In April I managed to go to Eurocon, the European Science Fiction Society’s annual convention. I’ve mentioned this before. While there I sat in an hour-long workshop given by Tim Powers (he’s an awesome storyteller, and really friendly to boot!). I took notes, but never posted them. Now I am. Enjoy! (N.B.: I’m tidying up the spacing and typos, but otherwise leaving it verbatim)


When you are figuring out character traits:

  • Why this character? Why is his story important? Why, really?
  • What would he do anything in the world to get?
  • What would he do anything in the world to avoid?
  • Make them face an intolerable choice

How to keep it interesting for you and your readers

  • Deal with all the extra stuff in later drafts
  • Use a calendar to keep track of events and use it to push yourself along
  • Use the bits that affect & attract you, not what is current – it’ll affect readers if it affects you.
  • When you are done: Throw away the first three pages. Start  with the next full sentence
  • It’s good to start with dialogue
  • First page: make it an easy doorway to step through
  • Within a page or two: day or night? Man or woman? Inside or outside? Ages?
  • Make it look like it’s happening to real people in a real place.

Info-dumping : how to let the reader know what he needs to know?

  • Make the description part of the action.
  • A good way To describe something very complicated, have it be broken and need fixing.
  • 10000 ft to one mm zoom in to give description, doesn’t feel like info-dump, camera moving all the time.

How to end: after the crucial decision: write the consequences, but then walk away for a day. And cut off the last three pages, or wherever it’s apt.

How much to trust beta readers: mechanical suggestions. Don’t listen to revision suggestions. Don’t give it to writers.

There you go. Helpful hints at the very least! I hope the four (five?) of you find it useful!