I’ve decided to republish the series of posts about conventions and convention life that were originally published over at Speculative Chic. Incidentally, the post below was my very first column on SpecChic, published on August 11, 2016! You can find the original post here. I’ll be republishing these monthly over the rest of the year (or until I run out 😉 ).
A couple weeks ago, I attended a new writing group. Not just new-to-me, but brand spanking, first meeting kind of new. Granted, I know all of the folks involved and call them all friend, but this configuration, this purpose, was new.
I’m always a little apprehensive of getting involved with writing groups or critique groups, because I’m often the one giving a lot more than I’m getting, simply because I’ve been working in publishing for a decade. But my challenges aren’t what I wanted to write about.
It used to be that the only way you really connected with other writers was by going to writing conferences or taking writing classes. And if you wanted to put together a support or critique group, you had to find a few people local to you. And just finding those people didn’t mean you’d have a good, quality group. There were still other obstacles, such as skill levels, personalities, scheduling, etc. It was easier just to find one writer and mail pages to each other.
But obviously now, things are a lot easier. There’s still the struggle of skill levels, personalities, and scheduling, but getting together as writing groups is a lot easier, because there are many different ways to “get together.”
I currently run a group called The Writing Tribe on Facebook (feel free to join, if you’re a writer who’s serious about your career 🙂 ). They don’t know this, but one of the things I want to do in 2018 is start a monthly chat (probably by video), where we teach each other things and have focused discussions and learnings about different aspects of writing.
And that leads us to one really powerful aspect of technology: the ability to communicate in real time over great distances. We no longer have to rely on whomever is in our area for writing groups. We can pick and choose the people we really want to work with, having regular online meetings and chats.
Not only can we get the support and camaraderie, but we can do critiques electronically, as well. And, really, electronic critiques and edits are the standard now, versus paper critiques. I don’t really know anyone who does paper critiques anymore.
How do you organize your group?
First, decide how often to meet. Once a week? Once a month? In person? Online? Some mix of cyber and meatspace?
Next, figure out what you want to do with the group. Will you just get together to work in the same room, everyone writing together and then taking short breaks to chat, get coffee, etc? Is it a focused critique group, where each person turns in pages well before the meeting and everyone critiques those pages? Is it a mashup with a little of both?
Our new writing group has decided that we will meet monthly and critique 2 people each meeting, and then use the rest of the time to write. However you choose to do it in your group is fine, so long as everyone is getting something they need out of the group. There’s no right way to do this.
What I’m kicking around for TWT is to have monthly online meetings and then planning a weekend retreat where people come in from all over and we learn, work, and play together. (This is all still in the very early stages of brainstorming, so don’t hold me to it! 😉 )
The biggest benefit to writing groups, whether they’re work groups, support groups, critique groups, or masterminds, is that it keeps us writing. It’s more difficult to “do it later” when we have a critique deadline coming up. We get inspiration from others of our tribe, which keeps us at the keyboard. The biggest benefit of a writing group is simply being among other writers. The automatic outcome is that we write more, we write better, and we achieve our goals.
In the end, how the writing group is structured matters less than the idea that everyone involved is getting what they need out of it.
Are you involved in any writing groups? How does it work for you and your peers?
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Dragon Con is coming up this weekend in Atlanta. It’s a huge science fiction/fantasy/horror fan convention; they’re estimating 82,000 people in attendance this year. That’s a lot of people.
All the things you’d expect to happen with that many people in a two mile square area happen: traffic is crazy; restaurant wait times are off the chain; and don’t forget something in your room, because it’ll take you an hour to get up there and back again. And some things you might not think to expect: don’t bother with your cell phone, as the towers are so jammed, you can’t hold a phone call; texts too. They’ll go through, but on their own time, so if you’re trying to plan something for NOW, smoke signals might be better.
I have a monthly column over at Speculative Chic. Over the last year, I’ve written a number of posts on convention life. I thought it’d be a good idea to curate them all into a list in one post. So here it is!
Here’s your intro to conventions. If you don’t have any idea what to expect; if you’re not sure whether they’re right for you; if you have no idea how to even find one or choose one, then this is the post for you!
