Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mastering the First Draft

The first draft is your draft. Nobody else should see. In fact, showing a first draft to somebody is an offense punishable by death in some cultures. Seriously, don't let anybody read your first draft.

The biggest benefit of this is that gives you a lot of freedom. Freedom to make mistakes that only you will see. The freedom of knowing that those mistakes will be kept a secret between you and your writing desk.

If you see a mistake while typing the first draft, just ignore it. The dangers of going back and fixing a mistake is that it will pull you out of the story and kill your momentum. You can easily lose MINUTES of writing productivity to correct a two second issue that you could save for later. Yes, I'm encouraging selective procrastination. Trust me, ignore the mistake, and keep moving forward.

The second draft is a big step in the writing process, however, you will never get to that second draft of a completed book if you are so bogged down trying to make the first draft possible that your book never gets written. Write the first draft and give yourself something you can fix and improve afterward.

To be continued...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Writing the First Chapter

I might be jumping ahead of myself, because I'd love to do a blog--or a blog series--on story outlining. But I'm about to start writing the first chapter of a new book and I wanted to blog about that first.

Are you in the same boat? About ready to dive into that heart-stopping, thrilling, depressing, scary, dreaded, and intimidating process of writing the first chapter?

My friends Nikki Trionfo and Heather Clark have a three-part video series on writing the first chapter. It's three hours long and... it's amazing, informative, entertaining, and motivating. I have nothing else to add, so I'll turn it over to the experts (but have one little surprise as the end):

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

And finally, who can't watch this all day long? Nikki doing the Scooby Doo doodle-dee-doop:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I'm REALLY looking forward to LDS Storymakers 2015

Are you still on the fence about going to LDS Storymakers? Have you never heard of LDS Storymakers? If you answered yes to either of these questions, I am writing this blog posts to you. By the way, I'm writing this unsolicited. I just love Storymaker so much I wanted to share it with the rest of the world, And with registration ending on Wednesday I thought now would be the best time to let everybody know about it before it's too late.

This is going to be a long post. If you don't have the time or interest in such a thing, Let me summarize it here: LDS Storymakers is well organized, for anybody interested in writing regardless of religion or experience, worth your time and money, accepting of new people, and totally awesome.

LDS Storymakers is a writing convention held in Provo, Utah, usually the first weekend of May. This year, the dates are May 14th, 15th, and 16th. There are a number of other events that go with this including the author incognito meet and greets, boot camp, publication primer, the Whitney Awards Gala, mass book signing, and several author get-togethers.

I've attended all of these except for the publication primer, and I wanted to share my experience with you so you can get an idea of just how awesome this conference is.

You always remember your first. 2011 LDS Storymakers was my first writing conference. My good
friend, September C. Fawkes, convince me to go. She was telling me about a conference she had just got back from called LTUE, and mentioned that she had met my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson. I was green with envy and kicking myself for not knowing about this event. She put my mind at ease by informing me that Brandon would also be at another writing convention called LDS Storymakers that May.

Soon afterward, I signed up to attend. I did not know much what to expect, but I didn't care too much because I knew that Brandon would be there. If I only knew...

LDS Storymakers is a two day conference. I arrived that morning, went to the registration desk, and picked up my name badge and other conference swag. I could tell from the get-go that this conference was well organized and obviously headed up by a committee of people who knew what they were doing.

I was then directed tore a large ballroom for the opening ceremony. I sat at an empty table, realizing I was at a conference where I didn't know a single person. September planned to be there for a class or two on the second day, otherwise I was all alone--usually an ideal situation for an introvert like myself. I glanced at through the class schedule and circle a few that I would like to attend.

Howard and Dan, Stolen from D. Weaver
I noticed the room filled up quickly, and I saw Dan Wells and Howard Tayler walked in the room. I was so excited, I mentioned it on Twitter.  I mean, I knew of them, though I didn't know them personally.

The Master of Ceremonies, Sarah M. Eden, started the proceedings with a few videos and jokes. She was hilarious; the most I had ever laughed at an MC of any event.

During this time, Howard had noticed the tweet and invited me to stand and wave his direction so he could find me. Me, being the introvert I am, declined making a fool of myself by standing up and waving for no reason. After Sarah dismissed us for the first class, I introduced myself to Howard and had a pleasant but brief conversation.

I attended a class on pacing taught by Josie Kilpack. I furiously put notes into my laptop, it was so much information. Good information. Information I never heard of or contemplated before. I looked around the classroom and all the other students were as engrossed as me. Josie was engaging and informative. I knew I was in the right place.

Then I had another class on becoming an idea factory taught by Karen Hoover.  Another excellent class. Somewhere in there we had met in the ballroom again to be entertained by Sarah Eden. Me know how, refreshments were served prizes were handed out.

