Writing About Conventions

I’m finally coming down from the rush that was the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio, last week. Enough to provide a coherent report of my impressions and what I gained from the time and money spent hanging out with friends in bars and restaurants (and attending the odd panel or two).

There were more than two panels. Probably more than what I can count on one hand, but don’t pin me down on the exact number because I don’t have my program handy. The ones I attended were excellent, which includes the two readings by Jim C. Hines and Kelly Swails. If you want a sample of what went on at a panel, use the following link to see a recording of the Epic Fantasy panel. You’ll get an idea of the discussion and general brainstorming that’s available at these conventions, and you’ll understand why I go to these and come away from them with a wellspring of energy and inspiration about my writing.

It’s difficult to go to any convention in a vacuum. I think you need to go with people, if only so you have someone with whom you can share all the ideas that spring from your experiences, whether it’s over dinner, at the bar, or at a floor party. The first convention I attended was local, back in 1999 or 2000, and I met a good online friend from the Del Rey Online Writing Workshop. I don’t believe I would have gone if I wasn’t getting an opportunity to broaden a friendship that only existed online until that point. I’ve gone on to meet and make more friendships since then, some of which I renewed after as long as six years. Writing is sometimes pretty solitary, and you take what you’re offered. The hours I spent Thursday to Sunday in the Big Bar upstairs at the Hyatt are going to keep me going for a year or longer.

I talked to an editor Saturday evening about why I was at the convention. I’m not a published novelist yet, I’ve only a few short stories out in the world (some to recognition, some not), and my main stumbling block at this moment is productivity. I didn’t have an agenda where I planned to meet agent X or editor Y or writer Z; I wanted to reconnect with friends who were going to the convention, attend a few panels and come away from the experience with a newfound energy about my craft. It doesn’t hurt to talk to an agent or editor or writer, because you’re going to find out some common ground that lets you know you’re not alone.

Consequently, I can say the convention was a success for me. I wrote almost all of the flash fiction piece that I’m submitting to the New Scientist contest. I mapped out how to rewrite my novel synopsis so I’m telling the story I want. I gathered some information for the short story I mentioned in my last post.

The latter might not necessarily include zeppelins, by the way; zeppelins represent the fantasy or science fictional variable that allows me to play with the ideas and themes and story I want to tell and the emotion I want a reader to experience. Replace zeppelins with talking alien cats or resurrected Mesopotamian gods. The goal remains to connect with readers and help them see the same thing you saw when your muse gave power to that light bulb shining overhead.

November stretches ahead of me as I sit before my computer and rather than facing a month where everyone is writing a novel to varying degrees of success or failure, I’m comforted by the knowledge that I may have turned a corner last week. I don’t expect my flash fiction piece to win the New Scientist contest, but I was able to write a flash fiction piece and consider it good enough to submit to my group. That’s something to consider a success. If I were fortunate enough to make it as a finalist, let alone win, that’s great. But winning isn’t always the point. I forget that sometimes, especially when I work with other writers on a bi-weekly basis where they’re making strides I can only imagine as part of my experience.

I hope to report a new short story written by month end, as well as a new outline/synopsis for Sacrifices / Into Dust Descend before I tackle the novel’s second draft.

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About stephenwnagy

writer, father, husband. not necessarily in that order.
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