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Jennifer K. Oliver ([personal profile] jenniferkoliver) wrote2013-06-24 02:25 pm

Conference happenings, and links

Winchester Writers' Conference was exhausting, but in the informative, busy, fun way. The opening speakers were Julian Fellowes (who wrote this little British TV show called Downton Abbey) and his wife, editor Emma Kitchener-Fellowes. I only took one photo, mostly because the day was so packed with workshops and talks and meetings that I forgot to take more.



Fellowes is entertaining and inspiring and has so much energy. His enthusiasm set Saturday off on the perfect note.

The day consisted of discussions, workshops and one-to-one appointments. I went to five talks:

Settings to Die For. Speaker: crime mystery author Sally Spedding.

Sally told us about an author who had written about a place they'd never been—I forget where, but it was in a different country—and then years later they were able to visit the place. And they found, when they wrote about it again having visited it, their descriptions were nowhere near as interesting or colourful as before, when they were writing from research and imagination. Isn't that funny? I always assume that writing about a place you've been to at least once would be better than trying to piece it together from accounts and research. But perhaps it just depends.

Also, I took away the importance in remembering that every place has its own mythologies and legends.


Self-Editing Before Publication. Speaker: author Lorna Fergusson.

The highlight of this one for me was when Lorna talked about author denial. This when there's something wrong with your plot and you know it, but you pretend everything is fine, and hope your readers / editors won't notice (but they invariably do). I get this a lot. I sometimes try to be cheeky, to be lazy, and my beta readers always catch me out. :)

The other thing was timings. Lorna said that she had two full moons in the same month in one of her drafts, and while amusing, is all too easy to do. I struggle with timelines and am only now writing them up for my novel, second-draft in. It's reminding me that they're important if you want to keep check on when events happen, and how much time needs to pass between for everything to be logical.


Means to an End. Speaker: author Adrienne Dines.

This talk looked at story structure, and what a story really is: a promise from an author to a reader, a contract. If you promise something at the start of your story, you must address it by the end. Give readers the feeling that they know everything they need to know. A story must reach its natural conclusion—even if that conclusion is ambiguous.

And there's a difference between an ambiguous ending (a choice) and an ending that has ambiguity (that's unclear). When a reader doesn't have a choice and nothing is clear, it's a bad ending.


Making a Drama Out of a Crisis. Speaker: author and filmmaker Paul Bryers.

I had to duck out of this one halfway through to go to a one-to-one, but there was some nice historical coverage that was quite relevant to my genre, so that was lucky! Paul got us to think about story arcs. You can take a real character—in his case, a historical figure—and overlay a story arc. It's about making the real bad guys into monsters, drawing out the drama from the real.

One example was The King's Speech. Hitler was a good public speaker and the king couldn't speak, but in reality the king had very little influence over what happened. But his role was built up in the movie because it was more dramatic and made much better viewing.


Not Another Vampire Story. Speaker: author Steve Lockley.

This talk looked at how the role of vampires has changed over the last hundred years or so. I think we all agreed that it'll take something quite momentous and ground-breaking to bring vampires back around and make them interesting again. We also talked about death not being permanent, and people's fascination with that concept, which makes vampires, werewolves and zombies so appealing. Sadly I had to leave this talk early as well, so I missed the end. But I did win a prize for guessing the three archetypal monsters.

The one-to-ones were probably my favourite part. I got great feedback and each one was extremely encouraging. I came away thrumming with writerly delight.

It's not the cheapest conference in the UK, but in my experience it's definitely worth going to if you can.

NASA’s Sci-Fi Vision: Robots Could Help Humanity Mine Asteroids - from Universe Today. More sci-fi future nerdery, but an exciting prospect. So if Armageddon really does happen like the movie, we won't have to send Bruce Willis up there to blow it up. That's a relief.

Losing You, by Phaeleh.

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