And lunch! That's right. I've all the writing conferences I regularly attend, this one feeds you the best. They say the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, story makers pulls this off handsomely.

Sarah, MC Extraordinaire
After howling with laughter every time Sarah Eden came on stage, I saw she was teaching a class on description and had to attend. She nailed it, again teaching concepts that I never considered before. To this day, I still refer to the notes taken that class.

That Friday, I also attended a class about writing tension by Dan Wells and they class by David Wolverton/ David Farland about six habits that successful writers have.

Meanwhile, there continue to be breaks and more entertainment by Sarah Eden. These brakes gave me an opportunity to meet some pretty cool people. The first friend that I made was Robyn Heirtzler, who also lives in Southern Utah.

During another break, I sat with random people at a table and it turned out they were a writing group from Southern Utah. A couple of weeks later, I was part of their group. Who were these fine people, you might wonder?

One of them was Jen Bennett, who would later start up The Authors' Think Tank. The other was Amy Jarecki, who was about to come out with a book of her own.

I bring up Amy because she isn't LDS, she's a Lutheran, but she still felt comfortable enough to attend LDS Storymakers. Above I mentioned that you don't have to be LDS to attend, but I would advise you pick up the basic of LDS lingo if you do attend as instructors will often times make reference to the LDS religion.

After all the classes, the only thing left was something called an Authors Incognito Meet n' Greet. Authors Incognito is one way to stay connected with all the awesome writers after the conference, and you are automatically allowed to join just by attending a Storymaker conference.

Here's a video giving more details:

Interesting notes on the video. At the 23 second mark, you see me at this very meet n' greet I'm writing about here. I'm sitting next to T.J. Bronley, who will present two classes at Storymakers this year on how to get the most out of LDS Storymakers. This is where T.J. and I met, and we've been friends as well as roommates at each Storymakers ever since.

I've met so many other awesome people through Authors Incognito, and I'd highly recommend it, especially if you are a newer writer. I'm afraid to start listing people because I know I'll be missing some.

Oh, what the heck...

Tristi Pinkston, code named Darth Editus, because she is the evil emperer of editing. She is one of my most trusted writing resources and my editor. Not only is she an awesome editor, presenter, and writer, but she is also one of my most awesome friends.

Rebecca and James
Rebecca and James Blevins have been chat buddies pretty much since this event, and I finally got to meet Rebecca a couple of weekends ago. I'm looking forward to meeting James for the first time and hanging out with them at this upcoming Storymakers. Rebecca is also my editor.
Jordan McCollum is one of my go-to blogs when it comes to writing instruction. Seriously, check out her list of free classes. She is a gem and I'm lucky to count her as one of my friends.
I originally met Tamara Hart Heiner during one of Storymaker breaks. She stood out because she brought her newborn to the event. Actually, Tamara stood out because her daughter started crying during the Karen Hoover class. Most places, this would earn a mother nasty stares from the attendants, but I saw somebody rush over to offer assistance and nobody glanced around with judgment-filled eyes. I thought that was pretty awesome as a group. I even got to beta-read and offer some feedback on her awesome book, Inevitable.
Brenda Sills is one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and I met her first through Authors Think Tank. We see each other and chat at every conference.
Carolyn Frank let me beta-read most of her book, The Great Debate. I was getting it one chapter at a time, and then a few chapters from the end... they stopped coming. I wondered for about a year how it would turn out before she finally published it so I could read the conclusion. (Oh, it came out AWESOME).
Julie Wright just moved down to my neck of the woods, and it has been such a pleasure knowing that she is nearby and being able to meet for lunch or run into her more often, but we first became friends by interacting through Authors Incognito.

So many more. I'm sorry to those I've not mentioned. This is getting really long and I'm typing this with one hand, which is taking FOREVER.

After the Meet n' Greet, I went to bed.

On Saturday morning, I was so excited to rejoin the conference. I was learning so much and meeting so many awesome people. I had completely forgotten by this time why I had come to Storymakers, and that was to meet Brandon Sanderson. By this time, it wasn't about that anymore. I had found my people, my tribe, and my extended family.

Turns out, Brandon didn't even make it to Storymakers that year. Since we both lived in the same state, I knew I'd meet him eventually--and I did, at LTUE the following February.

I attended a class with Larry Brooks, the event's keynote addressor. He gave a two-hour lecture on story engineering but spent most of that time talking about story structure, something I didn't know very much about. Ever since this class, I've been obsessed with story structure.

I really need to do many, many blog posts on the concept.

I attended an action class taught by Traci Hunter Abramson. I just couldn't
believe the calibre of instructors they had here. All the classes were so well prepared and taught by people who practiced what they taught. I was not properly prepared for such an incredible level of awesomeness--though don't take that as any form of complaint.

Traci would later name one of her minor characters after me. My grandmother and mother are both fans of Traci's work. While I had told my mother, I didn't tell my grandmother. Imagine her surprise as she read one of her books and my name suddenly turned up. Needless to say, I've thought highly of Traci since the class, especially since I was already familiar with  her works.

Dave Wolverton/Dave Farland taught a class on Resonance, which is why reading his book on the subject sounded so darn familiar to me when I read it (I'm realizing just now).

Right before class, I ran a number of books over to him hoping he would sign them, which he graciously did. We chatted for a bit since there were a few minutes left, and he never treated me like I was interrupting his workspace (which I was) or that he needed to hurry and get class started (which he did). Dave has always been a good friend to me and a mentor. I mentioned in the acknowledgments of Pushing the Wall that I don't think I'd be writing if not for Dave. Thanks again, Dave, for everything!

Finally, in  my notes for the event, I had a class on Villains and under the "by" I just wrote "Savage and Luke." Okay, Savage I can figure out, that's Jeff Scott Savage. I didn't know him at the time, but we've grown to be real close friends, and I have mental images of him teaching the class.

I'm assuming the reference to "Luke" was Gregg Luke. We've Facebook friends and all (so, legit friends, right?), but we've only chatted face-to-face once since meeting him. I like him, he's a really nice guy--for somebody who writes about how to use pharmaceuticals to murder people. Funny story about Gregg, we had him on the podcast and an
exchange happened between us that turned out to be the biggest outtake ever. Some day it may be made public, but bring it up with anybody there and you'll still get plenty of laughs. I wonder if Gregg remembers it--I hope not.

Again, it turned out to be a fantastically wonderful class filled with some amazing instruction. Scott Savage had even shared an excerpt of one of his stories that just chilled me to the bone. The thought of it still makes me shudder!

And then I went home. It was two of the most instructive days of my life. One thing I kept hearing that conference was, "Get a blog," and "Get a blog," and even, "Seriously, GET A BLOG," and that is when I started this little escape from reality here.

The blog thing was interesting, because when I bought the domain I bragged about it on Twitter and my dozen or so followers. One of them was Shelly Brown, who followed the link to see a blank blog. She replied to my tweet, "Ummm... Duckett. That is the most boring blog I've ever seen in my life." We've been good friends ever since.

When Storymaker signups opened up the following year, I was all over it, and I wanted to get more out of the conference. This time, it was announced one of my favorite writers, Kevin J. Anderson, would be the keynote. I also signed up for bootcamp and a pitch session. Imagine my surprise that when I blogged about my enjoyment of Storymakers that it ended up winning me a spot with Kevin J. Anderson during lunch. THAT. WAS. AWESOME!

Storymakers did not disappoint. I was so excited to hear that Sarah Eden would be taking on MC duties again. So we had Storymakers, Sarah, and Kevin. How could I not sign up on the first day?

So I drove up on Thursday and met with my boot camp instructor, Marion Jensen. Me and a handful (four?) of other writers all took turns sharing our first fifteen pages of our current WIPs. The feedback was phenomenal, and it was the first time I really looked at stories with a critical eye. The experienced really helped me when critiquing other people's works in the future. If you are a beginner writer, boot camp is an excellent place to get some solid feedback from other writers. The boot camp instructors are usually established writers. I hope to be counted in their number some day.

I had a pitch session with Lisa Mangum this time. I was so nervous, especially since the book I was pitching wasn't really in
the list of things she was looking for, but I'd seen her around a lot because of Authors Incognito and she seemed like somebody I'd love to work with. I was right, what I presented was not what she was looking for, but she let me down gentle and gave some excellent feedback on how to improve the book and make it marketable. She may have cut my still-beating heart out of my chest, but we've been friends ever since.

I love writers.

Michelle (not Kevin)
And lunch with Kevin J. Anderson was so much fun, too. We actually talked about a lot of things, but writing wasn't one of them. Kevin sat across from me and to my left sat a new agent,Michelle Witte. I was very impressed by her understanding of the market and, while she seemed rather nervous, she was a delight to talk to since I wasn't the only one bending Kevin's ear during dinner.

And so it went with every meal there. It didn't matter if I sat with Kevin J. Anderson or complete strangers. Everybody was always so nice and open. I could spend weeks just writing about all of my friends that I've met at Storymakers. I wish I could.

To those attending for the first time, I'd invite you to come to the meals and the breaks, sit at any table, and just say hello. Trust me, you'll be making friends in no time. And when I'm talking about friends, I don't mean acquaintances I only see or hear about once every year or two. I mean I've made some really close friends.

Speaking of really close friends..... This was also the year I met Jeigh Meredith. Due to a poorly timed tweet, we had the most awkward and confusing conversation in the history of Twitter.

And we've been friends ever since.

