Conference: fears, doubts and prospects

I have been absent for a noble reason: to write.

I can hear my inner Kristen Lamb preaching inside my head, telling me that I have time to do everything. Oh well… you’re right Kristen, I’m lame. Anyway, today’s post is not about my dialogues with imaginary real people. It is about conferences. I have read many posts about this, mainly because I’m going to my first conference: The Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference.

And here are my prospects, opinions and doubts about the so feared conference:

  •  I’m looking forward to meet people

Don’t put a blindfold on yourself. Yes, you can search for your one true love *clears throat* agent, but relax, and talk to the people around you. The ones around you, do not tweet! Have some fun. 😉

The majority of posts I read emphasize this point. The authors rave about the wonderful people they meet as the highlight of the conference. So shake your shyness off, and made the most of it.

  • I’m looking forward for the feedback

I’m nervous about my agent interview, and I hope to cause a good impression; maybe an agent will fall in love with me and we will live happily ever after in a white castle. And that would be great, although I prefer my castles gold.

But what I’m really anxious about is to hear the feedback. All of it: the good, the bad and the ugly. I don’t just accept constructive criticism, I crave for it. Above all I want to improve.

  • I’m looking forward to LEARN

Workshops, panelists, speakers, exhibitions! It sounds like going to Disney on spring.

  • I still don’t know what to put on my business card

My name, email, twitter, and blog. Am I missing something? Should I put my cellphone?

  • I still don’t know what to wear on the cocktail party

I heard that to dress for cocktail parties require more thought. But be specific: how fancy is fancy?

In a scale of one to ten, with one being jeans and a minnie t-shirt, five being a short dress plus makeup, and ten being Angelina Jolie in the night of the Oscar; how would the cocktail party be classified?

What to wear??

What to wear??

  • Some of the posts I read
If you are worried about how to behave in a conference, I recommend this post by Cynthea Liu, and this post by my all time favorite Anne R. Allen.
Are you an introvert person? Don’t worry, we all are. Check this post by K.B. Owen.
If you want a feedback by someone who recently attended a conference check this post, also by K.B. Owen.

And you, have you been to a conference before? Share your wisdom, and please help me with the questions above! If you are a conference virgin like me, do you agree with what I said?

Looking forward to hear from you guys 😉 *hugs*

Mind Mapping: unleash your creativity!

I should had written this post last week, but I’m a terrible person. Anyway, here I am. First, I thought of writing an inspirational post; you know, the typical “don’t give up” and “follow your dreams” kind of post. I might go for that next time, but today I’m not in the right mood: I’m very late with my schedule and I didn’t had chocolate for easter. So, I will stick with the practical approach.

Today I will talk about mind mapping software and how useful these tools can be in the creative process.

So what is a mind mapping (or brainstorming) software anyway? Well, a mind mapping software reciprocates something you most likely already do: brainstorming. You put ideas into paper and you connect those ideas. Here is a simple example:

Mind Map example

You got the point. I’m tired of John, Mary and Jane already. Just put everything there: plot, characters, loose ideas. Anything really (there is no boundaries). I think brainstorming as an excellent way to put your ideas into perpective, and the reason why I love mind maps is because I don’t have to stop to organize my thoughts. It is natural; ideas come like waves and I just put them there and connect them like crazy; it is so much fun. However, even thought the process is chaotic, the end result is not. Mind maps are organized; it is easy to keep a track of everything. If you fell like this is the coolest thing ever, I have good news: You have options! Free options that have versions for Windows and Mac. Here is a list:

  • FreeMind: It is simple. You can tag your thoughts with labels such as: important, idea, stop, info, etc. For me it’s too simple. I used FreeMind to make the example on this post.
  • XMind: I think it is prettier than FreeMind. If you are looking for simple, I recommend this one. It has everything FreeMind has plus it’s more intuitive and has some interesting features: you can put links, attachments, summaries, and other stuff. They have a paid version. You could stick with the free one, but I don’t like that you can only convert to pdf in the paid version.

XMind

Personal Brain

I hope you enjoyed. If you have any questions fell free to ask me. And comments are greatly appreciated 🙂

Unveiling Cassie’s Awesomeness

I’ve been postponing this post. You have to understand that to write about Cassandra Clare it is kind of a big deal for me. I’ve been reading Cassie for a long time now; I still got her fanfics stored in my computer, and I treasure them like precious memories.

Well, first and foremost I must warn you: this will not be your typical review. It is not a description of the story, and it is not about my opinion. It is about unveiling what lies behind Cassandra’s awesomeness.

I, as a writer, read books not only for self indulgence but also to improve my writing skills. With this post I hope to enlighten the special qualities of City of the Fallen Angels (COFA). I tried to keep this spoiler free, but there are some comments that will give you a glimpse inside COFA. Just in case, I used the tag *Spoiler* to warn you. Now back to unveiling Cassie’s awesomeness:

  • Create REAL characters

One of the things I admire the most about Cassie is how all of her characters are real, even the waitress have a personality. Characters think, and they have their own motivations. Doesn’t matter if the secondary character is not even that important, you got to be able to fell them. Otherwise it is just a bunch of robots pulling your plot forward so your main characters can do something relevant. And no, that’s not good enough.

