Tuesday, August 23, 2011

“What are you passionate about?”

passion festI’ve received that question a few times lately in regards to some non-writing matters. But it got me thinking…what about writing am I passionate about?

I started thinking about things like Show vs Tell, character arcs, Hero’s Journey, scene structure, and the appropriate use of commas. Plot vs story, conflict on every page, tension, stakes, making every word matter.

Then it struck me. All those concepts are really ancillary to the real thing I’m passionate about.

I’m passionate about PASSION.

Not necessarily that romantic passion—though I have that too—but I’m passionate about writing characters who are passionate, who care, who fight and struggle whether for a good or evil cause.

I’m passionate about creating surprises, to challenge my characters past the breaking point, to have them fight to the last breath. To create wild twists and turns that drive the story to the conclusion.

I’m passionate about good writing, that creates worlds you can see, touch, and taste. Characters that you feel that you know, that care about the things you would if you were them.

So my stories are really stories about the nature of passion, and what passion can do to you. In Steam Palace, my main character Sophia even has a name for it—Mad Passion. She thinks it’s some kind of ethereal magic that causes her to make difficult decisions and face the truth of her situation. She thinks it’s a defect or some kind of special gift, but the reality is that she’s just passionate. Like everyone. And by driving her to the truth of matters, she can throw off societies’ norms and expectations and do what she needs to do.


How do you use passion in your writing?

Hmm…that image I found gives me an idea for a blogfest……

Monday, August 8, 2011

PNWA Writer’s Conference Report



Drinks at the bar. (after pitching)

That pretty much sums up my PNWA Conference experience.

I was far more nervous pitching agents than having a job interview. And I couldn’t sleep, worrying about it. Yes, I’d love a job, but I’d die for a publishing contract. So I had 3-5 minutes to pitch some I’ve spent 2+ years on. No pressure.

I just spent the last four days working on and delivering my novel pitch (which I really didn’t change since WDC in January) and learning more about writing.But there’s one thing I learned more than any other lesson.

Write small.

I knew going in that my manuscript for Steam Palace was too long. I was terrified that they would hear that and not want to even hear my pitch. When they did ask the length, I said, “140K but I’m working on it,” with a smile. They replied, “well, I’d like to see it……after you cut it down to 100K.”


That’s a 30% reduction. I spent a lot of the conference asking authors or presenters about strategies on how to do this. I’ve come up with 4 main approaches:

  1. Trim scenes. Start them later. End them earlier. Combine two scenes into one.
  2. Cut subplots. Do we really need to know Aunt Beatrice had a crush on a guy 20 years ago and rekindles that relationship?
  3. Cut characters. Thomas was supposed to be Sophia’s love interest. But her real “love” interest is Viola. (buddy/family love) So why have two love stories?
  4. Line Editing. I figured I can reduce the ms by about 5% by removing extraneous then’s, but’s, adverbs, of’s, etc. This would be a final step once I get down to ~105K.

I think if I cut my ms 30%, I’ll actually improve it 100%. Less is more. I’ll concentrate on what’s important, leave out what’s not so important.

But once this editing is done and I send it out, it’s done. No more Steam Palace. Ever. Unless, of course, I get a publishing contract. Then it’s all Steam Palace, all the time.

Now to get out that axe and start hacking!