I got home from LTUE today and I am bushed. Three days of writers talking about writing, mixed in with writer’s schmoozing, book signings, and more panels, jeez, no wonder my brain is fried. My first LTUE was last year, and I was a “participating guest”. This year I was a “special guest”, which basically meant that I got a cooler title on my badge and I showed up earlier in the program book. Sweet. I’m moving up in the world. On a serious note though, a lot has changed for me as a writer since last year. There was a subtle difference from being some a new guy that had self published and then gotten a book deal, to being an “up and comer” who everyone had heard of.
I was on several panels, but the biggest event I did was in conjunction with my friend John Brown. http://johndbrown.com/2010/02/handout-to-how-to-write-a-story-that-rocks/ It was called “How to Write a Story That Rocks” and was 2 hours of hyper-intensive brainstorming. John and I went on book tour together, and when you spend 30 hours in a car with somebody you get to understand their philosophy of writing pretty well. We went over how to come up with ideas, how to tweak those ideas into character and plot, and the basic creation process of building a good story.
I’ve never been an analytical writer. I don’t know jack about the “rules”. I never learned anything or paid any attention in an English class after my freshman year in high school. (now, Mrs. Silva on the other hand, was a tough lady!) I don’t know what the points are of the Hero’s Journey, nor have I ever read a book on the 3 act vs. 7 act structure. I’ve never had a lick of training on how to write, (and grammar? Holy crap, I suck). When I started out, I was basically a guy who liked to tell stories. My knowledge of how to tell a story comes from instinct and being a random dude who has always liked to entertain people. You try to make enough people laugh, you start to understand how they think, and you start to understand what works and what doesn’t. Writing is the same for me. I’m telling you something in order to get an emotional response. When all else fails, have a monster eat someone’s face… Oh, and at least one explosion every hundred pages.
John Brown, on the other hand, is a deeply analytical writer. He really ponders on writing, story, character, narrative flow, everything. John is one of those guys who will get better and better with every single thing he ever writes until the day he dies. John loves to entertain just as much as I do, but he’s also fascinated by the craft. He’ll experiment and work his butt off to not just write something good, but to also understand just what makes it good, so he can share that too. Hanging out with John was good for me as a writer, because our conversations helped me put into words a lot of the techniques I use. To John, these are techniques that make up an art, and I always just thought of them as my toolbox of tricks to make stuff cool. (typical Correia margin note – NEEDS MORE NINJAS!!)
So we put our discussions together, used John’s story outline tool, and went from there. The workshop went extremely well. We had more than 120 people (don’t know, but that’s how many hand outs we had, and we still ran out). John conducted, and I served as the Vhanna to his Pat, and as comedy relief. Two hours flew by, and we threw up a ton of information. The whole thing was recorded (Thanks Stephen!) and I’ll post a link as soon as I’ve got one so you guys can see what you think for yourselves. We got a lot of really positive comments about how helpful the workshop was, and some good critiques to help us improve it for next year.
I was on several other panels with some truly awesome writers. Some of them were authors that I’d worked with before, like Paul Genesse, Howard Tayler, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, or James Dashner. Plus I had the opportunity to meet lots of people that I’d never gotten to work with before, and I was able to run into many old friends and acquaintances from other cons. (BYU learned their lesson and did not put Dan Willis and me on the same panel like last year, because of Correia’s casual swearing problem. Damn Aggies).
Last of all, John and I did an interview with Steve and Nick of http://elitistbookreviews.blogspot.com/ . It was a low key and informal interview about writing and the business thereof. We had a lot of fun. I’ll post a link to the interview as soon as I see it. I’ll tell you guys what though, if you’re not checking this one, you’re missing out. They’re tough, but fair, and read more books than anyone I’ve ever met other than Mrs. Correia. They gave MHI a positive review (and that was before I had met them) so I’ve decided to kill Nick as a terrorist in Dead Six, and Steve will probably be devoured by a werewolf in Monster Hunter Alpha. So another LTUE comes to a close, and I’d just like to say thanks to all the wonderful folks that I was able to work with, and all the great fans and aspiring writers I was able to talk with. I love you guys.