Have you noticed how people are all about Magnus, Alec, Izzy, and etc? They are all secondary characters, still we love them. It is because they are alive and we care about them. So, how Cassie does this? She describes. The tone of their voice, if they dart their eyes away. Those little things tell you everything. Body language and choice of words.

Example. There is this scene in the beginning of COFA that some human subjugates appear, and human subjugates are not compelling. Still, by the way they talk and their choice of words I can feel how hollow they are. I know they don’t have freewill, and because of their condition they lost the track of who they are. And it is important that I feel them; it tells me a lot about the vampire who controls them.

If you are interested in creating characters with layers I really recommend reading (and analyzing) the first chapter of COFA. Simon was so well developed that now he is my favorite character. Sorry Jace…

  • Conduct your readers’ feelings

If you read COFA, *Spoiler* have you noticed how Cassie describes Simon and Izzy relationship and don’t go into much detail about Simon and Maia? *Spoiler* And the way she describes how immensely Jace and Clary love each other? Everything has a reason. She wants you to have certain feelings, and she puts you on the palm of her hand.

As an author you must be in control. You have the power, so act like you know what you are doing. Don’t do anything without a reason. If you want character A and B to be together, it is your job to make readers want that as well. Yes, you must manipulate your readers, make them care so you can crush them later. Which leads me to…

  • Torture your characters

To love is to destroy, right?

Now that my characters are real and my readers love them you are telling me to torture them? Well, I like donuts, but I don’t eat them. It is not about what you want; it is about what has to be done.

Cassandra Clare is a master of torture, ask anyone. And we love that pain, don’t we?

  • Life is parallel

*Spoiler* While Simon is being lead by a creepy young vampire, Alec and Magnus are having a couple discussion, and Jace and Clary… well, you got the picture *Spoiler*. Sometimes when we are writing we forget that things happen simultaneously. Cassandra Clare is better then all of us, and she never forgets that.

Especially if you are writing an action scene and your story have multiple characters, describing several things happening at the same time will give dimension to your story. If you want an example just read the end of COFA.

  • Give me a freaking good climax

You have compelling characters. Your readers care. You have been torturing them throughout the entire book. Your characters are moving, things are coming to an end. So bring it!

People always remember the end. Read all the COFA reviews, what do they talk about? How blowed away they are because of… THE ENDING. Just like the movies: climax and resolution.

And by the way, anti climax only work if you are Quentin Tarantino and if we are talking about Kill Bill.

Hope you all enjoyed. Comments are what makes a post interesting, so don’t be shy and say something 🙂

p.s: If by any chance you are Cassandra Clare know that I love and admire you. It has been a blast reading everything you write.

Use an appropriate tool to write your book

Drive you nuts!

Drive you nuts!

Are you are an author and you use Microsoft Word, iWord or Open Office to write your book? So, stop! Now! And read this post, you will thank me forever (or not, anyway…).

Going through some blogs I noticed how frequently people say they use a word processor. Nothing wrong with those softwares, but they are just not the appropriate tool for writing a book. If you don’t know anything about the softwares out there that were developed specifically for writers, it is time to get to know them better. And enough of those overwhelming folders (or whatever organizing system you use) that serve only to drive you nuts.

I’m going to talk about Scrivener (for Mac… they have a beta version for Windows), but there are other softwares out there with the same propose (StoryMill, OmniOutliner, among others).

So, what Scrivener do for you? Basically it helps you organize your work, sounds simple but it is magical. Scrivener is very flexible and you can you use it in a way that best serves the way YOU write. I dare say it even helps you write better, because it is really easy to follow through your work and see how things are fitting together. Let me elaborate on that:

  1. It has index cards! Every text you write has an index card related to it.

    Scrivener Corkboard (index cards)

  2. Outline. In this view you can have a full picture of your work. The text have fields, like label and status. You can also configure custom properties, for example I configured a custom property called “Hanger”, so it would be easy to track if the scene consisted on a hanger or not. In the picture below the person configured the custom fields “Significance” and “Area of Improvement”.

    Scrivener Outline and Custom Fields

  3. It generates ePub and Kindle format. Great for indie authors.
  4. I could go on, but I want to keep this post short.

Just so people don’t think I’m marketing for Scrivener, let me talk about a nice feature of a competitor, StoryMill (also for Mac, Steve Jobs rules), has: Timeline. For those of you who are writing the next Lord of the Rings, and want to count how many hobbit steps it takes for Aragorn to reach Helm’s Deep, this is the feature for you. By the way, this “hobbit steps” comment was not a lame attempt of a joke, I heard that Tolkien actually calculated that o_O. Well, back to business, the timeline feature let you keep track of your scenes in a time frame. This way you know that when Frodo and Sam are struggling to get to Mordor, Aragorn is kicking ass on Helm’s Deep precisely today at 12:34 (you can have the level of detail that you want).

StoryMill Timeline

 

There are similar softwares for Windows (go to the “Writing Software for Windows” section ), but I don’know t much about them because I’m a Mac girl… sorry…

If you want to know more about Scrivener features I recommend this post, it might be a little overwhelming for beginners but it explains some cool stuff.

Alright, enough, this post is officially too long. Summarizing, what I can tell you for sure is that my productivity increased significantly after I started using Scrivener. I sincerely hope that this post helps you. And Pleaaaase share your thoughts!

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