FenCon Wrap-Up (Actually, this is all about me…)

So, I’m not the best FenCon reporter. I was mainly there for the writing stuff. I’m pretty new to the con scene, despite having been active in geeky counter-culture stuff for decades. I’ve always had this “anti-fanboy” gene for some reason. There are lots of things I like and appreciate on an artistic level, but I have yet to get so completely wrapped up in anything that I’m spend my spare time dressed as a Klingon and learning elvish. Not knocking it, but it never really appealed.

The last Workshop session was more productive and I got to sit down with Karl Schroeder and talk about my story. He said some things which made me realize precisely why I wasn’t getting much out of the workshop. See, the workshop was based on story structure, outlining, etc. I hit the start of a rough middle (saggy middle, swampy middle, whatever the hell you want to call it) and felt that maybe I needed a more disciplined approach to keep momentum, so I signed up for it.

From the fact that I had not submitted an outline and, from something he could pick up on the writing style, Karl knew there was no outline. He essentially told me he felt there was enough creative impetus there to skip the outlining stuff and simply let the first draft be the outline. In other words – keep doing what you are doing. It was extremely validating and, as mentioned, it explained why I wasn’t really getting a feel for the workshop. I was looking for something that this story didn’t need. I took a bunch of notes of course, because even though I can’t see it now – there will be a story that needs this at some point.

Lesson learned – do what the story needs. Don’t try to force something on it. Writing is an analytical exercise, true, but especially with fiction and speculative fiction, there is an intuitive side as well. If you can’t get yourself out of the way and let the story become what it needs to become, maybe you need to step back and work on something else for a bit. That’s my mystical, not so actionable advice, yet maddeningly, it will make sense to you when you need it to make sense to you.

I know, you’re probably feeling like you could have gotten the same advice in a cookie after gobbling down your fried rice. You’re probably right. In which case, just throw on an “in my pants” or “in bed” on the end for laughs.

Speaking of validating – he said he loved it. Let me say that again, with quotes and stuff so you know exactly what he said.

Me: “So, first impressions – what did you think of what I submitted?”

Karl Schroeder, author of ten science fiction books (mostly with Tor), seventeen short stories, lot’s o’ awards, then said: “I loved it.”

Yeah, I’m a little psyched! Anyone give me Elvish and Klingon translations for “Hell yeah!”?

I’m keeping this project a bit under wraps while I struggle through Draft One and bounce it around the crit group, but at some point I’ll be looking for beta-readers. So far, the most common compliment I get is about the voice. Everyone loves the antagonist’s voice. Karl at one point during the workshop said that voice was all important. It can draw you in and make you lose yourself – even if the story gets a bit rocky, you will follow that voice anywhere it goes. And actually, that’s how I’m writing it – following the protag’s voice.

Of course, I’ve got the sobering reality to keep in mind. Karl mentioned that he wrote TWELVE books before he got published. I mean, holy crap. Odds are so against this thing, my first stab at a novel, seeing the light of day, but I’ll keep trying. So far, it has been a fun process and I’m getting to meet some great people along the way.

Aside from the workshop – FenCon was entertaining, though as mentioned, I didn’t get the full con experience. I was in and out for a few days, focusing mostly on either the writing workshop or, on Saturday, introducing my son and his cousin to geekery at it’s finest. They seemed to have some scheduling and communication issues – some panels not starting at the printed time, and the presenters seemed a bit lost about scheduling at more than one panel.

I want to thank Tom Howard for inviting me to the Crit Group discussion. It was only an hour, but I got a lot of ideas to share with my group (which is doing pretty damn good from what I could tell). My only criticism would be next time, we need more time! Great discussion and I appreciate the way he moderated things so we didn’t float off on too many unproductive tangents. If I were any closer to Little Rock, I’d be submitting to his group for sure!

Categories: Con Updates

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4 replies

  1. Firstly, been trying to tell you that all along dude. Blast out that first draft, even if it sucks. Kerouac it. Inspiration is what hits you in the first run, then you let it stew for a while, write something else, come back to it, and re-assemble it in your head to see if it makes sense.

    Then you take it to a crit group and they go “this is crap, do it over,” but if you listen, they tell you what you’re doing wrong and you walk out with HUGE EYES going “I CAN SEE IT NOW.”

    Or maybe that’s just me.


    • Truth. However, I have to point out I will still be bringing it in to the group and as such, probably won’t be able to resist the little tweaks here and there. So, I can’t completely follow your advice 🙂 But if it makes you feel better, mine is slowly devolving into more crap (Karl only saw the first chapter or so…) as the plot threads get tangled up. I’ll sort ’em out later though.

  2. ^ Lol to Ben.

    Russ, it’s awesome to hear all of this! Congrats on the glowing compliment from someone you trust–very cool. =) And kudos to you for putting yourself out there and going to something like FenCon.

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