers? prefers finding serious readers, not writers. why? TWILIGHT
  • best reader is you. take the book, let it sit for six months, come back and read it. you’ll see what you really wrote instead of what you thought you wrote
  • reedsy.com: site for finding freelance editors; sigler uses it (but do your research, interview them, etc)
  • POV shifts: helps show different aspects of the characters, by giving insights from one pov character about another
  • tension: a daily chore that if not done causes trouble (the shining: he has to release the pressure from the boiler every day; lost: they have to go down and push the button every day or else); good way to put a ticking clock in your story
  • prisonfall: have the characters in danger from the start, use dealing with that as a way to do your world-building
  • muse gone? go write a shitty short story; go write some fan fiction; do something else and come back to itp
  • recommends putting first book of a series out for free to start out, to get it in the hands of readers, so you can find your audience
  • save the cat: great screenplay writing book, woth chapters about elevator pitches
  • attendee recommends donald maas’ workshop; went last week in irvine, learned a lot
  • don’t be afraid to say no when you get a contract from a publisher; hold onto all the merchandising, film, etc rights you can

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