Just in case you don’t know what they are, writing conventions are usually two or three day events with a few ‘big name’ key note speakers and then a heap of other authors and industry people. These people participate in talks about all aspects of writing and sometimes they even run master-classes. The talks can cover everything from publishing trends to how to write action scenes. Most genres run conventions in most countries, just type in a Google search and you’ll find something.
I’ll never forget my first convention. The key note speakers were Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman and Poppy Z Brite. They were fantastic. