This was the third Boskone I’ve attended, and like the others, I enjoyed myself a great deal (despite missing Sunday’s program because I woke up to more than a foot of new snow in my street). A more literary convention, Boskone focuses on the storytelling of science fiction and fantasy–mostly writing, but also film, TV, and other media. I enjoyed every panel I watched, but I’d have to say my top three were:
Reading Your Own Work Aloud – At some point I will want to make audio books, and this was a great introduction for not only recording, but also live readings. The panel had lots of tips for affecting different voices (e.g. speaking to opposite sides of a microphone during conversations), but the strongest tip was: take singing lessons, it will teach you endurance, so you can do several readings without killing your voice.
Constructive Criticism for Novel-Length Work – This panel confirmed a lot of what I already practice, basically using several beta readers to review your work. John P. Murphy made one interesting metaphor about writing and carpentry. You do the rough work, assemble the pieces, glue and nail it all together. Then you sand it with increasingly fine grains and finally polish and finish it. A manuscript is the same way, getting something down on paper first, and then you can revise, improve, trim, and copy edit. Ken Liu pointed out that sometimes a beta reader can often identify the theme or characters before you do (because you’re juggling a thousand other details, and that nuance is lost in the noise). That information will inform your revisions as you’ll have your characters make genuine choices.
Writing Fight and Combat Scenes – Lots of good advice and lively conversation in this one. I walked away with two strong points. First, act out a scene whenever possible, just to make sure that the action you’re describing is physically possible (e.g, keep track of all hands). Secondly, James D. Macdonald pressed this adage: “All mules must haul wood”, meaning that every sentence you write must further the plot, the character, or the theme. If doesn’t, you need to cut it. He added, “What you don’t haul, you drag.” I’ll keep this in mind as I begin editing #3; it needs to really haul.
I also enjoyed the kaffeeklatsch with Myke Cole. He’s a compelling speaker, and I discovered that we have a few things in common. We’re both in our early 40’s, we both write about guns and magic, and we both play D&D (ok, maybe these are true for a third of the attendees…). Myke reminds me of friends I gamed with who went into the service. It sort of felt like I was shooting the shit with one of them.
So many people showed up for the kaffeeklatsch that it turned into a beerklatsch—we all headed over to the bar. I was mostly quiet, sipping my beer as I watched the animated conversation bounce around the table. Among other things, Myke talked about his decision to transfer his status to Individual Ready Reserve – a difficult choice, but overall a positive shift toward the writing career he loves while continuing his work for the NYPD. A funny, gracious host, Myke included everyone; it was a real pleasure chatting with him.
As for promotion, my pens disappeared wherever I put them, but again, I’m not sure that converted to any sales. It’s good either way. Everyone loves pens. I’m still considering some other Togahan-marked tchotchke. Hey, faithful readers, what would you like to see with the Togahan’s Tale logo? USB thingy? Squishy football? Oven mitts? Something else?
Overall, I had a great time and the conference gave me much to think about—not just about the craft, form, and genre of my writing, but also my role as a writer within this community. I’m still processing a lot of that, but I plan to write about it here in the future. Stay tuned.