Lessons Learned from Futurescapes 2021

Lessons Learned from Futurescapes 2021

I had a chance to attend my first Futurescapes Writers’ Workshop this week, and I had a great time! I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate, and I really enjoyed meeting so many talented folks.

Futurescapes is a paid, application-only workshop for speculative fiction writers. The faculty are brilliant authors, editors, and agents who specialize in spec-fic genres. They lead instructional classes ahead of the main event: a multi-day series of small-group workshops. The goal is to get writers ready to query and publish their piece. My faculty members were David B. Coe, Tricia Skinner, and SJ Kinkaid (who are ALL brilliant; please check them out).

I learned SO much, but I want to distill three of my biggest takeaways here.

Clear over clever.

When you have to choose, opt for clear over clever.

This is something I remind myself of, as a professional copywriter. It’s also true for fiction.

David elaborates on it better than I could here: Lessons from Manuscript Critiques – Simple Is Better.

Tricia reinforced a different aspect of this concept during my query session. If you’re writing with the intent to publish (whether self or traditional), remember your manuscript is ultimately a product. As its writer, you can show how marketable that product can be. For instance, instead of defining my current work in progress as “an adult secondary world fantasy heist,” I should figure out which shelf it would live on at a bookstore and call it that: “an adult fantasy.” Make it easy for agents, editors, and readers to see how your book can fit into the market and what they’re already enjoying.

The small stuff does matter.

It’s easy, as a writer, to focus on plot structure, worldbuilding, keeping the tension high, and character development. All of that is important. In fact, it’s crucial!

And also, considerations like word choice, sentence length, what is being described (and when), the order information is given in, passive writing… this stuff matters too. Just as much, really.

Because if anything (no matter how small) takes your reader out of the story, slows them down, or bores them, you’re in danger of losing them. No matter how gripping the next page might be.

Writing is for the passionate.

Kimberley Cameron said our novels are “Word document-shaped horcruxes” — fragments of our soul (that, fortunately, don’t involve murder).

David acknowledged that writing is hard, and writer’s block is part of the process. (And so is rejection, for that matter.) Writing isn’t always meant to flow. Sometimes it’s halting. Sometimes we stumble. Sometimes we stare at the wall for hours. But he reminded us to love what we do. We keep writing because the idea of stopping is too terrible to consider. And we should always write what we’re passionate about. That passion will shine through and carry us a long way.

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