Orycon 36 is on the horizon, taking place at the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland. It will be our first time in attendance. Take the train from Seattle, keep a leisurely pace. Here’s my schedule per the program guide for November 7-9, 2014:
Nov. 7, 4PM – “Short Stories, Novelettes, and Novellas, and the Markets Who Love Them”. Yes! There are markets out there for shorter fiction!
Nov. 7, 5PM – Reading, “To the Gods of Time and Engines, a Gift.”
Nov. 7, 6PM – “Religion in Genre Fiction”. Depictions of actual, modernized, or adapted religions in genre fiction–the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. What’s been done and what could be done better with religion in fiction. Is the future atheistic?
Nov. 8, 10AM – “What I Wish I Would Have Known–Pitfalls for New Writers”. All the things writers should know going in, from craft to scams, and what our panelists wish they’d known.
Nov. 8, 11AM – “Planners vs. Pantsers”. Some writers have everything outlined and plotted before they put their fingers on the keyboard. Others insist on flying by the seat of their pants. If you’re one, come learn the techniques of the other and why you should pay attention.
If the only thing legendary writer Elmore Leonard had done was create Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens, that would be enough for me. But late in his decades-long career Elmore posted an article in the New York Times titled “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points, and Especially Hooptedoodle”. Within were his ten rules about writing, excerpted below. This list is gold, folks, brilliant in its simplicity. I’ve broken each of these at one time or another, but this is what keeps me on the path. They are:
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”… he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke use”.
7. Use regional dialect sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.
Elmore’s most important rule is one that sums up the 10 – If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.
I also have two of my own, learned the hard way (and with a respectful tip of the hat to Steven Barnes):
1. Be honest.
2. Steal from the best.
…a tiny little place deep in the woods, just north of Lake Washington. Two bedrooms, one bath, a large piece of land and easy on the eyes, but nothing exceptional or special. Love at first sight, so we made an offer bought it.
Moving in was a challenge. Did I mention the house is tiny? Much smaller than the place we’d been renting. We had to think long and hard about what to get rid of as we (truthfully I) had too much stuff to fit. The largest single piece I parted ways with was my desk. I loved that desk. It was huge–I could spread out all my papers and books and still have room to write. Every story I’ve had published was written at that desk. Surely I could have made it fit somewhere, right? Probably yes. Did I need the desk? Probably no.
One of the places I’d visited while in London several years back was Charles Dickens’ house. It’s a museum now, still furnished as when he lived there. What impressed me most was his desk. It wasn’t really a desk at all; it’s the size and shape of a TV dinner tray, with spindly legs mounted on tiny wooden wheels. Dickens would roll it from room to room when he wrote, wherever the mood struck him and the light was best. He didn’t need a grand piece of furniture at which to work, he just needed to work.
So I said good-bye to my own grand piece of furniture. As I write this I’m sitting at the kitchen table, which is as fine a place to work as any. Too many people get hung up on the things they need in order to write: the proper space, the newest program, the right keyboard. All they really need is some paper, a pencil, and the desire.
I started this post talking about my house, and maybe that’s a fine place to finish. It’s where I write.