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  • Writer's pictureRosie J.

SAGA Genre Writers Con Part 2

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Hello, my dear friends!


We're back again to continue my review of the SAGA Genre Writers Conference. I was hoping to get this done before now, but it's been a long, long week.

As a recap, SAGA is the professional development conference for genre fiction writers to improve their craft and business to become more profitable. (per the website)


And, if you missed part one, you can find it here: SAGA Genre Writers Con Part 1.


Before I get into some of the things I learned on Saturday at SAGA, I want to talk about part of the reason why I love to go to writing and fandom cons: THE PEOPLE!


Full disclosure: I am a major introvert. People are draining to me. I typically don't enjoy being around crowds of people, and have a degree of social anxiety, but some of that is because I often have to put on an act. Hide my kooky thoughts. My passions. My real personality. A majority of people that I am around on a regular basis, whether it be through work or family or the general public, only get a glimpse at the true me. I get to let those guards down when I'm in a room full of writerly types. For the most part, we get each other. For the most part, we love and accept each other.


And we're all a little bit quirky.


There's just something comforting about being around a group of people who get you. Whether you just met them or have known them for years.


I also had the chance to hang out with friends who I used to see a lot when I lived in South Carolina, but don't get to see as much since I moved to Tennessee. And I was able to rekindle some acquaintances with people I've talked to before, and maybe chat with online, but haven't see in-person in a few years .


The best part was getting to hang out with two of the WriMos from the NaNoWriMo group I'm the Municipal Liaison for. (What's an ML? See here: A Chat with Carissa Andrews... ) We have a mostly virtual group, so it was great getting to know these WriMos a bit better and spend time together at a writing conference.


There you have it, one of the reasons I love going to cons is the people I get to meet!


* * * * *


Now, on to what you're probably here for, my recap of the Saturday workshops!


I may split this into two posts. We'll see how long this gets. There were five workshops I attended throughout the day on Saturday.


Building Character - Misty Massey


Misty Massey writes pirate books, and while I've not read them yet... (I do have two Mad Kestral books now) I've gotten to hear Misty speak on various topics on multiple occasions at ConCarolinas, and she is always such a delight!

As mentioned in the SAGA Part 1 post, there were two tracks: Craft or Business. This was the Craft track. The business track at this time was about Taxes for Writers. I'm not quite to that point yet, so I wanted to see what Misty had to say about characters!


And kudos to Misty for stepping up and pulling together a fantastic workshop on the fly, because this was originally a workshop with Jonathan Maberry who couldn't be there due to unavoidable circumstances.


I'm all for character-driven stories. I know there's discussion and genre-specific reasons why you would write a plot-driven story instead of a character-driven story, and most stories may have elements of both, but my favorite part of writing is getting to know my characters, and hoping that other people might fall in love with them the way I do, and letting their actions lead the plot, so I was excited to hear what Misty had to say about Building Character!


One of my biggest takeaways from this workshop was that your reader doesn't necessarily have to know everything that makes your characters tick, but you as the writer do. Whether you reveal those things to your reader or not is up to you and the plot.


We got into some descriptions of possible character types in a novel: Protagonist, Anti-Hero, Antagonist, Advisor, Romantic Interest, Deuteragonist...


Deuter...what? It's a fancy way for saying side kick or BFF. While I think I've come across that phrase before, it hadn't stuck in my brain. Now it has!


Another important piece of advice was to be wary of naming everyone. Think about it this way, if you walk into a story and buy something, do you notice the cashier's name? If it's not something you would notice IRL, then maybe you don't need to name that person in your story either. Unless they're going to become important later on.


Giving a character a name also gives them importance.


Misty also gave us a few different tools to help build a character, like rolling dice and using DnD stats. But the most intriguing to me, that I haven't gotten to play around with yet, was using ChatGPT! I know there's a lot of controversy surrounding ChatGPT and similar AIs but what Misty showed us was so cool. I can see how this could be a great tool, especially if you're stuck, to provide you with a jumping off point to build a character (or even a world).


Like all tools, it should be used responsibly and within the law.


Perfecting Your Pitch - James P. Nettles


For the 11am workshop, I decided to head over to Perfecting Your Pitch with James P. Nettles (aka Jim Nettles or James MacDonald). Nettles runs Author Essentials--which I mentioned in Part 1--is a Founder of ConTinual: The Con That Never Ends and is a business aficionado by day and SFF author, seemingly also by day. He has a book on Business Essentials for Writers and lots of other fun stuff!


The Craft track at this time was on Save the Cat with Emily Leverett. Writer, Editor, Professor of English. Learning from Emily is always great, but I have a lot of experience with Save the Cat from NaNoWriMo, and am close to working on pitches for my holiday romance, so I wanted to check out the pitch session!


James has actually posted a podcast with a recap of this session here: Pitch Sessions Podcast!


I would definitely recommend giving that a listen.


Because that's available I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but I will say that one of the biggest things I took away from the session is considering that I am a brand. Which is partially why I've been working on branding my website and social media and business cards and everything to be cohesive. Your social media footprint these days is fairly important when you're in the running for an agent/publisher. Agents/Publishers are looking for a reason not to sign you. It only takes one thing. An inappropriate Tweet. A lack of online presence. Those things could tip the scale.


