WFC – Building Professional Relationships

They listed this as “relationship building” or some such and I think most of us thought this would be a forum on character relationship building. Not so.

But not disappointing either. One of the foibles of many writers (and I’ve been guilty of this too) is our lack of interest or ability in forming professional relationships. Some of us can barely stomach the thought that people are reading our precious stories, let alone talk to those people after they’ve done it.

Being around the BFF has made me more of an outgoing person, because I was able to watch her seemingly flawless skill at connecting with people. She’s been in sales for years. Couple that with her natural love of people, and boom, her skills dominate.

Last year and this year too while attending the Writing for Charity conference I noticed the majority of writers I met seemed about 0% interested in networking. When I asked them what their story was about, they transformed into the wary cat, guarding the precious food it just found. That or they gave me that look, the what do you want look. That’s not all of them, but it was a lot of them.


If you can’t see the point of networking and connecting with other authors, then I’m sure this question has crossed your mind: What can other authors do for me? It’s not like they’ve got an agent either.

True, some may not. But you’re approaching the point with completely the wrong attitude. Networking and building professional relationships isn’t about what that person can do for you, but what you can do for them.

Let’s start with a quote from the forum:

Every opportunity has its root in a relationship.

Remember that phrase it’s not what you know but who you know. Although what you know is important and will take you far, who you know is equally as important. You’re probably still wondering how getting to know other aspiring authors is going to get you published.

Stop it. Stop that approach. Focus instead on what you can do for them. For me, in the beginning, it was that I knew networking and building relationships would at the very least bring me into the circle of my peers and keep my motivation running. But while networking, I met a friend who introduced me to all kinds of things I hadn’t know about Twitter. Hashtags like #myWANA #Row80 and #wordmongering now entered my hemisphere, all because I was willing to open my mouth and say hello.

I also tried to be his motivator and he was mine, and we checked in with each other on our progress. Friendship. Karma. If you give help freely, help will be given freely to you. I always learn something new from networking.

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WFC – Dialogue Panel

In following with a pattern of sorts, I feel like one of my writing strengths is dialogue. So this time I decided to send the ego out for a break and find out if there was more I could learn. It’s good to strengthen your weaknesses, but even better to build up your strengths, right?

This was presented by Mette Ivie Harrison who spelled dialogue as dialog, which apparently is technically correct, but it bothered me the whole time! People, it’s D-I-A-L-O-G-U-E. Okay, enough of that. Onto the notes.


Characters can talk about themselves to other characters. People naturally reveal themselves to others in conversation, but it must be comfortable. Avoid ‘uh’ ‘um’ etc.

Examples used: Code Name Verocity, Life As We Knew It


Each character wants something different. Each character should have a different verbal style to get this. One could be passive, the other aggressive. Shouting is not the only way to show conflict in dialogue. Whispering, twisting words, sarcasm—all work as well.

Example used: An Ideal Boyfriend


It can reveal information that is necessary for the resolution of plot, but be careful how you approach it. And it can resolve problems and conflicts.

Example used: The False Prince


But be careful of maid/butler dialogue. Those scenes where almost completely unimportant characters reveal the one piece of vital information that moves the plot forward. They can even be semi-important characters, but whose only purpose is to convey that information before disappearing completely or being killed. Point being, if they already know it they won’t talk about it. (This is something I didn’t like about Dr. Whatshisface in Pontypool.)

If you use this method, have a character who is ignorant be involved in the conversation. Or have the conversation be between two people who debate the info given. Take Harry Potter, for example. (KATE!) Because he doesn’t know the world, then he can explain it to the readers naturally.

JAE NOTE: At this point she generally quit selecting samples from other works and stuck to the ones she knows: her own. Sure, it’s perfectly fine to do a bit of shameless promotion of your own stuff. I don’t know that I’d feel comfortable even doing the one example. But anyway, it caused me to wonder if she doesn’t take as much time to read other things? I mean, go to Harry Potter if you need examples for crying out loud! 😉 Does anyone else feel like this was a bit self-serving? Anyway, for the rest of these, just go find one of Mette’s books, according to her.


