Post Gen Con Writer’s Symposium wrap-up

Last week, as I’m sure many of you who follow me on social media might know, I was at Gen Con. Don’t believe me? Fine. This is buddy Omar and I bringing the noise.Gen Con 2013 - We eat people.
Overall, I had a great con, but this year went faster than I can recall my previous experiences going.

Naturally, I spent a good chunk of my time at the Writer’s Symposium (big thanks to organizer Marc Tassin!), as I do each year (if you’re looking for some interviews with authors that were at this year’s symposium check out this blog post I wrote for Apex).

Some of the highlights for me:

Mike Stackpole‘s workshops. The man is a master of creating information-dense one hour sessions and I spend the next several weeks (or longer) just trying to process all of the notes that I’ve taken. The beautiful part is that, like any good teacher, after he says it you’re just like, ‘oh, crap, why didn’t I think of that?’

Example from his Knockout Novel worksop: find the most recent two novels from the top five writers in your niche area. Read them critically, take notes and at the end figure out why you liked and hated the things you did. This will help you immensely in tailoring your writing towards that market.

And this one from his Writing Careers in the Post Paper Era: In all of your social media (blogs, twitter, FB) don’t lament or complain, entertain. Entertainment is your product and you are your brand. Don’t forget that your product is not your brand.

From the Creating Memorable Characters seminar, Scott Lynch recommended that you, “give yourself permission to remove stuff from the plot.” And if you get stuck with where your plot is going, “create a scene where all the characters have a conversation.” He used the example of a dinner party where they sit around and talk to one another about the story, what their motivations are, even about you the author. Once you feel like that conversation has gotten you back on the right track, remove it and move forward.

In that same seminar, Kelly Swails said, “every character has something they want. The story happens where the intersections of those things play out.”

This year Brad Beaulieu gave Stackpole a run for his money with a very rich workshop on creating Tension on Every Page. He used the Hunger Games as an example where tension exists on literally every page. He pointed out that breakout novels and best-sellers manage to do this extremely well. We may not like them very much, but they are exceedingly good at keeping us flipping pages. One of the biggest take-aways from this workshop was that as soon as you give the reader what they want, the tension is gone. I know this is something I’ve struggled with in the novel that I’m still in the process of writing.

Naturally, there were countless more events that happened that I’m not getting into here. Readings, workshops, a fascinating panel with Mercedes Lackey, Jim Hines and Larry Dixon and moderated by Elizabeth Vaughan that was about Writing a Series and included a sort of walk-through of their careers. The worst part about the symposium is that my time is finite and that there are so many other great events happening within (and out of) it that I couldn’t attend them all. Thanks for another great year to all the folks who participated!