This year’s conference, held in Lancaster, PA, helped me address several aspects of my novel.
The first was my novel title. I’ve been unhappy with mine and have been searching for a new, better one. Originally, I started with The Shifting Sands of Mars. It’s a great title. I know because Arthur C. Clarke used it for one of his novels. Once I realized that, the title was out. Other titles I ran through are: Shifting Mars Sands, The Discovery, and After the Discovery. During Friday night’s Sci-fi/Fantasy Read and Critique, Mark Gottlieb (Trident Media Group) mentioned that he often finds a work’s title in the manuscript.
This got me thinking. Instead of going for something thematic, I could go with something specific and unusual. So, the working title for my Mars novel is: The Music of Mars.
I did an interesting workshop with Cathy Jordan on creating your novel’s premise. The primary purpose is to keep the author on-track writing the first draft. She mentioned that the premise could change, but the premise would remain complete. She also mentioned that it could be done for a completed novel and included in the query letter. The exercise is to write one (long) sentence. To incorporate it in the query letter, she suggested adding punctuation, which will allow it to read smoother.
The template is:
When [deficiency] [character] [inciting incident]
[quest] [focal relationship]
until [pressure] [stronger pressure]
at last [final conflict] [resolution]
My premise (so far) is:
When Gretchen Blake finds herself blackballed after disagreeing with an eminent archaeologist over the origins of artifacts in Antarctica, she deciphers odd symbols in a Martian cave, allowing her and Frank to access energy crystals, until Frank’s company’s competition tries to steal the crystals and Arnold, a spy for the competition, tries to steal information about a buried alien city they found while getting the energy crystals, at last, they thwart Sam, Frank’s friend and another spy, attempt to murder Gretchen and explore the city, allowing Gretchen and Frank to cut a deal with the city’s caretaker for its artifacts, knowledge, and tech, providing Gretchen a new chance of love with Frank while capitalizing on the city.
I also took a workshop with Mark Gottlieb on writing a hook and query letter. Right now, this is still a work in process.
One fun exercise from Kathryn Craft was to draw a circle, place your characters along the edge, and draw lines between the characters in conflict. Characters without lines indicate a problem. Here is mine for The Music Of Mars. (I used solid lines for direct conflict and dashed lines for indirect conflict.)
Of course, some of the best moments of the conference are meeting other authors and discussing their works. The meals, between workshops, and mixer were great times. I look forward to see where the people I met go. I bet it’ll be far.