Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Looong days at Chicon!

And I don’t even like coffee!

I think Friday may turn out to be the best day for me; loads of panels that were interesting, my first real sweep through the dealer’s room — it may surprise you to know that I bought BOOKS. I know, right?

Actually, I carefully went through all the tables of dealers who carry new books rather than used, and since only Larry Smith had ample copies of MY books, I bought books from him. That seems fair, right? And signed the copies of mine that he had, of course. I got this new one by Dan Wells that I don’t remember the title of . . . just a second . . . here it is: THE HOLLOW CITY. I didn’t even read the inside flap, just bought it because for me Dan Wells is an insta-buy. After I bought it, I saw that the main character is a paranoid schizophrenic. Well, if anybody can handle that in a serious, sympathetic way, Wells can. I have his book PARTIALS on my TBR pile at home, too.

And I got the second book of Martha Wells’ in-progress trilogy THE SERPENT SEA. (I know, it looks like I’m on a kick to buy books by anybody named Wells.) THe first book, THE CLOUD ROADS, is fabulous, I just finished it a few days ago, I was going to comment on that in a different post. And I got the second of Barbara “Hamilton”s Abigail Adams murder mysteries because I was sort of thinking about getting it recently, but kept forgetting, and then there it was! So I picked it up. Later I saw a different dealer had TIASSA by Steven Brust out. I want that. I need to go see if Larry Smith has it.

There’s this one dealer who has these great vertical jigsaw puzzles of unicorns and griffins and carousel animals and dogs — the dogs are represented with amazing accuracy, you can tell the Portuguese Water Dog from the Poodle and the Akita from the Shiba Inu. I may go back and buy a griffin. I think that’s pretty likely. Unless I go for a dragon.

And I think I NEED some cloisonne bat earrings for October. Right? Of course.

First panel I went to on Friday was on plotting. Turned out to be interesting but not helpful, because ALL of the panelists do VERY DETAILED OUTLINES. I can’t even imagine. I do sketchy outlines and I do them when I’m halfway through the book and trying to figure out how to get to the end. And then I change those. No post-its scattered around, no corkboard hanging with notecards, no synopsis — do you know, someone said she writes the back cover copy first and then the synopsis and then the novel? She says it focuses the novel. Well, yes, if that were even imaginable I guess it would have that effect.

If I tried to create such a detailed outline? I think it would kill the book dead. Why write it if you already know everything?

And somebody said she writes the climax and conclusion first because she loves that part best. I was like, what, really? I mean, I love that part, too, but if I did it first, what would be the reward for slogging through the middle?

So, interesting to see how very differently people write, but I hope aspiring authors in the audience don’t take away the idea that everybody needs to have this vastly detailed outline.

Oh! One good suggestion after all, which in fact I do sometimes do: outline after the book is finished. You do that to think about flow, of course. That can be a good thing to do. And now that I think about it, I think someone suggested outlining your favorite books to see how their plots work. I think that could be a really interesting and helpful thing to do. I don’t know that I’ll ever do it, but really, that’s a neat idea. And one great little catchphrase that sticks in my head: “Frontload your cool.” Put the neatest stuff in right away so the reader can see and enjoy it, don’t hold it back as a great prize for getting to chapter 17. I thought that sounded right and it’s a great phrase. And then someone else said, “But don’t frontload your world,” which of course means don’t do all this infodumping of history and worldbuilding in some vast prologue, and WOW IS THAT TRUE DON’T DO THAT. That’s why people skip prologues!

Then I went to a panel on YA trends. It sort of degenerated into a panel on the IMPORTANCE OF DIVERSITY IN YA which I am sooooo bored with that whole topic, can we talk about something else for a while? But I was very pleased that someone did say that just throwing in The Gay Friend or The Black Friend to show how progressive and forward-thinking you are is not going to work, which is SO TRUE and extremely obvious when an author does it, which is one reason I’m tired of the whole topic.

And I went to this fabulous panel on designing a cover for your self-published book. I always forget how much I enjoy art panels. I took lots of notes because I’ll probably self-publish a book in the next few years just to see how it goes. Lots of good stuff about composition and contrast and making the title pop and how to make your book stand out even when all the potential buyer can see is the thumbnail on their phone or the spine on the shelf. Great panelists. Really great panel. Someone said green covers don’t work and I said What? and gave the panelists a copy of HOUSE OF SHADOWS and they thought it was a great example of how green covers CAN work, as long as the focal point is actually in a warm color, which of course the girl and peony are warm peaches and pinks, so that was fun to have them comment on my own book.

And I know I should be telling you who the panelists were and who said what, but I’d hardly heard of anybody and I was too far away to see name tags. Okay, looking it up in the program: the plotting one was Julia Mandala, Valerie Estelle Frankel, Diana Rowland, Betsy Dornbusch, and Melinda Snodgrass. All right, I have heard of Melinda Snodgrass.

The YA Trends panel was Bryce Moore, Aurora Celeste, Gwenda Bond, Leigh Bardugo, and Emily Jiang.

The cover design panel was Mark Ferrari, who was the moderator and a great panelist, Maurine Starkey, David Malki and Alan Beck. And two women were there, who aren’t listed and must have been added after the program was printed, but I don’t have the corrections sheet with me.

Okay! I had two panels, too, but MORE ABOUT ThEM LATER. It is time to go have breakfast so we can get back to the convention hotel well before my 9:00 panel starts. I HATE being late for things.

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