Monday, August 20, 2012

My First Con As A Writer

I mentioned last week that I was planning to attend GenCon. Living on the north edge of Indianapolis makes me a local, so it's really a no-brainer for me to hit up this convention. I don't to go to a lot of the bigger ones held on the coasts. Simply too far for me to travel (without scheduling some sort of vacation). I've been to GenCon before, but this is the first time I can honestly say I attended as a writer.

Perhaps that's being a bit disingenuous. I mean, I've always been a writer. It's sort of like saying this is the first time I attended GenCon as a white male (which is almost equally unique in the crowd, mind you). Still, while I may have been a writer at heart before, this is the first time I attended with an eye looking out for ways to improve my writing.

I checked out the book booths, mainly out of curiosity. Someday, maybe I'll get one. A friend suggested that I should have carried a stack of cards with a free Smashwords code on the back and handed them out to all and sundry. Plenty of folks were doing that, too. I guess I fail when it comes to shout-it-from-the-rooftops marketing. I'm still a little embarrassed about my books. Not that I'm not proud of them, just that I don't feel comfortable "forcing" them on people. I wrote what I enjoy reading. I think other people might enjoy them, but I'm a reader first and foremost. I know that not every book is for everyone.

That's a terrible sales pitch, am I right?

Ah, well. It's not all about sales. Even if I sell exactly 0 books from today onward, I will still look back on this time with pride. Publishing a book is an accomplishment, even if you sell nothing. I don't care what anyone else says. It's a Cool Thing You Did. Period. We wish to make it more than "cool," but you're starting from a basis of cool. It would probably serve writers well to remember that.

I promise I didn't just spend GenCon musing about all the marketing things I'm not doing. I attended panels and readings as well. Pretty much anything with Brandon Sanderson. (Though I found out about two other panels he was on that I missed. They were late additions and I didn't hear about them. Bad fan/author!) And I promise that I didn't spend these entire panels thinking about how much better all the folks up there are than me. Brandon was sitting there, gushing about how awesome Patrick Rothfuss is at prose, decrying his own prose as "merely passable," and I'm looking at my shoes thinking: What chance in fel do I have?

Sounds like a common case of Writer's Guilt. Symptoms: uselessly stacking yourself up against anyone and everyone and finding your own work wanting by comparison. It's an illness that likely shares more with Delirium Caused By Spontaneous Fever than Excessive Dosage of Truth Serum.

The comforting part was when I realized I understood pretty much everything they were talking about. If you've ever attended a writer's panel, you know that they can slip into jargon pretty easily. For such smooth written communicators, writers aren't always great and verbal communication. There are a lot of common constructs used to describe complex creative writing ideas. These get bandied about with a certain carelessness that can render a listener baffled at times.

It is perhaps a credit to me when I say that I followed all of the jargon. I even found myself anticipating a remark or nodding when a panelist picked up exactly where I would have. I have no proof on any of this, so you'll just have to trust me. I felt like: These are My People. I *get* this.

So yeah, attended GenCon as a writer. First time. That means something, right?


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