Attending Cons for Fun and Profit

Time to start a new adventure.

This weekend I’m attending a con. I’ll be there among the cosplayers and conventioneers, finding my way among the tables, hunting for books and writers and artists I want to support.

The con will challenge me. I’m an introvert, and large groups of people rarely appeal to me. They drain my energy, and the bigger the crowd, usually the worse it is for me.

Then again, I attended this same con two years ago and had an absolute blast. I met a lot of writers and artists I’m eager to see again. I want to plunk down my cash to help support them.

Ah, but this year is different. I’m not just a con-goer. I’ll be sitting behind a table myself.

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It Takes More than Writing to be a Good Author

I’d like to just write. Ideally, I’d type up masterpiece after masterpiece, and once each was done, I’d send them off to a magical publisher who’d pay me a slightly-better-than living wage. This fantastical publisher would never bother me for blog tours or interviews. I wouldn’t need to worry about marketing of any kind. I’d simply create worlds with words and leave the details to others.

Alas, I do not live in this ideal world.

The simple truth is that unless your name is immediately recognizable by the public, unless you’re someone like a Stephen King or a John Grisham, you need to market yourself and your books if you want to make any kind of money from your writing.

Ugh.

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Grammar and the Good Writer

Do you need to know grammar to be a good writer?

No. Not really. But you do need to know it.

My mother-in-law is visiting. Among other things, she teaches English. She was talking about some of the grammatical things she was teaching students this year, listing off a bunch of terms. It was enough to make Mr. Miriam-Webster himself go cross-eyed. (Mr. Miriam-Webster is the fictitious child of Mr. Miriam and Mr. Webster who flings dictionaries at evil-doers.)

I commented that I was glad I never had to learn those terms. Honestly, I’m convinced it’s not necessary to know the terms to write well.

That said, you do need to know how to use grammar well, whether or not you know the terms. Grammar tells you how to communicate what you want to communicate. How do you form sentences? How do clauses come together to form thoughts? If you use bad grammar, you’re not communicating effectively. You leave your reader frustrated. (My editor notes that your editor also won’t kill you if you use good grammar. I’m in favor of non-homicidal editors, so please, use good grammar.)

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Reading to Write

If you’re gonna write, you’re gonna have to read.

There are a lot of things to read. You want to absorb your own genre. You’ll likely be best at writing things that you enjoy reading, so get reading. Thankfully for me that involves reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction. I can handle that!

You’ll probably need to do some research. That can be fun and a lot of work, too. One story I’ve been hacking at for a while involves a mage who “bakes” spells. I know a little about modern baking, but what about baking in a medieval society? Ah, the internet is my friend!

But if you’re going to jump into the author thing, you’ll need to research not just how to write, but how to be an author. In the last couple weeks, I’ve read three books to further my journey. I started with Craig Martelle’s Become a Successful Indie Author and Successful Indie Author: Pricing Strategies 2020. Then I read Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark.

You might guess by the titles that the two authors had very different goals in mind.

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Stay in Your Lane

There’s a bit of conventional wisdom I’ve ignored that may bite me.

Yesterday, one of my new short stories debuted, “Miles to Go Before I Sleep.” You can go read it for free. You’ll find it a quiet science fiction story. I’ve got a few of those out, like “The Singularity Loves You.” It’s not my most prolific genre, but it’s there.

I also have some pulpy science fiction and steampunk adventures. You can go flying on a mechano-pteradon or on a jetpack if you so desire.

I’ve got a fair chunk of fantasy. My novel, Keeper of Tales, might be the premier example of that.

Oh, and don’t forget that I have a few weird Western tales, and some horror as well.

So, what kind of author am I?

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