It's officially spring time and that means Futurescapes 2021 is over. At least flowers are blooming! (Photo by Kate Ota)
Last week I finished my experience with Futurescapes Writers’ Workshop 2021 and I’ve gone back through my frantically-written notes to find some universal gems to share. I’ve broken it into categories, so if you don’t care about queries, for example, you can skip that section. Most of this information I got from my group leaders and discussions in those groups. Anyone who had other leaders at Futurescapes might have gotten a totally different experience.
I didn't include anything I learned from the classes before Futurescapes. Some are classes offered by those teachers elsewhere, so it felt like proprietary info. I'm not looking to get sued.
There’s a huge list of resources at the bottom. I wrote down any craft book, article, or website that was recommended to me. But be warned, I haven’t checked most of them out yet.
Don’t hold back with your ideas—editors want what’s fresh and new. There isn’t too far to stretch, just go for it!
In your first pages, the most important thing is to not confuse your reader. The second thing is to intrigue them. Do this by grounding the scene in a physical place before going into too much action.
First pages should hold enough worldbuilding to show this is a specific world (if this isn’t contemporary) but not so much worldbuilding that you need a world-bible next to you to understand what’s happening. Things should be familiar-yet-different.
The phrase “heart pounded” is overused in all of writing. This advice is pretty subjective, but I hadn’t heard this before, so maybe you haven’t either.
About Queries and Agents (especially Tricia Skinner)
Maintain your author-agent relationship with plenty of communication.
Tricia doesn’t require content warnings on queries. However, she’s not a fan of settings including slavery and concentration camps. (Especially for romance! I was shocked she even had to say that, but apparently that’s a thing.)
Query must demonstrate character, conflict, and STAKES. So many people forget the stakes.
Begin your query with some level of personalization for why you queried this agent. One sentence is fine.
A query should be as clear and marketable as possible.
In your bio, even if you’re unpublished, include anything that connects you to publishing. Things like attending workshops or writing groups count.
At the bottom, below your name, should be your contact info. An author website, even if only a single page, is ideal.
Tricia loves enemies in forced proximity as a trope.
A synopsis should either be written in a totally neutral voice or the voice of the novel. (Personally, I think it’s much easier to go neutral.)
If writing a multi-POV and struggling to write each character into the synopsis, consider introducing each new POV by mentioning where they are in proximity to the other characters (geography-wise). This cuts down on confusion, especially in a sprawling fantasy where characters may not be on the same continent or a sci-fi with multiple planets.
If worldbuilding adds tension, include it. If it doesn’t, and the synopsis makes sense without it, don’t include them there.
Emotional arcs should be included, and are probably more meaningful than including every plot event.
Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott
The Author’s Checklist by Elizabeth Kracht
Thrill Me by Benjamin Percy
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas
Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon
Story Genius by Lisa Cron
On Writing by Stephen King
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer
Orson Scott Card website article on beginnings
Brandon Sanderson website on his writing process
How to Write 10k/Day
Sooz.com for in depth process and guides
Writing the Other website
Mapping software websites: Wonderdraft, World Anvil, Inkarnate, Universe Sandbox
The Ever Changing Book of Names (random name generator, which gives names sounding like other language origins but are not real.)
YouTube channels: Just Write, Razbuten, Hello Future Me, Nerdwriter, In Praise of Shadows (horror), Behind the Curtain, What’s So Great About That?, Storytellers, Abbie Emmons, The Closer Look, Make Stuff, Jenna Moreci
Have you tried any of these resources? Did this advice help you? Let's discuss in the comments!