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<== Click to receive a free copy of my short story Crystal Servants and learn about some of the major players in Crystal Kings, my upcoming novel due out this September.

Adrian, a spy for the King, sees a nobleman murder a servant. His desire for truth is pitted against the dangers of a high-stakes political game. When his friend Draken insists on pursuing justice, Adrian must protect those he cares about as the political games of powerful men alter the lives of everyone around him.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

UAACON15 Report

Here's proof that an event doesn't need to be big to be very useful. UAACON was held in two rooms of the Springville, Utah public library, and had six speakers per room. Unfortunately I was double booked for the day, and only made it to four of the presentations, and talked to one of the other presenters briefly about her topic.

The link above will take you to a description of the event, but I wanted to cover some of the things I learned.

Laura Watkins

First up was Laura Watkins talking about marketing. The short answer is that if it's boring, you're doing it wrong. It's about relationships, emotions, and filling a need with the customer (your reader). It's not something you can do for a week once you've got a book hitting Amazon because it takes a lot of time to develop those relationships as someone who is genuinely interested in both people and subjects that they're interested in.

On social media, she emphasized posting regularly. This isn't the same as posting often. If your schedule is one blog post a month, keep it. If it's a tweet every waking hour, keep it. The idea is to make your schedule predictable.

She recommended Ryan Mendenhall's book Selling Well: The 5 Relationships That Experts, Authors & Coaches Use To Sell 1,000 Books In 21 Days. Ryan was there as well, but wasn't on the presenter schedule.

Her presentation ended with this. If marketing is boring, then are you:

  • Just selling?
  • Not enjoying what you do?
  • Not genuine?
  • Not connecting?
  • Not feeling it?
  • Not filling a need?
  • Burned out?

Unfortunately, I missed John Brown's message on Scene / Sequel during that first hour since I haven't delivered a time machine to myself from the future yet. I can still only be in one place at a time.

Michael Darling

My second session was Michael Darling, on Using Misdirection. He's both a magician and an author, and described how indirection is a valuable tool in fiction. Of course he started us off with an example by selecting a volunteer from the audience. The little magic trick he showed us was first, an example to us of getting his assistant to not focus on what he was doing. Second, he showed us that he had used a second level of indirection against us as his audience. The trick itself isn't as important as the message that indirection is entertaining, and can be pushed layer upon layer to be revealed when it will have the most impact.

Michael and his assistant. Beware of sitting in the front row or you might be called upon.

He emphasized the difference between indirection and a trick ending. Trick endings are where the writer pulls one over on the reader, more like "ha ha, got you" than "while you thought you knew what happened, this was under your nose the whole time." As an example, he described a lot of the misdirection in the movie "The Sixth Sense" as the right way to do it.

The highlights:


  • Manipulate the reader through deliberate choices to enhance a story and achieve a desired effect.
  • Not a trick ending.
  • People can focus on one or two things at a time, so you can sneak stuff past them by making it look innocent.
  • Keep characters away from climactic situations both in time and distance through misdirection.
  • Details should be scattered through a story, then should become important later.
  • It's a process of learning for both the character and the reader.
  • Review important things when they become important.


You can misdirect people in many ways:


  • Title (A story title seems to be about one thing, but is about another, The Sixth Sense)
  • Character (Is the story really about the character you think it's about? Psycho.)
  • Setting (Are you sure that you're not doing something besides the obvious? Ender's Game.)
  • Object (Is the McGuffin really what you think it is? Maltese Falcon, Sword of Shannara)
  • Plot (Derp. Forgot what his examples were)

One of the most critical points was that as a writer, you must always play fair. Leave real clues and hints. It's fine if they don't look like hints until the story ends, but don't yank the reader's chain by trying to fool them because readers don't like having a joke pulled on them.

Jordan McCollum

Jordan McCollum spoke about Approaching POV Through Voice. A lot of writing has issues with Point of View, and with character voice. If you can't tell who the POV character is by picking a random page, or if all your characters speak the same way and have the same feel, then you're stuck in the area she was helping us to fix.

The solutions are to generate a distinctive voice for each character, and to use good POV mechanics.

Voice

Create a cohesive whole where you and the reader will both see the needs, abilities, attitudes, beliefs, hobbies, and interests of your characters to make them stand out from each other. You need to dig deep to ask why and how they do things, and why anyone should care.

The voice should be distinct enough that you should be able to get rid of most of your dialog tags (he said, she said scaffolding). You need to have the POV character notice what they would really be interested in. That allows them to become likable when a reader shares an interest, and it allows you to believably make characters interested in each other.

POV Mechanics

Start a scene with anchors. Always mention the POV character first, and always tie them to the scene physically by having them do something. Don't leave the reader hanging trying to figure out whose head they are in, or where they might be. Once you've got the character named and doing something, move on to their thought or concern to cement things firmly.

Callie Stoker

Again, I missed a session I wanted to go to. Callie Stoker spoke on Plotting to Pantsing: where your prewriting falls on the pectrum. I've gotten to know her over the past couple of years as she has spoken at several conferences, and she's always been eager to talk shop and help new writers. While I was at the library I bought a copy of Secrets & Doors, an anthology she edited.

Julie Coulter Bellon

Julie Coulter Bellon spoke about Self Editing / Revision.

Julie gave us a list of things to watch for.


  • Too many dialog tags.
  • Cliches.
  • To many adjectives and adverbs.
  • Tense inconsistency.
  • Subject / verb agreement.
  • Repetitious descriptions.
  • Overuse of favorite words.
  • Weak POV and chapter breaks.


When self-editing, it's good to walk away from a story for a bit, to print it out and review it as hard copy, and to let someone else read it. There are lots of tricks to get you to see your own mistakes instead of just automatically glossing over them, but those are the ones she mentioned.

She also gave us an editor's checklist of things to watch out for.


  • Characterization
  • Setting (which can sometimes behave as a character for purposes of plot)
  • Continuity
  • Conflict
  • Plot
  • Balance between narrative, action and dialog
  • Natural flow

To finish up a book, you can go over edit lists to rewrite. This can rejuvenate the story and the characters, and is a chance to make the story shine.

Julie ended with a quote:
You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. - Arthur Polotnik
After Julie's session I ended up running into that whole time machine problem again, and needed to be in two places at once. Unfortunately, UAACON15 lost out, so I missed the last two sessions. The part I was able to attend was great, and it was good to both review and learn new things.

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