Yesterday I attended a great event put on by the Surrey Public Library at the striking new City Centre branch. It was part of the Write Here, Read Now program and featured the inspiring Martin Crosbie, author of How I sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle, a self-publishing guidebook. In the 75 minutes that he had he did an outstanding job of presenting a plethora of useful steps to how aspiring authors can self-publish and not bankrupt themselves in the process. In the past, I have attended workshops and presentations on self-publishing and to be quite honest, mostly what I took away from them was how difficult it would be and how little success I should realistically expect. Add to that the fact that I am not great at the technical aspect of it. Martin Crosbie, on the other hand, makes it seem so achievable that it lit a fire in me once again. The best part of it is how encouraging he is to writers who are just beginning their journey. I also met the fabulous Lorna Suzuki, author of The Imago Chronicles. She was one of the writers in Authors Among Us, an ongoing event at the library where you can listen to various writers give readings from their books and then ask questions and interact with them. I was able to spend some time with her afterwards and share some of my concerns. Ten minutes with her and once again I was on a motivational high. We’ve all been there, in that place of self doubt, of insecurity and frustration, when it feels that we’re stuck. Which brings me to my main point. I feel extremely fortunate to live in a city where the public library puts on multiple events that bring together successful authors of different genres and at various levels of success, so that aspiring writers can connect with them, learn from them and most of all be inspired by them. We all know that writing can be a somewhat lonely activity, but events like these make you realize that there is a community of writers nearby, where you can find guidance and encouragement and where hopefully, one day, you too can pay it forward.
I was thinking about ways to improve creativity, so I did some research and here’s what I’ve come up with:
-Keep an open mind about…well pretty much anything…what you read, who you talk to, what you watch. You never know what will inspire you and help you create the next great piece of art or literature.
-Use all your senses when you go about your daily activities. Observe the people on the bus, in line at the coffee shop and grocery store. Listen to how they talk to one another and what kind of hand gestures they use. The next time you go to a restaurant, an art gallery or a farmer’s market, take in all the colours, flavours and scents that surround you. You never know where inspiration might strike.
-Put judgment aside for some time. When we look at something in our usual way it may colour our perception.
-Determine when and where you are at your creative best. It could be quiet mornings at your regular coffee shop or your local library. Or it could be in your favourite chair at home with soft music in the background.
-Add creative and inspiring people into your social circle. It rubs off.
Don’t let a slight lag in creativity let you give up on your dreams. Find what works for you and let the creative juices flow.
I realized that my tendency to procrastinate reached a new low when I had a very interesting dream last night. The short version is that the characters from my yet-to-be-finished novel were telling me to get off my butt and finish the damn novel already because they had things to do and places to be. Now, I realize that this is some latent attempt by my inner writer to guilt me into getting back to work, but I must admit that I was a little freaked out. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning wondering who had given my characters permission to talk to me like that and came to the conclusion that it was a good thing that they took it upon themselves to admonish me, since clearly I wasn’t doing a good job of it myself. I have managed to waste an entire summer doing nothing and now I feel as if I might as well give up. Thankfully, I won’t be doing that anymore because there is nothing like having a seventeen year-old protagonist giving you a reality check to get you back on track.
I have been having this on and off relationship with the Prologue for my novel. I feel that it needs one, but then everything I read tells me that agents and editors hate them. Well at least the majority of them. Because the lives of the characters in my novel are intertwined with the gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology, I feel that it is important to set the scene, so to speak. I personally love prologues and I find that for certain stories they can provide valuable background details. I decided to delve deeper into what people are saying about prologues and here is what I learned:
1. Never use your prologue as an information dump about your characters or the setting. It is better to cleverly work that into scenes and dialogue.
2. Don’t use your prologue as a hook. That’s what the first chapter is for. Also readers will feel cheated if the prologue reels them in, but the chapters don’t deliver on that promise.
3. Your prologue should not be overly complex. This will just confuse readers and possibly turn them off the book entirely.
4. Never, never write a prologue that doesn’t connect with the main story. It will leave the reader wondering and not in a good way.
5. Ask yourself whether your prologue can just be the first chapter. If yes, then that’s what it should be. Apparently many people don’t even bother reading prologues. In that case, if the prologue contains information vital to understanding the story, you’re royally screwed.
Clearly there is no single answer to the question of whether or not to write a prologue. But at least there’s a lot of good information out there on how to do it right. Since I am the boss of me and I love prologues, I will keep mine. I have a strong gut feeling that my readers will appreciate it.
Here are a couple of links I found helpful:
The Prologue – When to Use One, How to Write One by Marg McAlister: An excellent dissection of the prologue, its advantages and disadvantages by Marg McAlister. She lists several questions to ask when deciding to use or not to use a prologue.
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/prologue.shtml: An interesting take on the multiple roles a prologue can play in your novel. If your prologue is not doing any of the jobs it’s supposed to, then it doesn’t belong in your novel.
Writing can be a lonely profession and networking is a writer’s best friend. Writers’ Conferences provide an excellent opportunity to meet experienced writers as well as others who are just starting out. We all need encouragement when we start the long, often arduous journey to being published. Spending a weekend in the company of veteran authors who have successfully traversed the great divide that exists between the budding author and the published one, can be an unparalleled experience.
I attended the Surrey International Writer’s Conference in British Columbia, Canada for the past two years, and it has been an invaluable learning experience for me. I thought I would share some of the details with my readers so here goes:
First of all let me say this – what you learn at a conference in three days is equivalent to taking several long running writing courses. You have your pick of workshops, everything from writing great dialogue to character building to publishing. Then there are contests, readings and book signings. You get to meet the most inspiring people, published and unpublished writers that just get the fire going. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but if you pace yourself, you will get so much out of it. Other than the obvious learning aspect, there is one more reason that a writers’ conference is such a great event. You spend three days in this bubble, where you can forget the outside world and just soak in everything related to writing. It’s great when you’re in the company of others that are excited about writing. You leave feeling rejuvenated and exhausted at the same time, but with a renewed energy to keep going and this to me is priceless.
The downside is that these conferences are pretty costly. At the SIWC about $600 will buy you the full access package which includes all the workshops, lunches, themed dinners and after dinner events which can be a hoot. It does not include travel or accomodation. Of course it helps if you live nearby or if you have a friend who is also attending, so that you can share these costs. If you are attending from out of town, the conference website will usually help you get in touch with others who are attending and are looking to share rides or rooms.You can also reduce the cost if you choose only to attend the three days of workshops, but not the lunches and dinners. You still get to meet with authors and editors as that is usually built into the basic package. The first year I attended, I chose the full package as I did not want to miss anything. I hadn’t anticipated just how tiring a full day of intense workshops can be. Although lunchtimes provide a great setting to meet new people, if you look at the cost versus benefit ratio, it’s fine to miss the lunches because you still get plenty of opportunity to chat up people throughout the weekend. But for first time attendees I really recommend the full package. I’m glad I got to do it all the first time around, so for the second time, I knew what to pick and what to leave out.
For me the best part is the pitch session, where you get to talk about your work to an agent or editor of your choice. Then there is the opportunity to show a piece of your work to an author who can give invaluable feedback.
So, if you have the opportunity to attend even one Writers’ Conference you should do it. You will not regret it and who knows what wondrous opportunities might come your way.