wish I'd said that

A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world - John le Carre

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Key Con frantic and fun part 1

Whew! Finally getting around to reporting on Key Con in Winnipeg which was FANTASTIC!
(even though I didn't win the Aurora Award,  I am so very grateful to have made the 5 finalists) 
congrats to all the finalists and especially Eileen Bell who as one of the Women of the Apocalypse, smote us all and took home the prize.)

So the Con...

I had to work at Home Depot on Friday so Arlene and I flew in to the 'peg, Saturday morning. We arrived at the Con at 1:15 and got Arlene registered.

--  Flashback- Friday night - Arlene trying to vote for
Auroras and of course, techno-tyke (that's me) helping out. No go. Tried three times and each time the Aurora voting site told her "the computer says nooo."  
Okay we figured she can vote at the Con when we get there, as voting is open until Sunday Noon. (note to self- get new glasses). Then we discover that techno-tyke has registered her for the Aurora meal but not the Con. In my defense, weak though it is, amidst the flurry of readying my new short story "Mr Go Away", for the 5 minute Read-Off AND preparing my panel on Brit TV vrs US TV, I mistakenly registered her for SFContario instead of Key Con. Hey, could happen to any..idiot.

So at Key Con, she could eat, but she'd have to hang around the hotel room, like a well, you know, like a hmnn, I believe the old parlance was a doxy. But even that word would earn me an icy cold shoulder and glare so let's just say we got her registered, first thing at the Con.

Registration was a breeze. Great staff, sooo helpful (even to shamefaced idiots) All around good folk working the Con. BIG KUDOS!!

 I prepared for some last minute subtle Aurora schmoozing, booklet copies of my nominated short story "Here There Be Monsters" in open, introductory hand, badge proudly announcing 2010 Aurora Finalist (with my name on it, still blows me away) ... and then we discovered the problem with my eyesight, or the brain the eyes are connected to, (which was suspect right from the beginning). Seems Aurora voting had closed an hour before we arrived, yes, that would be Noon, Saturday, not Sunday. 
What a difference a day makes. Game plan goes phhht. Shame face idiot takes another hit.
When you think of it, Saturday makes more sense as award presentation was Sunday evening, but in my defense - see above pathetic excuses.

Okay. Bright side. That pressure was off. No last minute pork barrel politicking.

Time to turn up the heat on my other commitments. I leave Arlene, to get in less trouble than she would if I stayed, and zip off to our hotel room to get Mr Go Away down from 5 min 30 sec, in order to beat the clock. Can I just read it faster? No.
(I quickly discovered that cutting a chunk out of a three page story is like slicing the skin off a grape, especially since I'd started with a watermelon. But that's better than a lemon.)

Should I have a nap? No, focus. Munch on Granola bars and cheese and crackers, courtesy of Arlene, the smart one of the pair. 

Story. Still 15 sec over the limit. Could I have a nap? No! 
Aha. Found a redundancy trying to masquerade as a vital piece of information. Gone! Yes! 4 min 40 sec. Have cookie as reward. Woof! Me and Mr. Pavlov.

Now. Switch to panel. Some pithy quotes concerning US TV. Where's my pith pile? Oh no. I left my quote page in
Toronto. Aw pith.

Bed is still beckoning. Shhhh. Yikes! Clock is louder than bed. 3:10. 

Panel is at 4pm and Read-Off immediately after. Okay that's Good enough. Robbie Bourget, my co-panelist is a good talker, and carries a hatful of experience with her, so... And we'll tet the audience ask questions to fill in the rest. (audience, ha! We had quality not quantity, as it turned out) 

One last read-aloud of Mr Go Away. Ouch! How did it get back to over 5 min? Panic. No. Bed? No? Window? Hmmn. Won't open. Okay. Be brutal! There! Revise the ending and hey! I like that better. Who'd a thunk it?  4min 30 sec. Wow! Done. 
Stick face in sink full of cold water. Dry. Leave the room. Bye bed, I'll be back.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fiction Writer's Rules

Here's some tips from some of the best culled from an article in TheGuardian.

Elmore Leonard: Using adverbs is a mortal sin

1 Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."

3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "Ameri­can and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing is published next month by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.