Tag Archives: pitching

Genrecon Australia 2012

Last weekend I went to the inaugural Australian Genrecon and I have to say WOW! What an excellent decision that was. Yay me!

Of course the real congratulations should go to the likes of Peter M BallMeg Vann, and the ninja team from Queensland Writers’ Centre. What a magnificent event they organised and managed!

This was my first ever convention, and I have to admit I had no real idea what to expect (or what I was doing). I read a few tips. Chuck Wendig’s were pretty helpful. A lot of common sense of course but a good guide nonetheless. (He was also quoted in a panel by P M Newton: ‘Plot is Soylent Green’)

The other massive help was Twitter. I was flying basically solo… I knew a couple of people from online interactions, but only one person I’d met face-to-face. So when I walked in to the opening function on Friday night it was a massive relief to start recognising some twitter handles on name tags.

One face I did recognise was International guest of honour Joe Abercrombie. He was surrounded, and congenial and charming and gracious and relaxed and just a wonderful international guest. Full credit to him.

I managed to spark up a chat with Ginger Clark, about whom I knew enough from twitter to give me some icebreakers. We discussed zoos and Australian fauna and Sandy and suddenly the crushing weight of Curtis Brown NY was lifted a little. She’s really a nice person and I had a lot less fear for my Sunday pitch.

The adults only panel was excellent. Good natured and great fun. I worried that I had made a fool of myself in a discussion of the C-bomb, but everyone was great. I’d never considered the difficulty romance writers had choosing between descriptions which were either twee or coarse.

Afterwards I met some great Romance writers who were kind enough to explain to me some of the subtleties of their craft and how careers are forged from one’s writing. Thanks to Denise RossettiNikki LoganAnna Campbell and Alexis (sorry Alexis – I forgot your surname).

I’m on the right, with idiot grin!

Saturday morning was a great highlight. I was running a little late, stopped in for a quick toast and a take-away coffee with the intent of sneaking into a 9am seminar moments late, but Joe was alone at a table, enjoying a pretty good approximation of a full English brekky… what’s a fanboy to do?

Joe was great. We chatted like old pals for nearly an hour. Talked black pudding, Lancaster accents, kids, nappies, travel, Australiana, First Law, Red Country, westerns, my fledgling attempts at a career, Batman as vigilante and Superman as fascist. I got a photo in which I’m grinning like an idiot child on Christmas day.

That an author of his stature should be so welcoming and open, and for him to show such interest in what I was writing, was magnificent and I am so grateful!

The panels were universally excellent. Special mention goes to: Kim Wilkins and her impressive (to me especially) use of Old English; Crime author P M Newton for being so erudite and articulate in the face of Joe Abercrombie’s wise-cracking; Peter Ball and Alex Adsett for their insights into writing as a career; Ginger Clark for her excellent presentation on what an agent does (and how);  the Saturday night Snark from ‘Smart Bitch’ Sarah (Platypus of Doom, Gay Tarot Reading Vampire Were-Roos, Mr Darcy’s horrible secret…); the conversation with Joe Abercrombie (of course).

Thanks also to Peta Freestone and Amie Kaufman for helping me hone my pitch, and to Lindy Cameron of Clan Destine press for her encouraging feedback.

Thanks to everyone who made the weekend so wonderful (especially my wife, who looked after our two boys solo all weekend! How did I get so lucky to have such support?).

It ended with a successful pitch (with a caveat for length) to Ginger Clark and an invitation to submit pages. Could not have hoped for anything more!

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The revisions

I almost entitled this post ‘the re-write’. It almost feels that complete, but in truth it’s not. This is a normal stage of the writer’s craft, the revising.

I likened it in a previous post to sculpting and if I could extend the metaphor a little (indulge me I pray) I’ll refer to pottery (try not to picture me as Patrick Swayze to your Demi Moore)

The 300,000 or so words I had once were a massive block of clay. Too massive. I got that down to 241,000 and sat back and thought ‘that’s a lot of clay I hacked off that sucker. I don’t think any more clay could come off that.’

It took me a while to realise I was wrong. Even when people looked a bit sceptically at my ‘finished piece’ and said ‘gee, it’s pretty big’ (keep your mind out of the gutter!) I thought to myself: ‘yes, yes it is. It is a great big fantasy novel that I have written and I’m fine with that.’ (when really I wasn’t)

I was asking the wrong question, and all those nagging little anomalies I knew were there I ignored because I wasn’t really ready to ask the right question and expose them. So when I did. When I said to myself ‘it’s a big Fantasy novel, but is it really a good one?’ I found that it wasn’t really finished. I had finished drafting. I had started revising. But then I had stopped.

So in the last month or so I’ve been hacking clay away. I’m hovering around 200,000 words now and more must go. That said word count is a secondary concern. Some will be lost, because that is the nature of these revisions. Only the worthiest scenes and sentences may remain. The herd will get stronger because I will kill the weak (to jump from clay to buffalo for a moment. It was a brief visit though, back to clay).

As an update I am currently on page 62 of my revised draft. That’s 18,500 words which have survived my scrutiny. The manuscript is 201,000 words on 649 pages in its current state. (These are MS Word pages based on double-spaced, size 12, TNR font). So in one sense I’m just under 10% of the way through.

That accounting is a bit misleading though because the plot-point I am currently revising took place on page 180 of my 241,000 word manuscript. That manuscript was 766 pages long (MS Word, double-spaced, size 12 TNR). So on that measure I’m about 15% of the way through on page count. I’ve cut out 117 pages and 40,000 words so far. Of the nearly 60,000 words I’ve revised less than a third have survived.

Now it’s worth pointing out that there are reasons for this that mean extrapolating that rate of word-loss is unrealistic. I am not planning to (or going to) end up with a manuscript of 80,000 words. Sure that’s in the range of recommended novel length for a first time author, but I don’t see it happening here. I will end up under 200,000 though, of that I’m quite certain.

 

The goal is to have this thing pitch-ready by Genrecon in November. It’s a daunting goal to be honest, but the exercise is cathartic and I am very confident it is improving my novel, and my writing craft. It is making me a better writer, and that is, after all, my stated goal.