Springmingle 09 - Sunday AM

So the last day of the conference dawned. Well, dawned is relative. Interestingly, a winter storm warning was out. Snow expected. No worries. I have a SUV and plenty of winter driving experience. Besides, I'd have plenty of time while driving out of Atlanta before I ran into anything serious in the north Georgia mountains.
Wrong!
But later on that. Before I could even think about getting home to my husband and youngest child, I had to attend the final session and listen to the questions asked of the editors. Of course, before we opened the doors, there was the breakfast and many interesting discussions with other writers and some of the illustrators.
We talked about our current projects, and I even outlined a series of articles I've developed about the Two Guns region of Arizona. Everyone couldn't stop laughing when I described the numerous cat fights between two madames in the town of Canyon Diablo. One commented you could never sell something so outrageous as fiction - no one would believe it!
Uplifted by our morning talk and the reams of information I'd already gleaned, I found a chair and settled in for Caitlyn Dlouhy's final session: Making Characters Singular.
Tough one. It's very easy to keep the same characteristics as you go through your novel. But very important to do. She again emphasized how a strong voice is extremely important to a character.
Things like a happy family, secure and confident surroundings are good - until something shakes them up. Make the shake earth-shattering or make it quiet. Just make it something that will drive the character to take control and resolve it.
Caitlyn talked about how many things challenge a character: another character, nature, society, self, and heritage. One or all of these things can be woven into your story, each in its own way strengthening the character. They can even momentarily overwhelm - but they can never control in the end.
We should tier/layer our problems. Blend them together. Sounds good to me. Don't dump everything at once. It'll make the character a quitter. Heck, it'll make me a quitter. Too much is too much.
Keep the dialogue spare. Don't force the discussions. Repetitve answers and actions will match how teens do things. Oh yes! How many times have my critique groups told me I'm repeating dialogue and action? Too many to count. But teens aren't into individuality too much when they're talking. They're group animals. They want acceptance. They want to be the cool group, the in crowd, the kids in control and on top of things. Okay, I'll do that. Why shouldn't I? I remember being 13, 14, 15, and 16. 17 and 18 are very sharp memories. What I wouldn't have to be the teen others looked up to.
Description - that elusive way of showing your character - should be blended with the action. Don't give huge dumps of information. And for cryin' out loud, don't rely on physical description. Use analogies that show your character. Things such as He's taller than me - but then so is everyone over the age of ten. Or Mom's idea of an emergency is her hairdresser closing early or her doctor running out Botox. Can you see those people? I can. And it's not a pretty sight on the last one, but I've met women like that.
Focus on what the character does, who he or she is as their description. Physical features are okay - but only if they fit the plot line! Don't overdescribe. No one cares when your character cuts their toenails or what they do with them afterward - unless it's totally gross!
The question and answer session by all three editors and Kathleen Duey gave me insight into what they're looking for in a book. They also addressed series. Not a good fit unless it's a fantastic first and second book. That's all you should pitch. If those sell well, they might consider the rest. Keep the first page of the story interesting - that way the editor will turn the page and keep reading. That doesn't mean you should get boring later. Never. Never. Never.
So, the session ended. The door prizes were offered. But first, we had a weather announcement. Anyone flying out was advised to check with their airline. They were already cancelling flights.
Whoa!
This is Atlanta. It rarely snows there. I checked outside. The constant rain now had sleet in it. Not good. I had a three hour drive north. But I stayed. Had to. Couldn't leave the intense energy I was absorbing from the conference until they officially ended it.
An hour later, I rushed outside and dove into my SUV. Started engine. Cussed when window fogged up. Cussed some more when I realized I needed gas. There was now bits of snow in the rain. Definitely not looking good.
Got gas. Defroster took care of windshield. Hit the freeway as fast as I dared to drive. Actually made it to I75 before the snow took over. Slush on the road. Kept the speed as high as I dared, since there were all these little cars rushing everywhere. And they say SUV drivers are nuts!
So, made it to Marietta. Could see the city fading away and knew I wouldn't have a problem. Even though I was driving against a headwind with snow flying at me and tons of gunk flying up off the road. If no one did something stupid, I could get home before it got really bad.
Then it happened. An eighteen wheeler in the right lane 3/4 of a mile in front of me did an ice skating maneuver. Fingers tightened around the steering wheel as I watched him fight to stay on the road. Success but now I knew, without any doubts, that the drive home would be rotten. See, Mother Nature had taken to goosing Father Nature. About every five miles, he blew a great crosswind in addition to the snow and headwind.
Delightful drive. Big surprise not far north of Kennesaw Mountain. The snow stopped. There was no sign of it. Rest of the drive very uneventful. Made it home only to discover the entire area hadn't seen a bit.
Phew!
That's when I started editing my manuscripts and deciding where I'd send them. Now my life is completely filled with work, house stuff, work, seventh grade issues for my son, and more work. Hubby has helped some, in deciding what should go or stay, and listening to my thoughts on how to write out hooks. Such a lovely hubby. No, he doesn't have a brother.

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