Getting Ready – When Words Collide

I am going to When Words Collide again this year. When Words Collide 2014 won the Aurora Award for best fan organizational. (odd title for a an award)

If you are near Calgary you should have planned to go. Flights are cheap from the US. The conference is now full.

Here is the list of Special Guests for this year:

2015 Guests
Daniel Abraham Fantasy
C.J. Carmichael Romance
Diana Gabaldon Historical
M.L.N. Hanover Urban Fantasy
Sally Harding Literary Agent
Faith Hunter Urban Fantasy
Gwen Hunter Thriller
Brandon Mull Young Adult

I am going to try and blog every day while at the conference.(Stop Laughing) Last year, as you may recall, I did a post series of blogs on When Words Collide.

A great conference, but as I learned long ago you need to plan before going to conference. There are some people who ‘Yolo’ it. I don’t think you maximize your experience. Have a plan, change the plan if you need to, but don’t spend time guessing what to do next. Why? There is too much to take in. There is too much content.

I/You need to focus on what you want to get out of any conference that you go on. This is true of a writers conference, or any trade conference. Know thyself. Don’t be dragged along in the wake of events. Plan on riding the wave to where you want to go and use it to motive and carry you on to completing goals you have for your writing. Like me most writers still have day jobs, use the motivations from the conferences you go to propel you on to being the great author you want to be.

That’s all for know, get ready for the flood of blogs…and as always

Be Well dcd

When Words Collide Part Six – RPG Storytelling (Role Playing Game)

I have been a fan of RPG‘s or Role Playing Games for a long time.

Three Stand Out Quotes from this session:

“Like knitting a parachute while falling from a plane”

“Never get to the YOU HAD TO BE THERE moment” 

“Take notes on the game – Brent – naked and in chains – “That level of bad dice rolling is epic in some players”

For those of you that aren’t familiar with role playing games (you should be!), a brief overview.


A group of 4-6 people gather together, preferably in person rather than online. The online/physically together debate is a matter for a different blog. One of the people functions as the Game Master – GM for short. This person leads the rest through an adventure, plays the role of bad guys, neutral characters, allies and the setting. They prepare in advance.Must be able to think fast and be inventive, after all characters like people don’t always do what you expect them to do.

The other people each have a “character” to play. They “Role Play” or act out through words and description how their character behaves.. Traditionally played with various sided dice, pen and paper. The dice are used to determine a variety of outcomes, damage, did you see through the assassin’s stealth, does the bar maid love you. Each character has attributes that help define how to play the character. Some are bruising tanks with low intellect – THORG SMASH, clever wizard’s or dumb wizard’s as the case may be. Some may be rangers or dragons or giants, elves etc and oh and dwarves.  It tends to be much like the Lord of Rings Characters and Races. Some role playing games are set in the future – some are set in alternative universes – Star Wars Universes – You get the idea. There is much more to role playing and developing your own character.

Over the course of several hours your merry band of adventurers go on a journey, encounters trouble, solves problems, defeats the enemy(not always via combat). In the process a story is created, unique to that night of playing. And as the panel discussed VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO RETELL!.

Our panellists for this session were Brandon Sanderson, Chadwick Ginther, Ron Bender and Dave Gross. Most if not all of these folk function as the game master for their group or groups. The story telling is rich and varied with laughter intrigue and generally a good time is had by all. To recreate this into a story that you put into print is difficult if not impossible as the speakers outlined.

Context, quite often how a person talks or how they gesture adds or helps define the meaning of what they are saying.

Point of View – our old friend PoV haunts what we try to put on paper after an excellent night of gaming. The best advice is to try and tell each scene or vignette from one character’s point of view

How do you integrate the dice rolling into the story? You must be inventive.

People have tried transcribing adventures and it just doesn’t work, if you don’t believe me, try it, – I HAVE! What a nightmare to decipher.

If you have never role played an adventure game with pen and paper – I highly recommend it. If you are looking of an example of excellent narrative role players, please watch:

Be Well – dcd

When Words Collide-Part Deux

Keynote Speakers Friday Night

When I heard that each of the keynote speakers were given time to speak on a topic of their choice, I shook my head. It will never work.

Randy McCharles organizes the conference, and is obviously smarter than me, because it did work.

For the purposes of this blog I am going to focus on two points that were brought up by different speakers.

Mark Leslie

Director of Self Publishing & Author Relations for Kobo, Yes that KOBO!

