Yo yo yiggity yo!
Today was the annual writer's faire at UCLA, and like anyone with access to the Inter-Webs, I feel like relating what I learned with all y'all. I mean, I'm at least hoping what notes I jotted down will help out those who didn't or couldn't go. I attended four lectures.
Publishing Today: Promoting Your Work and Branding Yourself as a Writer (with Tom Fields-Meyer, Normal Kolpas, Maxine Lapiduss, Michelle Meyering, and Colette Sartor)
This was a great lecture for me to attend because while I recognize the importance of promotion, I'm always looking out for ways to be smarter about it. One of the big things mentioned was that a writer ought to go human rather than viral, meaning that you want to connect with your readers and not shove your stuff down their throats. Yes, mention your upcoming readings, let people know when you've got something new in print, but don't always toot your own horn. This was probably why I set up a Facebook page for my writing work separate from my personal Facebook page; I kept getting the feeling that I was annoying most of my friends with my writing work and needed a separate space for that.
With or without an agent, it's important to learn how best to represent yourself. Act professional, because the publishing world is small, and people will remember those times when you acted like a clump of shit that came out of the Wicked Witch of the West.
And are agents really necessary? Yes and no. If you want to self-publish all the way through, then godspeed. however, an agent can help you expand to a wider audience. They are the advocates and cheerleaders of writers, and by tackling the ugly business end of the job, they allow the relationship between the editor and the writer to remain a pleasant one.
The Art of Writing and Publishing Short Fiction (with Ron Darian, Jim Gavin, Lou Matthews, and Colette Sartor)
This lecture had a pretty clear-cut layout, divided into language, dialogue, scenes, and publishing.
Language is all about how you use vocabulary to mold a clear image for the reader. As the writer, your job is to give the reader a feast of details (the sandy texture of the underside of a tire, the plum-sweet melody of a Led Zeppelin classic, etc.).
Dialogue is not just about characters communicating with each other. You use diction and accent to distinguish individuals in the crowd. Don't use it as a funnel through which information is explained. Yes, I'm talking about you folks in the "As you know..." crowd. And best of all, dialogue is the writer's revenge. It's what we wish we had said at the party at the spur of the moment.
Scene is the sum of action plus dialogue. Yes, you can have internal musings and descriptions and the history of your gnome king, but you have to be wise in the placement of that material so that it comes out in a way that doesn't move the story in a backwards direction.
And with publishing, submit, submit, sub-motherfucking-mit. Read widely so you understand what's being printed, what certain magazines will pass and what other magazines will get wet over. And be persistent.
Making it to "The End": Story Staying Power for Novelists (with Reyna Grande, Les Plesko, Mark Sarvas, and Ian Randall Wilson)
Working on that novel? Making your grand debut? Or is this your 250,000,000,000th publication? Either way, a novel is a maelstrom or works and nouns and off-color descriptions. You've got to keep the wind in your sails somehow, right? And unfortunately, Ignacio, your coke dealer, is out of town visiting relatives.
Some tips in this lecture were pretty basic. Give yourself a month or two in between drafts before you revise, and never revise before you reach the end of a draft. Be loyal to your book. Don't cheat on it with another story idea just because she's got big blue eyes and goes down on you after a few martinis. And don't even talk about your novel before it's ready for the air. Yes, you can say that you're working on a book, and maybe you can give general premise about it, but writing the fucking thing. Don't waste your time talking about it. Furthermore, if you hold back, you'll probably leave people wanting to know more and seeking it out for themselves.
Writing with a Day Job (with Karl Iglesias, Billy Mernit, Roberta Wax, and Ian Randall Wilson)
Joss Whedon spoke at this lecture! Or rather, someone quoted Joss Whedon. Hey, I had to get your attention somehow. The paraphrased advice from the Nerd God is this: "Sold a project? Great! Put your first paycheck directly in the bank. Put the next one in the bank too."
The entire point of this very simple lecture is that you need to figure out how to satisfy your need to eat, write, and have something called a personal life. Time management is important. You need to make time to write. Pretty much the advice you'd expect in such a setting. Not a bad lecture, but I'd recommend watching the condensed and highly humorous version in Neil Gaiman's "Make Good Art" Speech.