Sunday, October 3, 2010

The First Avondale Writers' Conference

I attended my first writers’ conference yesterday: the first Avondale Writers’ Conference. And no, that’s not the “First Annual” writers’ conference – please don’t make that mistake. Nothing is annual until it has happened more than once.

The highlight of the event was the keynote speaker, J.A. Jance. I will admit that I have never even picked up any of her books before. After hearing her speak yesterday though, I think I will. Her personal journey to becoming an author was inspiring and fascinating.

Other than that, much of what I heard yesterday was a rehash of what I already knew. The man who spoke about self-publishing was a non-fiction author who was so out of touch with the current ebook market that his opinions on the subject were obsolete. He still thinks the height of ebook technology is a PDF. The woman who presented the seminar on creating great dialogue basically gave us an hour’s worth of movie quotes. While entertaining, this really did nothing to enhance my ability to write great dialogue.

And finally, one of the speakers offered this little gem: don’t use adjectives or adverbs. Having recently read a romance novel by an author who took this to heart, I would like to clarify this advice. Here is a sample sentence:
 “I love the amusement park!” he said happily.
If you are replacing the single adverbial word “happily” with a phrase like “with a smile on his face,” please go back to the adverb. Adverbs ARE NOT the enemy, people. If you want to target something for elimination, “said” and its equivalents – from here on referred to collectively as “saidisms” – are the ones to aim at. Instead, try this:
“I love the amusement park!” He bounced on his toes at the thought of riding a rollercoaster.
If you find that you use a lot of “saidisms” in your first draft, don’t worry about it. That’s why it’s called a first draft. When you review your completed manuscript, carefully consider whether the “saidism” can be replaced by an action or gesture the character is making.

Remember, it is not necessary to completely eradicate “saidisms.” This should not be a categorical genocide. After all, “saidisms” are not inherently evil; they can’t help it if they have been misused by bad writers the world over.

All in all, I was left with a favorable impression of writers’ conferences. I look forward to attending more of them in the future. While some might have found it disheartening to realize how many aspiring authors are out there just in the Phoenix area, I truly enjoyed the opportunity to chat with others who share similar aspirations.

Happy writing!

Susan Wells Bennett

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