I'll let you check out the podcast recap I linked above for more info. But I definitely feel like I have a lot to consider when I get ready to pitch this manuscript soon!


Creating an Author Newsletter - Stuart Jaffe


After lunch, at the 2pm session, I had the choice of Creating an Author Newsletter (Business) or Reboot Your Career and Reinvent Yourself (Craft with Gail Martin).


I wasn't really sure which one I wanted to pick, but I didn't really feel like I was in a place to "reboot my career" since my career hasn't really started, although I'm sure the info would've been viable for getting my career off the ground. But, since I've been working on a blog and considering a newsletter, I decided to see what Stuart Jaffe had to say. John Hartness said Stuart is who taught him how to do a newsletter, so that piqued my interest!


There was a lot of technical information in this one, so I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, but the biggest takeaway is that if you want to do a newsletter, consistency is key! Make a schedule.


Stuart said it's a great way for him to give updates to people--especially if something happens like a release date is pushed back. It's a great way for "super fans" to stay in touch and up-to-date and feel like they have insider info. Or a way to run contests. And it's a great way to generate new interest by doing swaps where you plug another author and they plug you during one newsletter.


There are a lot of different ways to set up a newsletter and it could be a viable option to add. It's something I want to look into in the future for sure, but it does have challenges (like how Gmail might sort it into promotions and it get buried).


Pace & Structure - Michael Mammay


Mike writes military sci-fi (and is a Veteran) and is a prolific, traditionally published author. He had a lot of insight on publishing with big houses versus small publishers that he shared during the Paths to Publication workshop I talked about in Part 1.


The slides from this workshop are actually available on his blog, so you can peruse those if you'd like: Saga Writer's Conference Follow Up.


This workshop actually went along with AJ Hartley's workshop on Genre of the Moment from the night before.


One of the examples that Mike gave was to think about how you'd describe Times Square from the POV of a tourist who is seeing it for the first time vs the POV of a New York native who is sprinting to the metro to catch the train that's supposed to leave in a minute. Those scenes are going to be written differently.


I also liked that he mentioned that adverbs aren't inherently bad, but they can often be replaced by a stronger verb. For example, ran quickly vs. bolted. It's pounded into us to remove all adverbs from writing, but why? Sometimes it's okay. If you try out different, stronger verbs and nothing works, then use the adverb!


Some notes of interest that you can check out from the slides were about diagnosing pacing issues and how to fix it.


Something I had starred in my notes was that to help with fixing those issues ask yourself if the character is in a different place (either emotionally, physically, etc.) than they were at the beginning of the scene. If they aren't? Then you can potentially cut the scene, or fix it.


The alternate Business track option for this time slot was "Creating Anthologies and How to Get Hired." Another session that was revamped because it was originally slated for Jonathan Maberry, but was taken over by Jon Hartness and Emily Leverett.


Write a Novel in a Month - Vikki Perry


The last session was hosted by my long-time friend Vikki Perry. She's a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and has been for over a decade, and she has a lot of great resources. I'll talk about the Creativity Kicker session she did in the Sunday post.


I won't go much into this workshop, since I talk a lot about NaNoWriMo on my blog. I also didn't take any notes, because I'm an ML myself.


But the biggest takeaway is to silence your inner editor and get the words on the page, because you can't edit a blank page. Vikki said "that's a future-you problem" and I tend to agree.


This was a bit of a workshop-y class as well. We went through how to mind map a story, and a post-it note method where you write down scene ideas on post-its so if you get stuck when you're writing you can look at all those ideas and see what you need to do next.


This book was recommended (which I also recommend) for helping with plotting before NaNoWriMo (or any writing) - GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon. I attended her workshop on this topic at 2020 SAGA and it was FANTASTIC.


The business option during this set was about maintaining a work/life balance with writing and your day job. Also a replaced workshop because Sherrilyn Kenyon was the original presenter. Instead Darin Kennedy, Gail Martin, Emily Leverett, and Natania Barron created a panel to chat about balancing it all.


Wrap-up


At 9pm, instead of the scheduled Story time with Sherrilyn Kenyon (since she couldn't attend), we had a Networking Mixer instead! I got to chat with old friends and new friends. I found a few newer writers who hadn't finished a draft yet or were just formulating ideas and cheered them on. It was a lot of fun! After the party moved to the bar, I went to bed though. The post-Covid exhaustion was still hanging on almost a month later, and I couldn't keep up with my normal Con pace.


It was a great second day at SAGA! I am grateful for everything that I learned that I can apply to my own path as a writer and use to help others in my NaNoWriMo community.


Be on the lookout for one more blog about the Sunday panels!


Hope you enjoyed this overview of the second day at SAGA 2023. I highly recommend checking it out if you're looking to get your feet wet in writing conferences. I plan to

continue going as long as I can and look forward to seeing where this conference goes.

Also, if you're interested in checking out a con, but don't want to wait until next year and you're in the SouthEast (or aren't...) ConCarolinas in Charlotte


is a great place to start with an excellent writing track!


Don't forget to join me on Twitch for

Writing & Productivity Sprints on Wednesdays at 8pm EDT and Fridays at 1pm EDT!





For now,


Rosie






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