The Pikes Peak Writers Conference for 2019, held yearly in Colorado Springs, was last weekend, May 3-5, 2019. Here’s a few impressions and takeaways I gleaned from the conference. Not comprehensive by any means.
Several speakers at the sessions I attended used the acronym “GMC” in their talks. This stands for “Goal/Motivation/Conflict,” three factors totally and absolutely necessary in the construction of a novel. I’d heard of each of those before, of course. You don’t study writing fiction without running into them over and over. But I’d never heard them grouped together in that manner. A very concise way to remember them.
Carol Berg gave an interesting talk on building order from chaos. The foundation of the story, she says, is layered from paragraph, scene, and story arc. Each paragraph draws readers through one idea, one topic. Each has one speaker. The first line of a paragraph should not be a summary of the paragraph. It’s not meant to be a preview of what’s coming. Paragraphs are merged into one scene. Each scene must contribute to the rising tension of the story. Each scene has a starting point and an ending point, and each affects what happens from that point on. All are essential to building the story arc. She recommends reading everything out loud to get a feel for the rhythm of the narrative. Good idea.
Brenda Speer, a lawyer practicing intellectual property law in Colorado Springs, gave a talk on using facts in fiction and nonfiction. Interestingly, she recommends getting permission from the person or agency who holds the rights to song lyrics before quoting them in a literary work. I—and many others, I understand—had always assumed that quoting just a couple of words or a few lines from a song or poem or similar work, would be okay either without, or with minimal attribution. Her feeling was: always get permission even for the shortest of quotes. Good to know.
Stant Litore gave a good talk on creating an unforgettable civilization in your work. Valuable for us sci-fi writers. Build a world either from the bottom up, that is, create a whole new world completely, or use the world we live in as a basis for a modified world that may look familiar, but has one or more unusual aspects. Interesting. I even bought one of his books.
Jennifer Rose talked on creating strong female characters. Of course you want your female characters, especially if they are the leading character, to be strong and capable of carrying the story. That applies to females as much as males. Female lead characters should be developed from the “ground up” as much as any male character. They are as capable as a man, but they aren’t superhuman. They have vulnerabilities too. There should be more than one female character in a story. Give them someone to talk to. They can have friendships with men that are not sexual.
Jonathan Mayberry talked about the short story, though most of his talk was geared toward submitting to anthologies, a process he’s very familiar with. The most interesting comment he made was that, in submitting to literary journals or magazines, submit to only one at a time. I’ve submitted many short stories to literary magazines, and most of the time it has been as a set of submissions to several journals at one time. Apparently, journal editors don’t like this. They prefer an exclusive look at the story. I can understand them wanting that, but it can take one journal several months to reply about your story, so I (and many others I understand), still submit to several journals at a time. I’m not sure if I’ll change my submission habits or not. Oh, well.
I talked to Lesley Sabga, an agent from the Seymour Agency, at the meeting, and she requested a look at the full manuscript of the first volume of my sci-fi trilogy. I sent it and a short synopsis and literary resume a few days after getting back. She also requested a very short summary of the second and third in the trilogy. We’ll see what happens.