In Which Our Heroine Discusses Meeting Authors…

I have returned from what was a very unexpected hiatus that I truly hope will not need to be repeated. Thank you for everyone for sticking with me.

In May, I attended Phoenix Comic Con, which is my family’s convention of choice. One of the things I have enjoyed over the past four years is the writing panels, several which have introduced me to new authors, many of which have given me great writing advice. Over four years, I have seen people who are new to cons who are either uncertain of how to act in these settings or who create blunders unintentionally, so I thought sharing wisdom would be nice.

1) Authors are human too and most are really nice, don’t be afraid to go up at say hi. If there is a long line for that writer, try to be respectful of people waiting for their turn.  I have noted that not all writers show up on the first/preview day of a con but it can be a good way time to see a writer and not worry about crowds. We had a lovely chat with Cherie Priest this way and witnessed Wil Wheaton playing a little prank on John Scalzi.

2) During panel questions of writing craft, remember to ask questions that could benefit more than just you. It is a big no-no to take up that limited time by asking a question specific to your novel in progress. Writers prefer that you ask them these questions when they are at their individual booths. Just remember to not hold up a line with your questions.

Some questions that get interesting feedback (and can benefit more that one person in the room) I have heard include:

What did you not know about writing/publishing that you wish you had?

What rule were you told you had to follow that you found out you didn’t?

What behaviors undermine a “strong” female character?

What themes are inappropriate for YA books?

How is romance handled differently in YA?

Some answers may be subjective, but you do learn some great things this way.

3) Writers do not get paid to show up at a convention, and many fans have already bought their books that they bring to get signed. If an author you are not familiar with gave great advice, don’t grab their book on Amazon later, get one at the convention and get it signed. It may cost you a bit more, but it is a nice way to show your appreciation.

4) Do not ask writers for spoilers in future books.

5) In author spotlight panels, be careful about asking a question that’s more of a spoiler for the book series. If the book came out very recently, there’s a good chance not everyone has read it. If the book has been out for a year, you’re safer. It’s not required, but it is kinda nice to newer fans.

6) Behave like you are a published writer. You will not impress anyone by bashing on a particular author/book and it doesn’t prove that you’re better than that writer. You also never know who else is present including agents or editors. Remember, writers often create communities of their own. I have actually seen someone bash on a particular writer in front of another writer who had been mentored by the bashed on writer. Not a great move. You may notice that many writers will mention other books they support, but not ones they didn’t. It’s basic kindergarten rules. If you can’t say anything nice, keep your mouth shut.

7) I think this is a nice gesture, but when I have found some advice, or a class, to have been very beneficial, and the author returns to the con, I like to thank them in person for that advice.

Does anyone else have questions about meeting writers or advice of their own?

In Which Our Heroine Hates Some Advice

Somewhere on my reader, someone reposted a blog with what I felt to be some of the most dangerous writing advice ever. It came down to one line: burn your ships. This writer proposed that to be successful, you should pull an Alexander the Great, cut out any back-up plans you have because they are distracting and go be that writer. She used the example of her quitting her sales job and moving in with her mother as an example of the ship she needed to burn. I have issues with this advice for two big reasons reasons:

1) Quitting your job to be a writer does not mean you are automatically a writer who gets published. It means you are a writer with no incoming money. If you do get published, it can take time for that money to come to you. If you are self-publishing, there is still a risk. Putting a decent book out there often means spending money, which is a limited resource now that you quit your day job. Don’t forget the fact that you have no promises on how much you will make as a self-published writer.

Two pieces of better advice: understand how the publishing industry works and seek to improve your writing skills. I found out how the publishing industry works from a book at the library when I was 15 and at that age realized I needed a day job as a back-up. As for improving my writing, I practiced, a lot. I found books on the writing process and I joined a professional organization designed to grow writers. These are things more likely to help you get published.

2) Many of us are not in a position to just quit our job. My mortgage and my paychecks have a symbiotic relationship. My toddler is not going to be impressed at the daring actions of Alexander the Great if he doesn’t have a roof over his head and food on the table. Many of the writers I read have spouses or children who expect someone to be providing for the family. Besides, not every parent is going to be thrilled at having their adult child move back in an essentially become a dependent all over again.

Better advice: see what you can do to free up more time. Maybe your family can afford for you to work part time. Maybe you can afford hire someone to do the house cleaning for you. Everyday expenses won’t magically go away but you just might have room to work within them. Besides, if you quit your job and three years later decide you need to get one again because Mom won’t let you live with her anymore, telling the interviewer you quit your last job spent 3 years unemployed to be a writer may not go over well.

Generally speaking. I think writers should ask themselves if they’re learning enough about their craft and if they’re making consistent time to write. Many authors I like transitioned from day jobs to full-time writing. But quitting your job isn’t going to automatically make you a published writer, it will automatically cut your ability to pay for your living expenses though.

In Which Our Heroine Reflects on Writing Time

I keep track of my writing goals by the week and Monday is my start the clock day. I got home from the day job and got an amazing session in. I was so excited. Then the week got stolen away from me because my allergies were bad enough that they kicked my butt and took my name. I was exhausted and spent a lot of time groggy or sleeping. Especially, like most aspiring authors, I have a day job that pays the bills and you never know when you will or won’t get a book accepted for publication.

For the record, I probably should confess that I have no intention to self-publish any novel at this point in my writing career. The information that guided me to this decision came from several sources including conclusions I have made based on observation, number crunching, and questions I have heard answered by authors who have started their careers as traditionally published writers.

One of the best bits of advice I received was from writer Kevin Hearne at Phoenix Comic Con. When he was an aspiring author he had the same day job as I did as well as kidlet and family obligations (I have a husband and toddler). The day I met him was the day after he had finished his last day at his non-writing job. He was now going to be a full time writer.

Mr. Hearne told me that if you can do 2-4 pages a day (that’s 500 to 1,000 words), you will have a 300 page story in about three months. I try to do a minimum of four a day. This week I don’t know if it will happen. Perhaps I need to forgive myself and the plants that caused my allergies and move on. I have a chunk of the story done and I suspect it will be done in time for me to begin revisions for the writing contest I’m looking at.

Remember, 2-4 pages a day and you too will have a novel.

Oh, and if you like quirky urban fantasy, Mr Hearne is quite the talented writer. His Iron Druid Chronicles make me giggle. A lot. Maybe if we ever get that dog we discussed adding to the family, we must name him Oberon out of tribute.