Advice from Context24

This weekend I attended Context, a writing convention here in Columbus. The convention is local and very small, so my expectations were pretty low, but I have to say, I was blown away. I got advice from greats like John Scalzi and Mike Resnick, rubbed elbows with authors and editors I admire like Michael Knost and Tim Waggoner, and generally had a great time.  And I learned stuff! So without further ado, here are a few notes from the convention:

  • International markets are a great place to sell your work. Most publications only buy North American first publication rights for, say, a year, and foreign magazines can republish these stories. And some foreign magazines, like Interzone and Black Static, can get you a lot of attention in Europe, and bring in numerous reprints in other countries, getting you more mileage out of one story.
  • Once you have a completed novel manuscript, you need an agent, especially if you’re a beginning writer. But no agent who would take on an untried author is worth having (so says the great and powerful Mike Resnick, and I have to agree with the sense this makes). So instead you have to sell a novel to a publisher, and then take the contract to an agent, proving that you’re a good bet for their business. Or, you can find an agent through other unconventional means (a recommendation from an author who already works with the agent, finding an agent at a convention)–but the likelihood of having your manuscript pulled from an agent’s slush pile is not high. Not a decent agent, anyway.
  • To write a novel, you have to make sacrifices. One of these is time. I’ve heard a number of authors recommend writing early in the morning, so I’ve decided that starting next week I’ll be getting up much earlier and writing in the morning before work. It’ll be hard at first, but with time it will get easier, and my productivity will be worth it. I can’t get a novel done if I don’t set aside the time, and I can’t make writing into a career if I don’t write a novel. I’ll miss my friends, but this is an investment that hopefully will lead to a happier me with more time for friends later.

So: other Context attendees, what great advice did you pick up?

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