I left LDS Storymakers 2012 still convinced that this was the best writing conference I could ever attend. And I've attended others. I'd been to LTUE that year, but Storymakers still took the cake for me. First, they feed you (fed me right to the heart), their organization was again impeccable, and the level of instruction was nothing short of amazing. I couldn't wait until Storymaker 2013!

That next year, I skipped boot camp because I didn't have a WIP that I thought would be ready. What I did different this year was buy tickets to the Whitney Award Galla for the first time.

That year, Sarah didn't MC. It was bittersweet because Sarah will always hold a place in my heart as the gold standard for what an MC should be, but this year they had Tristi Pinkston be the MC. If anybody could fill Sarah's tiny little shoes, it would be Tristi. And Tristi did not disappoint. She also had funny videos and cracked me up with all of her snarky jokes.

This year, I thought I'd pull a little joke on her as well...

TJ and I were roommates again. On Thursday night we didn't have much to do, so we offered our services to help the Storymaker committees with any last-minute prep. They had the list of attendants and they asked us to pull all their names inside a goblet for the drawings of prizes. Okay, we could do that.

One thing struck me as odd, as I went through the names I recognized about two thirds of them. I had stories with most of those several hundred people. I was awestruck, only two years previous I had come to this conference not knowing a soul and now I knew most of them.

And for our joke, we added about a dozen names to the goblet. For those who attended Storymakers 2013 and wondered why Tristi would sometimes pull a name out of the goblet, scoff, throw it away, and then pull another name was for this reason. We totally trolled her. She did read one of them off when she pulled out her own name: Darth Editus. She declined the prize, but her reaction to some of the ones she pulled were priceless (to TJ and I). Sorry to everybody else who was a little confused by all this.

Later, I went to Tristi to tell her what was going on, but she ruined all my fun when she saw me and said, "What's with all the weird names in the goblet? And don't think for a second I didn't know it was you, Mr. Duckett!"

She ruined all my fun and all I could say was, "Wha--? How? What just happened?" I'll still get her sometime!

We've been friends ever since.

Actually, I'd been friends with her since shortly after my first Storymaker because of our interactions on Authors Incognito. Seriously, if I haven't stressed this enough, if you aren't a member of AI, you need to be. All it takes is attending LDS Storymakers once and then signing up.

I brought my suit and attended the Whitney Awards. That gave me dinner and I even got to chat with Brandon Sanderson and James Dashner for about five minutes while we waited in line together. The Whitney Awards is a gala to award LDS authors (and, yes, you have to be LDS for this part) and their accomplishments in the writing field. That year they gave a lifetime achievement award to Jack Weyland. That was awesome to witness.

I actually left early, right after Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells both won awards for their respective works that year. Avengers had come out and I went to watch it in 3D IMax with Howard Tayler.

It had turned out to be another weekend I'd never forget.

For 2014, I thought I'd be brave and throw my hat in the ring as an instructor, so I pitched a few classes and they asked me to teach one of them.

I was so excited! I prepared and overprepared for my class. My back was aggravating me slightly. I decided to put it off, because I could deal with a weekend of minor discomfort and then deal with it when I got back.

I was getting ready to leave on Thursday and was just wrapping up. In five minutes, I'd be in the car headed for Storymakers. I brushed my teeth, leaned over the sink. spit, and turned to head out the door. I didn't make it three steps before I crashed down to the floor. I wouldn't walk again for two days. Apparently, I'm a very aggressive teeth brusher and toothpaste spitter.

I missed Storymakers 2014. I was devistated, and I would have done anything for a do-over. Well, 2015 is my do-over. I can't wait to rejoin my tribe for LDS Storymakers 2015 in Provo, Utah!

I guess I should mention that Storymakers is not a for-certain thing this year. Last week, I went in to have my rotator cuff repaired, and anybody who has had this surgery can tell you that this isn't something you easily bounce back from. Actually, I was supposed to have it on May 8th, in which case yes, I would have missed it again for the second year in a row. I had debated putting it off and dealing with the pain until June, but when the opportunity came up last week I decided to hop on it.

Why? For Storymakers.

I'll put my odds of making this year's Storymakers at 95%. WISH ME LUCK!!! If I miss it again, I won't make it to 2016's because I'll die of depression before then.

(Speaking of, I'm not supposed to drive for a month. Anybody I can carpool with from St. George to Provo and back?)

Well, that's my story. I hope to see everybody there. This is one of the highlights of my year. It could very well be the highlight of my year. And I hope everybody comes up to me and says hello. I'll be easy to point out, I'll be the guy walking with his right arm in a sling and his left arm carrying a laptop to take more notes.

If you've been debating it, debate no longer. Sign up already. Don't wait, because signups close on Wednesday, May 6th. Sign up and thank me later, or don't sign up and regret it for a full year. Take it from somebody who's been regretting missing last year's event, you don't want to do that.