After allowing myself a full day of recovery from con drop, I’d like to share a report on my experiences as a fan and a writer at ConCarolinas 2014. First of all, let me say how much I enjoyed myself. I went alone, which always sets a person up for disappointment at a slow event, but the con didn’t lag. Even though I missed having my girlfriend there with me, I still had a lot of fun. Plenty of interesting people, good writing tips and advice, geeky shopping options, and George R.R. Martin. Good times.
The George R.R. Martin events I made it to didn’t run smoothly, but kudos to the event organizers for admitting this shortfall and apologizing for it. I can’t castigate folks for making mistakes when they own up to them. Okay, if I had been one of the ones screwed over, sure, I’d castigate away. Thankfully I got into the Q&A and the special reading about the history of the Westerlands, and I also got my books signed. I had to wait in line for more than an hour for each of them, then wait for the events to take place, but such is the price to pay for the celebrity panels and signings. Being in the same room party with Mr. Martin, and having a very short, very normal conversation with him alone at the elevators was icing on the cake.
I must say, the panels and workshop in the writing track are going to help me quite a lot in my writing career. So too, I hope, will the books I bought from the author tables. My chief focus going in was to figure out how to make my stories and books more salable in today’s market. I’m a good writer with tight writing (though not here on my blog–I just follow my inner voice here). I need to figure out how to take the next step, as it were. Granted, some few of the panels devolved into too much “Well, my character X does Y and Z”, but for the most part, the writing track was authorial money in the intellectual bank. I discovered that, nowadays, editors want to be in the main character’s head immediately, and jump straight into the conflict. Gone are the days where a writer can take their time and ease into the story. Good to know! I already tried to limit my use of attributives, but discovered I need to pare it down even further. The panel dedicated to editing, agents and publishing gave me much needed perspective and knowledge as well. One panel and one workshop really stood out to me, though, and I’ll go over them next.
The Magical Words live slush pile panel is a creation of pure genius, one which they have done before and will thankfully do many times in the future. Three authors, David B. Coe, Faith Hunter, and Misty Massey, listened to the first 300 words of manuscripts. These manuscripts were handed in by aspiring writers attending the panel, and read anonymously. Each author acted as an editor, and would raise a hand when they reached a point they would have stopped reading. No author had to own up to their story. This is a fabulous exercise. I heard the errors in others’ stories I used to make, and discovered a few I still make. It helped hammer home, to me, the modern focus on immediate character intimacy and conflict. Editors and readers don’t have the patience to wait any more, and that isn’t a gripe. It’s a reality, and one I will be happy to embrace.
Allen Wold’s workshop on beginnings will help me to hone how I open my stories, and has already spawned the first draft of a cute but dark flash fiction piece. Attendees to the workshop were given brief but pointed directions right off the bat. We were to write the opening to a story, in 100 words or fewer, to include four items: character, setting, something happening, and questions left unanswered. I don’t want to post my contribution, which was met with great curiosity and for which I was given several pointers, and lose publishing rights. I’ll just say that I invented the godlet in my opening 😉 Okay, I’ve since found out I didn’t invent it, but everyone there thought I did 🙂
I noted already I bought up some modern authors’ books, to catch up with today’s spec fic stories and to read up on today’s styles of writing. These are the ones I picked up: Joe Naff’s The Gospel of the Font, Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures: the Short Stories, Stuart Jaffe’s Southern Bound, and Michael G. Williams’s Perishables. My reading list is already long, however, so it will be a while before I manage to get to any of these promising works. Which one should I read first?
As for the rest of the con, well, it’s more of the same kind of geeky fun you’d expect to find. I bought two great T-shirts, one Game of Thrones Bastard Sons of Castle Black (Crows Before Hoes) and one Lovecraftian Miskatonic University. One of my friends will be disappointed I didn’t stay up to watch the showing of Zardoz, but hey, it was late and those chairs were killing me at that point in the evening. Wonderful chats, wonderful people, wonderful cosplays (surprised to see several Littlefingers, noted a perfect Oberyn, a girl with a painted on beard as Renly, and lamented the fact that we had no Varys lol). All in all, a very good time. ConCarolinas 2014 was well worth the price of admission and hotel.