Since I recently mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to attend HonorCon this year, I thought I would throw up a blog about what I learned at RavenCon 2016. I wrote it immediately afterwards, then promptly lost in among my unorganized filing system. I’m now more organized and have a system, so hopefully this won’t happen again. No, this won’t happen again!
Since I want to attend again in 2017, obviously I had a great time at the Raven Con. I also learned a lot of useful stuff that I wrote about right after the Con ended. The Con seemed to be geared towards writers, with a ton of useful panels/classes that helped me immensely. They had everything from marketing in ‘The Age of Amazon’ to editing and world building. I took notes like I was back in college again, arm nearly falling off, and now I want to discuss my thoughts.
Unfortunately, with so many electronically inclined nerds in attendance, the hotel Wi-Fi was basically non-existent so I couldn’t write or edit from my DropBox account. Although, come to think of it, I hadn’t set that up yet. (Note to reader: DropBox is an amazing way to securely back up your files!) Moving right along, this conference was invigorating and I was definitely motivated to get back to finishing my novel. Just the kick in the pants I needed and it worked! Maybe I should find another to push me into finishing book three!
Originally my word count goal was 2,000 words a day, however, that isn’t always possible as life inevitably gets in the way. Hey, I am long winded but even I can’t stop adulting full time!! Without further ado, let me get to what I took away from my first conference.
SWAG: The bigger sellers, at least the ones who attended the Con, all seemed to think having things for giveaways at events and on your site are was a must. They had things like coffee cups, phone cases and t-shirts which they sold as supplemental income. It gave them prizes for promotional giveaways and generally just looked cool. As for my swag, I had a buddy make a graphic representation of the unit crest from my book and now we are checking on the legalities of using it. The legalities of art rights aren’t my thing, so I’m letting my editor handle that. However, for anyone who has access to Ye Olde Facebook, I recommend chatting with the authors there. The Listeners of the Dead Robots Society had some thoughts on the subject, contradictory to what the experts at RavenCon thought. They basically suggest your money could be better spent with business card, then any extra cash put into spiffy covers and a professional webpage.
PRODUCTIVITY: I received some really great advice on increasing productivity and avoiding the dreaded writer’s block. Such advice was especially good for me as I occasionally get suffer from writer’s block. Well, maybe not blockage so much as my mind tends to wander to other stories and I get things mixed up. Then I have to spend time reorienting myself to the correct story so I can move forward. Basically they suggest that you always stop at a point where you know what scene you’re writing next – this keeps you from psyching yourself out. This makes a lot of sense, so I’ve been using it a lot.
BUSINESS CARDS: According to the powers that be, these are a must! Several authors asked for mine when I mentioned I was working on my second novel, but I had nothing to give. I wrote my information down on scrap paper, their convention programs and the back of their business cards, but all for naught. None followed through and reached out, likely because the things I wrote on were easily lost. A nice, clean business card could’ve prevented that and netted me valuable contacts and resources for the future. Instead I am left with a missed opportunity, though not a wasted one since I learned from it. I even received a lecture about these missed opportunities to spread the word about the Human Legion Universe. The anonymous author felt that my loss was SOLELY due to my lack of business cards filled with my contact information. To be fair though, I didn’t follow through either, which I should’ve done and will do going forward.
EDITING: One of the biggest suggestions I came away with was not to edit mid-paragraph. Rather, they suggested waiting until the end of the novel before I went back and edited it. The presumption they were operating off of was that it was a waste of time since you don’t yet know what is important. When you fleshed out the more critical plot points, then you could more accurately target the errors. Also, fine tuning is a tedious process which will slow your word count. What I call ‘the machine gun method,’ where you use the time honored tradition of the ‘spray and pray.’ This is where you ‘spray’ the words on paper and ‘pray’ that the well of red ink dries before your editor is through with your story!! If you want a good blog, written BY an editor for advice on such topic, click here and follow the link.
BOOK BLURBS: Some of the authors suggested making friends with some of the YouTube Book Bloggers to review your stuff. This would help you receive some initial critiques, allowing you to improve your text and raise visibility. This works because it spreads the word to your target audience, though you run the risk from bad reviews so send them final drafts that have been edited! Basically, anyone who has a voice that reaches your target audience should be approached about helping you. Finding some way where you could help them in return wouldn’t hurt either!
INTERNET PRESENCE: According to just about every singe panelist at the convention, this was a must for life in today’s society. The experts in attendance recommended a focus on your blog on one or two topics/themes. This would help you practice your writing chops AND avoid doing the “Buy My Books” route favored by too many. Instead it was suggested that you provide other content to get readers in your door – while providing links to your books. One way of getting traffic to your blog is to write a list of interview questions for bigger authors and mail it to them. You would be asking them to respond so you could post on your blog. The benefit was that you get the association in a Google search, so a Stephen King interview means that your name and his could come up together in a Goggle Search. The benefit to the other author is that they get an open forum to control the narrative, while you receive some exposure. The mechanics of HOW you make sure to link the two isn’t my specialty, luckily I have ‘people’ to handle that aspect of things!!! Another suggestion was to run contest on your blog where the prize is to have a secondary character in the book, named after you or you get to name some piece of equipment. Basically, fan involvement and connections. The fans get to be redshirt characters and participate in the creative process. I’m unsure, and it wasn’t mentioned, of the legal considerations of using real people as characters in your novel and it is something I want to look into. The people SAY they’re okay with things but you want to cover your backside for posterities sake.
WRITING GROUPS: The consensus was these groups are a mixed bag. They can be helpful, but you need to be wary of any groups which are more interested in ‘talking’ about being writers than actually ‘writing.’ Further, you can sometimes start to run into trouble as you get more serious about your writing since you might offend those for whom it is a hobby. Basically, if you are interested in pursuing writing as a career, join a group of like minded folk. If, however, writing is merely a private pleasure you should find a group with similar intent so that you can best meet each others needs. One thing they seemed to agree upon was that internet groups were not recommended. It was mostly about the lack of accountability in the way the groups were managed, but it is possible you could find an internet group that actually served its intended purpose, invalidating their cautionary tales. Like I said, they just felt that meeting in real time gives people more accountability for their actions. While not a writing group, per say, I HAVE found the other WordPress bloggers to be encouraging so that might be an option. Author Kim Chance has a blog where others can connect to find themselves critique partners which could be a route for you to consider.
HISTORICAL MINING: Finally, the various panels of authors felt that you should never forget that you shouldn’t forget to pull ideas for the future out of a shared knowledge of the past. Patterns repeat and can be adapted for futuristic space sagas. This is where my historian training could be a huge asset!! That, and my ability to research. While they didn’t cover this in relation to fantasy, or if they did I missed the panel as I focused on science fiction, the past could also serve as inspiration. If you doubt me, look up this wee phenomenon known as Game of Thrones! 😛
I know that this isn’t exactly profound, or even something that isn’t already known, I still figured I’d share it because it refreshed my own memories of the experience of attending RavenCon 2016! If you have any thoughts on these topics, feel free to comment below…. I look forward to hearing from you!