Make the reader feel something is not the same as the characters feeling it. The characters may not react to pain, but the reader will. Characters may also not be able to cheer for a final kiss, but readers will.


Silence can be as potent a response as any paragraph of words. There is more than one way to convey silence. You can use misdirection figuratively and say everything but what will gradually become clear to the reader is truth (for that story. Also, I didn’t quite get what she meant. I think lead your readers down a wrong path, all the while laying the groundwork that shows them the truth they arrive at in the end was there all along).

Anyway, one of my favorite dialogue scenes is between Han and Leia. Because they knew Han’s character well enough, they knew this scene should play out exactly like this:

We were running out of time, so 7-9 she did rather fast. I couldn’t make many notes before she read more samples from her books.

#7 Use a twist to make your dialogue pop.
#8 Witty banter is an old classic of great dialogue.
#9 Zingers make great dialogue.


But don’t overuse them. If it’s clear which character is speaking, you don’t need a tag. Don’t tell us the emotion conveyed if it’s already obvious.

Example used: The Queen of Attolia

JAE NOTE: She wanted to put in desperately for one of her samples, but I think you should write it so we can conclude that it is desperate. It’s harder, but your readers will appreciate it more.


Despite a few bothers, I still enjoyed attending this forum. All of these points served as good reminders. I intend to take all the points and see if they help me find areas where my novel’s dialogue could be improved.

Did you learn anything new? What are your writing strengths? Is dialogue one of them? Do you agree with her advice? Disagree?

WFC – Worldbuilding

My strong suit isn’t worldbuilding. I don’t mean that I don’t imagine my world and see it with awe and wonder, I mean that what I see in my head doesn’t always make it to the page like it should. So I thought, why not attend a forum and make weak things strong.

Enter Howard Tayler, author of the online comic Schlock Mercenary, and all decked out in steampunk attire. Think chef’s coat, but black with metal buttons on top, and big shoes that look like they came straight from the costuming department of Flash Gordon. Maybe this is how Howard always dresses, but I thought it especially appropriate for a forum on worldbuilding via a scifi guy.


Resist the temptation to worldbuild for worldbuilding’s sake. A dragon that is in the background that doesn’t do anything doesn’t need to be there. Don’t describe scenes that will have little bearing on your story. What the character sees should tell the reader either something about that character or something about the story. What would your character notice? And what descriptions can you use to help create your story?

Ask yourself, what kind of a story do I want to tell? Build your world around that answer.


There are things that you’ll do when you worldbuild that you shouldn’t. You’ll take the things that you are familiar with and put them in exactly as you’re familiar with them. Take for example horses. If you’re writing a fantasy story, odds are horses will show up sooner or later. But let me ask you this question. Does your horse behave like a horse or like a motorcycle?

Because most of us aren’t around horses we tend to treat horses in our stories like motorcycles. It’s an object that gets us from point A to point B. We ride it from one location and park it, like a motorcycle and carry on. But that’s not how people typically treated horses back in the day. They were companions, they were been given names, and treated more like another person than an object.


We want to be as consistent as possible. We want it to be internally consistent. The reader is forming opinions as you’re writing. If you change from the “writer’s conference” to the “David Copperfield magic show” it doesn’t work. Keep your story’s world consistent with your story.

When you’re writing scifi, you’re going to have to deal with science and the way it works with your world. But even if you’re writing urban fantasy, like Harry Potter urban fantasy (I was thinking of you at this time, Kate) you still have to use it. When you are worldbuilding you have to leverage the best of the both worlds. Like making magic work with science.

What is Brandon Sanderson’s first law of magic? The ability of the protagonist to solve a problem with magic is directly proportional to the reader’s understanding of magic. Let’s use Lord of the Rings as an example. What are the rules for Frodo’s ring? The ring must be destroyed, but the problem is everyone who wears the ring gets corrupted and ultimately won’t destroy the ring. So how do you get the ring destroyed in a way that works with the rules of your story? You don’t have to throw the ring in, but the ring has to get thrown in. (That’s why Gollum destroying the ring ultimately makes sense).

