Wednesday, September 04, 2013

My favorite writing tip from Worldcon this past weekend

I was lucky enough to get to go to Worldcon this weekend. I only spent a day. Chiefly, I learned that a day is not enough time.

I found myself comparing it to Armadillocon a lot, because that's my only other recent convention experience. The main thing I'm looking for in a convention is panels about writing, and this one had them in plenty. On the Saturday I attended, nearly every hour had two panels of great interest to me -- which meant I found it hard to take time out to eat or go to the dealer room.

But I was going to give my favorite writing tip. This one came from a short-story panel featuring Michael Swanwick, James Patrick Kelley, Vylar Kaftan, and Cat Rambo. I'll state it like this:
"You'll be tempted to show character using backstory. Don't."
I found that one profound, because I'm always struggling with long backstory/flashback sequences bulking out my stories, and readers find they drag. This statement made me realize that backstory is the FIRST thing I think of for adding characterization.

I took this idea home and immediately cut a long sequence from my current story, without much pain.

The other thing I wanted to mention about this tip was that I walked away from the panel thinking that it was Michael Swanwick who said that. But when I checked my notes later, the tip actually came from James Patrick Kelley. I figure I attributed it to Swanwick just because he's more well known, and that is eye-opening.

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