In deciding what convention to attend, take into consideration your purpose in going. Are you looking to land an agent? Hobnob with actors? Reinvigorate your writing? Your why will help you to decide which conventions you want to invest your time and money in.
I wrote two posts especially for those of us who are not independently wealthy, about doing con season on a budget. It’s all about volunteering.
In this post, I give some pretty detailed steps about how to go about figuring out what you want to do for a convention and how to land the volunteer spot, including how to interact in a face to face meeting with a track director and the wording if you’re contacting them via e-mail instead.
Before you reach out to throw yourself into the volunteering fray, figure out what areas you’d enjoy working in or which could utilize your strengths.
And we keep going with the volunteering theme. In this one, I talk about what to do and what not to do, so that the conventions you work with will want you to come back year after year. Since conventions usually offer free or discounted admission to volunteers, this can save you some nice cash that you can instead spend in the vendor rooms!
And on the topic of guests — people who are on panels or giving classes — you might be in contact with celebrities. It can be a little overwhelming and you might be tempted to fangirl/boy all over your favorite author/actor/artist. Don’t do it.
There are a lot of “C” words associated with conventions. I didn’t really notice it until I did this series 😉
If you haven’t done many cons, you may not have heard these terms. But it’s good to be familiar with them so you can guard against things that need to be guarded against and deal with things that need to be dealt with.
You don’t want to be in the middle of getting dressed, then realize you left your pants at home (I say this from experience!).
Consent has come to the forefront of conversations about fan conventions in recent years and I’m really glad that it has. Consent is something we don’t talk about enough in our culture anyway, and conventions are places where having someone’s consent to do anything — from taking a photo to touching them — is of the greatest importance.
Anyone has the ability to violate consent. It happens much more to women by men than vice versa, but it can happen both ways. The only hope in combating this is to make us all more aware.
It’s everyone’s responsibility to police our own actions.
So there you go! Lots of stuff about attending conventions, working conventions, and surviving conventions!
Any additional suggestions about conventions? Please let me know in the comments!
So I just finished up a crazy 3 cons in 3 weeks in 3 states cycle. I had pre-written most of my content for those weeks, but I didn’t get *past* them. Apparently I assumed I’d get on them last weekend.
Yeah, that didn’t happen. So the blog is taking this week off! I’ll be back next Monday with more great content and another Tool Time Tuesday for next week!
Go get some writing done!
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In May, I’m heading out to Las Vegas for StokerCon! I’m super excited about going, in part because I had such a blast at World Horror last year when it was here in Atlanta. They’ve got Horror University with a number of classes and there are some great folks going! If you write horror, dark fantasy, or anything along those lines, you’re going to want to head to Vegas in the spring! 🙂
EPICon starts tonight with a mixer and booze! For those of you who don’t know, EPICon is the official conference of the Electronically Published Internet Coalition (EPIC). Every year, EPIC takes nominations and members vote on the best eBooks of the year over multiple categories. The EPIC eBook Awards banquet is Saturday night and I am excited to share that one of my authors at Loose Id, Jessica Freely, has been nominated for her eBook Rust Belt! This was the first book I worked on with Jessica and it’s still one of my favorites! If you haven’t read it, check at out at the Rust Belt Loose Id page!
I am also teaching two classes, one on Friday called Pulling More than Punches: Writing Great Action Scenes. I think the title needs to be redone though. Though it’s a very snappy title, really we don’t want to pull punches. We want to punch the reader in the head with the action. So maybe I’ll be changing this title to something like: Not Pulling Punches. Or something. I suck at titles. Except this one, which is my other class:
Manuscript Corsetry: Tighten Up That Story! Yep, it’s a revision class. I hit on lots of things to watch out for in your ms, but also different methods of approaching revisions. I think it will be a fun class!
I think I’m also taking pitches for Loose Id, but I’m still a little hazy on those details. So that’s my agenda for this weekend. I’ll be tweeting periodically (which reminds me that I need to put my Twitter feed back on my blog).
Anyone else out here in rainy Williamsburg, VA?