by Gail Z. Martin
So you want to be a writer? Get thee to a convention!
Conventions are fantastic networking and educational opportunities, and they cost a fraction of what many writing conferences charge.
Most conventions have some kind of writing track where you can hear published writers talk about writing and ask them questions. This is a golden opportunity to learn about the craft from people who are already doing it successfully.
Writing track panels also often include panels on creating characters, writing a good plot, building dialog, etc. There are panels with agents and editors sharing tips on how to find an agent or submit a manuscript. And if you’re lucky, there’s Alan Wold’s wonderful two-day writing workshop. There are also panels on promoting your books, publishing e-books, self-publishing and other aspects of the writing life.
Cons are also a great way to meet authors and get to ask your own questions. Make it low-key, and don’t be a stalker, but you’ll find that many writers are very approachable at cons because they go to connect with people. Use common courtesy, but don’t be afraid to approach someone and ask a question (try to make it a reasonably quick one). You’ll do best if you’ve obviously done some homework ahead of time, so don’t ask obvious questions like “how do I find an agent?” (Writers Digest Books have whole books on the topic—read these first and ask a more advanced question.) Don’t ask a writer to read your manuscript (he or she really doesn’t have time), but it’s OK to ask short technical questions. Many genuine and long-lasting fan/writer friendships have begun with a conversation at a con!
by Gail Z. Martin
Last week I talked about things writers wish they could whisper in readers’ ears. Now it’s time to turn that around and remind writers what readers wish they’d remember.
#1 It’s been a year since we read the last book in the series, so give us some gentle reminders to get us up to speed. Admittedly, this is tricky for both readers and writers, because each individual reading a book will have forgotten different things than the next reader, and the writer has to cover the waterfront without slowing things down to a halt to recap the last four 600-page books. Perhaps it’s best to agree to meet in the imperfect middle, with a few mental nudges from the writer (short of an full-blown recap) and the reader’s agreement to go back and skim through the last volume if they’ve forgotten everything.
#2 Just because you, the writer, have worked out ever detail in your head (or your notebooks), readers don’t have to know it. Some writers get so enthralled by their own backstory that they feel compelled to share it, even when it doesn’t actually matter to the plot. It’s like reading a book about World War II and having someone drop in a three-page description of the Napoleonic Wars just because you ought to know about them. However, just because a reader becomes enthralled by a certain element in a book, the writer is not automatically obligated to fill in all the details. Some things work better when mysterious around the edges.
#3 Speaking of which…writers shouldn’t feel compelled to explain what is better left unsaid (such as faster than light travel, wormholes, or magic), and readers should try not to feel gypped when they don’t get a free physics class as part of the price of the book. The corollary is that just because a writer is a rocket scientist doesn’t mean he/she is required to explain physics to the poor reader who just wants a space opera adventure.
There. I’ve gotten it all off my chest. I hope I’ve touched on some things that other people wanted the chance to say. Think of something else? Let me know!
by Gail Z. Martin
I run into some groups of fans who have a “separate but equal” view when it comes to conventions. Some book fans get twitchy around fans whose primary experience with the genre comes via gaming, movies and TV. Multi-media fans sometimes don’t “get” what all the excitement is about listening to a bunch of authors talk in a hotel ballroom.
Can’t we all get along?
I’ll be the first to admit that I consume the genre in multiple ways: books, music, movies, TV, anime, costuming, and when time permits, role playing games (video and old school). For me—and for many fans—consuming the genre in more than one way deepens the experience.
Don’t get me wrong—I love books. After all, I write them. But I also enjoy the genre when it’s presented well in a variety of formats. I’ll get something different out of each experience. Experiencing the story in ways that stimulates multiple senses makes it more memorable, more tangible and more pleasurable.
That’s why I think that the books vs. media “controversy” is a tempest in a teapot. Book and multi-media fans have a lot they can learn from each other. Working together with respect for each other’s perspective and experience, they can gain a whole new way of alooking at their favorites. They can serve as cultural translators for each other, and in the process, find treasures in formats they might not have otherwise explored. I really believe book fans need media and gaming fans—and vice versa—because together they provide a more well-rounded and wholistic fandom, with roots in the past but comfortable and fluent in the present.
It’s worth the effort to bridge the divide. Fandom is stronger—and more fun—when we work together.