I spent four-ish days at the GenCon Writer’s Symposium last week trying to soak up as much advice from more successful writers as I possibly could. I plucked up my courage and introduced myself to Monica Valentinelli, who was about as lovely as a person can be to a random twitter fan pestering her in the dealer room. My work was critiqued by Marc Tassin, Kelly Swails, Wes Nicholson, and other accomplished authors. I finally got to meet Paul Genesse, the editor of The Crimson Pact, in person. My mentor Steve Saus introduced me to John Helfers, Maurice Broaddus, and so many others I can’t even keep them all straight. And I sat through about twenty seminars, taking notes and asking questions and generally trying to be a human sponge.
Something I learned about novels: Most first novels are never published, and many novelists have trunk novels stashed away that will never see the light of day. I’ve been waiting to write a novel until I’m “ready”, but the fact is that I have the luxury of time right now because I have a day job, and I shouldn’t waste that luxury. I can invest the time in writing a novel, knowing full well that my first one will probably never be published, without having to worry about lost income; I can just enjoy the writing, and learn about the process, and figure out what my novel-writing style is. I want very much to work on collaborative projects or shared worlds, but chances are slim that anyone will be willing to take a chance on an unproven commodity. I need to have a novel under my belt before anyone will take me seriously…so that’s now on my ever-expanding to-do list. Honestly I’ve wanted to write a novel since I was a teenager, but it never seemed like the right time. Well, that time is now. So look for posts about that in the near future.
Another thing I learned: I’m having a hard time finding the middle road between showing and telling. The old “Show, don’t Tell” adage is not always true. I despise the “info dump” style of writing, and I always try to show instead of tell–but as a result, I sometimes carry this too far. I like my stories to be little mysteries that the reader has to unravel as they go, picking up clues and piecing them together (this is also how I like to read). But not everyone likes that, so one criticism I received was that I was either showing too much or not enough. I’m still finding the balance; that’s something that will come with time and experience, but I suspect that I’ll always err on the side of mysterious. I need a good editor like Paul who can say “you’re being too cagey, tell me more about this.”
I got a lot of compliments on my reading style, so that remains one of my biggest strengths. People like hearing me read. Hooray! Now I just have to produce more work to read to them…
If you’re an aspiring writer, or even a published one, like me, the Writer’s Symposium can be hugely beneficial for you. I recommend that everyone go next year. I’ll see you all there! Hopefully I’ll be a panelist by then, but if I’m not, I’ll be there sitting in the front row taking copious notes.