This site runs best with JavaScript enabled.

First Conference: Part 3

February 15, 2019


Thoughts on sessions of day 2 at LTUE

I had a great day today as well. Here are the sessions I attended at day 2 of LTUE.

4 Part Pacing

J. Scott Savage

Follow J. Scott Savage on a journey of four part pacing as he teaches you how to structure a story to keep your audience hooked from page one to the end.

So far I've been introduced to the following outlining strategies in some amount of depth:

And now the 4 Part Pacing method from Scott.

I think that each of these strategies can be used and they're not mutually exclusive. Scott bills his as mostly helping your novel with pacing which I think makes sense based on the things I learned.

An insight that I felt was particularly useful was about how to properly plant seeds of foreshadowing without making it so obvious so you could have experiences with your readers that are "surprising yet inevitable." He suggested that you use the "seeds" for another part of the story. Make the reader think it's about something else. This is how you make the twist surprising yet inevitable. That "oh yeah!" moment πŸ’―

Constructive Feedback

Jared Garrett (M), Benjamin Hewett, M. A. Nichols, Peter Orullian, Robin Glassey

How to make the most of writer’s groups, critique groups, and beta readers.

Something that struck me about this was that Ben and Robin both really suggested getting critique groups, but Margaret and Peter both just use beta readers to get their feedback (Peter mentioned that Patrick Rothfuss is the same). I'm actually considering doing this myself. I have pretty ready access to beta readers thanks to my following in the tech community and when I want a more professional look, I can find and pay a professional editor to evaluate my manuscript.

I realize there are things that I will lose by not having a group of people to help encourage me and provide feedback. As well as not being able to evaluate and review their material myself. But when it comes to time, I'm so limited that I'm willing to sacrafice that so I can have more time to write.

Ben said something that I think is important:

I just liked that a lot πŸ€—

Brett Helquist Keynote

Brett Helquist

Brett is an illustrator. He illustrated the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books. He told a bit of his story getting into this and shared some insights that I really enjoyed.

Don't compare your early work with the finished/polished work of others.

Creative jobs are collaborative, so learn to work with the people you're collaborating with.

Even though I'm not an illustrator, I appreciated hearing Brett's perspectives and insights that he gained on his journey to becoming an artist.

Fantastic Writing Groups and Where to Find Them (Part 1)

Bree Moore, Marlena Money

Discover what a writing group can do for you, how to find a group in your community or start one of your own, what a writing group needs to be successful, and how to take your group to the next level.

The writingthroughbrambles.com group of authors spoke about their experience in a writing group. I appreciated their insights mostly as reminders of how to be an effective team member of teams in general. That said, there were some insights that were useful specifically for writing groups:

Your critiques wont be as meaningful if you miss someone's work in a week.

Your group members' critiques wont be as valuable if you make a big gap between submitting work. So submit regularly.

As a writer, don't spend a bunch of time explaining/defending your work. Waste of time.

When giving cretiques, you have to say "because" for every point.

Magic without a Magic System

Wendy Knight (M), Brian Lee Durfee, Devri Walls, Kathryn Purdie, Mary Robinette Kowal

Not to be blasphemous, but a world can have magic without having a highly structured magic system. How to write magic when it's exact workings are not known.

I enjoyed this panel a lot. I'm definitely interested in the harder magic systems that are explainable and understood by the reader. And actually this panel mostly talked about how to do magic systems right without overdoing it. As a reference to Sanderson's Laws of Magic, Mary explained the second rule this way:

People don't have to understand the entire magic system. They just need to be able to make sense of it when you're using it to solve problems in the story.

I also confirmed with her an assumption I had based on that advice after the panel. If readers would think that a certain element of the magic system would be capable of solving a problem, but it doesn't, they need to understand why.

Another generally accpeted bit of advice was that whatever you end up doing with your magic system, consistency is key. And you don't want to come out of left-field with some strange new ability.

Here's another bit of my notes that I think you'll find interesting:

For the best books that have magic in them, the magic feels like a character. And characters transform. It should evolve. It can evolve by mixing different elements of the magic systems.

If you do plan to have a big revelation of new capabilities of the magic, make sure that's appropriately foreshadowed so it doesn't seem like you just got bored and wanted to shake things up a bit. That feels fake and annoys the reader.

Writing Good Leaders

Jared Quan (M), Aaron Johnston, Dee, Dr. Nikhil Rao, V. J. O. Gardner

Our culture tends to get wrapped up in the Great Man theory of leadership; leaders are powerful and all-knowing beings that mortals cannot comprehend. But the truth is that a good leader is a nearly invisible one. How to write leaders that are capable though flawed.

I think this was the biggest takeaway from the panel:

A leader has to be relatable and imperfect. It's how they deal with those things that makes a difference.

A leader really is a regular character. Even though leaders typically have certain traits, perfection makes them one-dimensional and not interesting (also very unrealistic).

Another snippet from my notes:

A bad leader makes their decisions based on how they can remain in power. A good leader makes their decisions based on how they can serve those they lead.

I asked the following question and got some great insights:

What are some things that would conventionally be in the story of a person becoming a leader?

  • They need to be learning
  • Becoming a leader is on the path to whatever their real goal is. Becoming a leader is not a goal.
  • They have to have leadership attributes and someone has to be paying attention for them to be put into a leadership role.
  • They need to have a situation where their leadership attributes come out. Someone they can lead.
  • Power or something that grants that leadership.

The Comedy Writer's Room

Aaron Johnston, Eric D. Snider, Howard Tayler, Randy Tayler (M)

Come catch behind-the-scenes stories on comedy writing from alumni of BYU's first comedy troupe, The Garrens.

This one was not all that useful to be honest. There were a few insights, but mostly it was old friends of the Garrens coming together and remenising. To be fair, I talked to Aaron Johnston before the session and he said that's exactly what it would be like. I did still enjoy myself and it was a lighthearted way to end the long day of conferencing.

I also met Lisa Valentine Clark who is basically a family celebrity for her work in BYU's Random Acts TV show. I texted my wife and my children sent her short Marco Polo video messages. I showed them to her after the session and she loved it. She sent them one back. It made my kids' day for sure and I think she's pretty awesome too, so it was cool for me as well.

This is multi-part of a series of posts about LTUE 2019:

Discuss on Twitter β€’ Edit post on GitHub

Share article
loading relevant upcoming workshops...
Kent C. Dodds

Kent C. Dodds is a JavaScript software engineer and teacher. He's taught hundreds of thousands of people how to make the world a better place with quality software development tools and practices. He lives with his wife and four kids in Utah.