Mark is an engaging speaker that knows his topics. He also understands how to speak to a variety of audiences. It is great to see someone with his people skills at a conference. I bumped into him in the hallway and chatted. I asked him why he was at this conference. Implying wasn’t there somewhere else he should be? His answer summed up why I am returning to “When Words Collide” – it is a great conference with many unique features.

Point One – The “BOOK” has died many times.

It died when radio arrived, it died when TV arrived, it died when the internet arrived.

In fact it did not die – it had babies. The advent of the new technologies that supposedly would finally kill the book, actually gave birth to more books. People want to travel with many books now, They want to have their library with them. With devices like KOBO this can happen. More importantly to me is my Mom can finally get any book and read it because she can increase the font size! Never underestimate the impact of one small piece of technology. The ability to increase font is one of those great, impact-full changes.

Brandon Sanderson brings out our second point. I would be remiss if I did not encourage you to go and listen to Brandon Sanderson if you can. Not only an “EPIC” author, but and enlightening speaker.

Point Two – The myth that 90% of everything out there is crap.

There is an internet myth that implies that 90% of everything out there is crap. We apply this axiom to everything. It is simply not true. Brandon illustrated this by looking at movie reviews. Roger Ebert one of the finest movie critics out there reviewed everything; it was his job. If totaled, the movies up he liked was 60% of all movies he watched!

Not satisfied with result alone Brandon looked at the reviewer from Rotten Tomatoes who did not like the movie “Return of the King”. The most liked movie on Rotten Tomatoes, I think, This person didn’t  like the Return of the King, but when Brandon totaled up all the likes and dislikes for this reviewer over the year he was just under liking….you guessed it 60% likes.

The conclusion is that we need to be more respectful and not let the internet mentality of “CRAP” creep into all of our life. 90% of everything out there is not crap. Learn to know the difference between something you don’t like and crap.

Be Well – dcd

Part One – A slush session – no its not a drink

When Words Collide – 2014 Calgary AB Canada

First Session – “Early Bird: Live Action Slush”

The description in the program said the following:

Bring the 1st page of your manuscript to be anonymously read aloud and receive comments from  the editors.

The panel was: Tony King (reader) Brandon Sanderson, Mark Leslie, Robert Runte and Susan MacGregor.

Your piece gets read and when panellists don’t like something they raise their hand. If three of the four panellists raise their hand the reader stops and we hear why they raised their hand.

The courage to expose your “baby” to open criticism in front of other authors and writers is amazing. I listened, memorized, through the entire session. Some of them were brutal, most of the pieces suffered from what I have learned to recognize as “first time writer” issues. There was one piece that was wonderful and even the panel enjoyed. It was a happy moment when Tony King asked if the writer would stand so we could see who this piece was written by. Oddly it was the woman that I helped as she came in the door.

I did not submit a piece. Next year I will.  This type of session ran throughout the weekend and was generally genre based with editors and acquisition staff on the panel.

It is important to note that the panellists were able to criticize the writing, but left the writer encouraged. This is an amazing skill to have. Every person I spoke to about these sessions enjoyed them, even the people who were on the receiving end of strong criticism.

Here is the “stream of conscious notes” I took during the session.

Please get on with something – need a strong hook

Slow and slowly, few nice things …but it couldn’t stand like this

Too much navel gazing, need to try to get to action

Poetic – language – pulled him in – 

Think about the concept of “Voice” – white room syndrome – cut the second half – get excited – I got lost

Don’t do the “Show” and then tell them what you just showed them.

Dialog – can pull you in – hints at the beginning

Watch the cliché dialogs –

Prose is nice – you need to grab me – too much tell not enough show

Reader cookies – insert things that readers want –

New writer tell problems – Character’s Focus – is what the reader focus should be – don’t describe emotion – show emotion – 

Good imaginary – helps

Don’t be a dark and storming – avoid

Watch the timing – sometimes you need to get rid of the other characters to help isolate

If you start action – remember that you need to keep the tempo of the action

Gorilla in the phone booth – scaling a cliff in windy Icy weather – magic system – need visual or auditory systems to SHOW the reader 

I got lost in the reading – forgot I was on the panel –

“The quest for the name”

NOTE – I love the honesty of the panel

Don’t use newspaper clipping start –

If you are doing action don’t pull out the reader out of the action by too many details

“I get so tired of hair and eye color”

Need something that is Fantastic –

Description needs to invoke character – need a better sense off character

Look for hook line

Watch repetition of the same idea

Keep your characters clear – let there be no ambiguity

Over description – Character’s reaction of have dreaming reactions

Solidify the character and place – and then hit us with description

Watch dream sequence that has an injection of a real world element