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WFC – Clint Johnson Panel

Who is Clint Johnson? He’s the author of Green Dragon Codex and a mighty fine writing mentor. I’d heard about him through my writer’s group via other writers who had used his services and was pleased to learn I would be in his critique group.

I wasn’t sorry. I got a lot of good feedback, as did the other members of our group. Clint is the kind of critiquer who tells you like it is, but in a way that inspires you to go write that next better draft. So after all that I thought, why not attend his forum?

It was supposed to be about education and teaching the right way so kids became more engaged in what they were learning. But because we were a small group, he offered to do either his presentation or talk shop. In the end we opted for a quick presentation and talk shop afterward.

And this is the unfortunate part, where technology became a bane for me. Remember that old advice, save and save often? That I did not do. So I lost a good portion of the notes I took, but I’ll do my best to present the parts I do remember back up to where notes began again. (Worst feeling ever…)


He said figure out why you’re writing and the goals for writing. Remember that what your character notices or how they describe things reveals a lot about that character without having to “tell” your audience anything. He used an example of a woman walking into the room and the character describes her shoes. What kind of person immediately focuses on shoes? He said now the same woman walks into the room, but the character notices cleavage instead or other physical characteristics instead.

The point being, whatever your character notices or whatever you describe should be conveying something about the character or the story.

Craft can be learned, if you’re willing to work and put in the effort, you can write publishable stories. Discouragement is a distortion and a lie.


Writing is an emotional thing. We are conveying emotion through story. That’s what readers ultimately come for, to experience some emotion-filled story.

Did Anakin feel empowered by Obi-wan’s feedback?

When you get feedback, ask yourself, is it empowering or not? I think what he means is, does the feedback give you a roadmap to something better or does it just tear you down. (Although I should note we shouldn’t assume our hurt feelings means poor feedback.)

Just remember that publishing is not fair. Don’t think that somebody is the end all be all. Nobody has the capacity to tell you that you’re a bad writer.

The way you describe things can give some emotion. The things you don’t say does that too. And then there are the things you think reveals it. If you combine that all and it doesn’t feel heavy-handed, you’ve got it (meaning good writing or a good scene/story).

You can have a person say “I love you” and actually mean “I hate you” or vice versa. We never use the words of these emotion, we just use elements of the story that put all of that into our minds. An emotional word is a flag because you haven’t figured out how to show that emotion. Emotion is usually the thing that comes last.

You’re in good company if you struggle with that. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of trial and error. You know what it feels like.


I really appreciated this idea of using world description as a way to reveal your character or how they are feeling without saying: Jane was scared or the like. Show us that Jane is scared. Write it in a way that we can come to no other conclusion but that Jane is scared.

What did you think? Any tidbits you agree with? Any you would add?

More notes coming tomorrow. See you then!

WFC Notes: YA Panel

These are notes from the second panel I attended at the Writing For Charity conference, the Young Adult Panel. Up front we had Kristen Chandler (Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me) as the moderator, with Shannon Hale (Austenland) and Carol Lynch Williams (The Chosen One).

Kristen asked some questions as well as pulling questions from the audience. Here’s what our ladies had to say. I’ll put an SH for Shannon Hale, CW for Carol Lynch Williams, and KC for Kristen Chandler according to answers.


SH – I think the thing is that we couldn’t do anything else. I spent a few years trying other things. I really wanted to know, is there anything else I could do? When I exhausted everything—and I mean everything—I realized for me the answer was being a writer.


SH – I’ve done all categories. I write the story I want to write and I don’t decide what the age group will be and then someone tells me what it is.

CW – My characters aren’t much older than 14, but I tend to write it in such a way that it reads up.

SH – By the way, if you’re ever thinking, Man, I could really do with a full on hard, girl cry, read The Chosen One (Carol’s book).

KC – YA offers something special, it offers voice. We should think about our character’s voices and focus on voice.

SH – When I was writing the Goose Girl, I was writing a story to please me. I don’t write for a certain age groups, I write a story that pleases me and figure out which market it’s for afterward.

CW – We have the most responsibility of any genre to make sure we’re telling truths, even if it’s sometimes ugly or beautiful. It’s a huge responsibility.

SH – In YA you can tell the truth, whatever that may be.

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