Saturday, September 25, 2010

Notes from Jessica Andersen’s presentation

Notes from Jessica Andersen’s presentation

  • If you need to do something or need something to happen it cannot be a coincidence. There must be a reason for it to happen.
  • Write the nuts and bolts and then go back to fill in the characters and what they are going through.
  • Get a critique partner with the opposite skills of you.
  • Bring it back to the character.
  • To keep your different projects separate in your mind, do them in a different font.
  • If you have difficulty getingt into the head of a character you don’t fully understand it is normally because you know what they are like until you reach the barrier they have put up. You must get to the other side of the wall.
  • Starting with a concept is harder than starting with a character.

World Building

  • How was the character raised.
  • What rules the after-life?
  • If you get the rules wrong it can throw the reader out of the story.

Questions to World Building

  • What are the major facts about the world that are pertinent to your character?
  • What will people expect of your character?
  • Who is intending to inhabit this world? Will they make you excited to keep writing? (Write about people who are bigger than themselves.)
  • Think before you make statements that are controversial.
  • Include two or three minor (yet cool) facts that will be important to this book. They may not make it into the next book.
  • If you see a theme you hadn’t planned on when you are done, go back and bring it out.
  • Are there any cool controversies? Feel free to be selective and look outside the norm. You can make up a prophecy to be passed down from generation to generation. You can have your protagonist try to fight the prophecy.
  • Where will your world deviate from reality/history? There are two way: The NOD – acknowledge to the reader that this could never happen but it did in this case because…. FIX – come up with a reason why it works. Look at the facts, see if you can come up with reasons for this to happen.
  • If there are a lot of unfamiliar facts you must ground it in the familiar to make the reader comfortable.
  • If you need XYZ to happen, you must find a way to make it fit your rules. Have defensible logic.
  • Don’t talk down to your readers. Do something unexpected but only if it makes sense.
  • Write your story in the whenever (not time specific) whenever possible.

Misc. Notes:

  • If, during editing, you remove material from your novel you can put it on your web site as “deleted content.”
  • What does a reader want from a genre? You must deliver what is expected of the genre or the author.
  • You can use a reader’s preconceived facts and then change things.
  • Generally, you need to get into the action quickly. However, fantasy readers are more open to world building before the action starts.
  • Building the world first informs the characters.
  • Introduce the obvious motivation then reveal the hidden.
  • As the same questions about your character as you do for your world.
  • Why do He and She complete each other?
  • Change the formatting of your story on subsequent read-throughs. Your mind “remembers” what it has seen. If you change the format you are looking with fresh eyes.


  • You can find a critique partners at writer’s conferences, work groups, or from email lists.

Questions / discussions to have up-front:

  • What is important to you?
  1. Turn around time.
  2. email vs. phone vs. face-to-face
  3. Is positive feedback important?
  4. Do you need plot arc or nit-pick stuff?
  5. Just general feedback?

Assess what your strengths are:

  • (See above)
  • NG on grammar?
  • Good at action and story telling?
  • Are there story flaws?

Test your compatibility

  • Where you should be compatible & opposite.
  • Are your genres compatible?
  • Exchange a few test pages and then talk about it later.

Set boundaries

  • Write out your expectations.
    1. I expect my work to not go beyond us.
    2. You may feel you need to go beyond the set rules – be careful.
    3. Craft your critique so it can be “heard” by the other person.
    4. Sleep on a critique before you send it.

Breaking up

  • Your styles aren’t working
  • Life is getting in the way of writing
  • Don’t burn bridges
  • You don’t gain anything by picking a fight

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