Session One: Overcoming Writer’s Block
I would have to say, as a currently non-fiction writer, this session was probably one of the most enjoyable, and practical, ones I have sat in on so far. The panel of five addressed the issue of writer’s block.
They started with the process of how to “conquer” the first page. Suggestions included:
* Just start writing, even if garbage
* When stuck, lower your expectations
* Write a couple of sentences about where the story should end.
* Start outlining and build characters.
* Build plot arcs, character connections “to the point they will pants on their own”.
For general blocks, not just the first, blank page, physical activity was recommended. One panelist mentioned water therapy: Shower, swim, etc. He even had crayons for writing ideas on the wall of the shower – so he wouldn’t lose them by the time he got out of the shower.
The water therapy led to an audience comment about “hire someone to waterboard us”, to which the panelist replied he wouldn’t comment on the choice — if it was between consenting adults.
The authors discussed the need for conflict: create something your protagonist cares about, then threaten it, to give you ideas.
Rob Howell mentioned his tool/trick for coming up with ideas and motivations for characters that wouldn’t be just like him: The random article option on Wikipedia. He uses that to find out strange tidbits — odd things or ideas, which he puts aside, and then pulls from to compile a complex character with motivations that aren’t his own.
If these options fail, do something different, write something different and come back to this one later.
They also discussed “killing your darlings”, removing scenes that don’t move the story along. But never delete something you wrote; store it somewhere, you might be able to use it somewhere else, sometime else, or even in a later draft of the same story.
Session 2: Baen Roadshow
We took a two-hour block to attend the real carnival event of the convention: The Baen Travelling Road Show. This was my second road show, and the first one MC’d by Toni Weiskoff herself. One could describe it as a cross between a carnival and a family reunion.
As during the first roadshow I had attended, they gave away a lot of free books, and we didn’t get one of them. We didn’t fit into any of the special classes of people they gave books to, and we weren’t forward enough to make leading statements or questions that would garner us a book. We needed to be a bit wilder.
One of the astounding things about the Roadshow is exactly how many and how varied the books and authors published by Baen are. If you want a true example of toleration and diversity, Baen Books is an excellent example.
It was enjoyable hearing about the books, and seeing all the cover art versions they went through. It was enjoyable seeing and hearing from the various authors. Sometimes it almost seemed that the authors outnumbered the other attendees.
Session 3: Reading – Rob Howell and Dave Schroeder
We didn’t attend too many sessions, but as I mentioned previously, the readings were the best thing we found at this convention. The Saturday afternoon reading we attended featured author Rob Howell (whom we had met at WorldCon/MidAmericaCon last year), and Dave Schroeder.
Schroeder read a scene from his XenoTech series, about aliens who give us all the tech cures for Cancer, etc., but then we have to pay for tech support. The first person narrator had a very sharp wit and sense of humor that kept the reading lively.
He then read from a fantasy work that was a real tease about the loss and discovery of a magical talisman, and the trouble it will most likely make for a youth starting out on his coming-of-age walk-about year.
Howell read a very touching segment from his fourth book (first in series), set in the same world as his other books, about a magical ruler stepping down from ruling, and what giving up the magic of ruling does to her, and her three husbands. He expertly wove the pain of love and loss into the vignette he read.
Session 4: Launch party
This shouldn’t actually be called a session, since it was an out-of-programming book launch by Howell and some others. But we didn’t attend any other official session for the day, and so this was our climax, going through the party rooms and scrounging food while listening and talking about the books. The rooms and parties were full and packed, but we did manage to have a nice conversation with Rob and purchase his two new books, along with hearing about Ragnar’s Ale that a friend made for him to match how he described the ale in his first trilogy.