At the start of this year, I was hoping to attend one science fiction convention, ConZealand, this year’s Worldcon. Due to COVID 19 the face to face con couldn’t happen, but as you will know from earlier posts here, the committee rejigged the whole thing and went virtual - and others have done the same. As a result, I have been able to enjoy conventions I would never be able to travel to. I was able to do NASFIC for free, a generous offer by the con committee.
And today I began my third convention for the year, the World Fantasy Convention, something I have only ever heard of, never attended.
Due to the difference in time zones(we are 17 hours ahead of Salt Lake City in Utah), it was still Wednesday over there when they held their pre-con workshops, so not really Day 1, but for me it was Day 1, and much enjoyed.
The first webinar, which I saw at 6.00 am my time, was World Building, by David Farland(the pen name of David Wolverton) a man who has done a huge amount of it in his writing life, which has included writing Star Wars novels and bestselling novels in his own worlds, teaching creative writing at university, judging, film production and editing. I confess I’d never heard of him, but he was very interesting and entertaining to hear, and I felt I was learning a lot. Even for his Star Wars novel The Courtship Of Princess Leia he created a planet of his own.
World building, he told us, can be as big as a planet or as small as a room, and should show only the tip of the iceberg. He spoke of the worlds of Dune and Middle-Earth, and pointed out that yes, Tolkien wrote classics, but spent so many years creating his world that he didn’t have time to write much else besides the two novels for which he is famous. I do see his point, though I remember Frank Herbert, whom I met at a session at Space Age Bookshop in Melbourne, saying that he had not written a single world of his classic novel Dune till he had the universe completely worked out. And it’s the only book I have ever compared in my mind to Lord Of The Rings, due to the amazing world building, though I prefer the Tolkien book because I loved the characters, while I didn’t particularly like the characters in Dune.
But as a pantser, not a plotter, I feel there is much to be said for doing your research, yes, then just getting on with the story bubbling in your mind. I would certainly never get anything written if I did all the work Herbert did before writing my book!
He went on to talk about all the details you really need to consider when creating your world, whether it’s a planet or a generation spaceship. Even a fantasy world needs to make sense physically. He did say a planet with multiple moons was okay, as long as you had them far enough from each other in orbit not to break each other up. Nice to know, as my world in Wolfborn had three moons, and I hoped it was correctly worked out.
He had got as far as animals and plants when he was given his ten minute warning. This was a two hour session, but not finished. I would have loved to hear more, or at least see the rest of the slides, which looked intriguing!
I had time to get up and do a few necessary things while listening to the second session, by David Butler, on query letters, whether for publishers or agents. That was also entertaining and useful. David, another very successful writer, gave sound advice about what to put in and what absolutely not to put in, and why. He said that when you send a query, it should, if possible, contain three paragraphs, 1. This story sounds good. 2. Ooh, this story sounds really good and 3. Business. He got us, as an exercise, to do 1 and 3. Number 1 was basically the sort of thing English teachers tell you to do - the character wants something badly, has a problem achieving it, so sets off on the quest because if they fail there will be consequences. I used this template to write a three sentence blurb for Wolfborn, and he liked it.
He said this blurb was an exercise his wife’s agent makes her do every time. Number 3 was Business, where you tell them how long the story is, whether it is stand alone or is part of a series, or has potential for a series and paste in the first ten pages, and ask if they want to see the rest. You do not tell them you once had drinks with them at a bar or mention the name of someone famous they represent(why should they invest time in your first novel when they have that big name as a client? Especially if you have written the same type of fiction Famous Author writes!). It’s all common sense.
He said you should keep sending inquiries to agents who don’t answer until they say no. He also mentioned Publishers Marketplace - expensive if you keep subscribing, but you can invest the price of a book in a month’s subscription and use it to find a list of agents to query. They are all professionals, and none of them is running a scam - they are vetted before being included.
He sent us three templates he uses - of course, I included my email address in the list when he offered.
My final session was a 50 minute panel on the subject of horses. It was three horse-expert ladies, led by Joyce Reynolds-Ward. It was very useful, like the others, and my friend, Gillian Polack, who was in the audience, gave some links to historical coach timetables, much like bus timetables, which gave some idea of how long it would take to get between various places in England.
If you write fantasy fiction you have to use horses sooner or later, let’s face it! And they are all too often treated as furry machines. They need a lot of food and drink. They have to graze to get fibre - oats are not enough. There was talk about how, no, horses are not like dogs, though some authors make them that way, because dogs are predator animals, while horses are prey animals.
This panel went for 50 minutes. Again, I enjoyed and felt I had learned something new.
Tomorrow morning I’ve set the alarm for even earlier than today, 5.00 am, for a session on Collecting First Editions. It is being presented by Ken Sanders, who is on Antiques Roadshow, and knows a lot about rare books.
At 8.00 am our time the Virtual Book Bag will be open and I will have access to a huge number of free ebooks!
Oh, and I have already bought my first book for this con, a horse-themed story by Joyce Reynolds-Ward.
With all those freebies, surely I won’t be buying more?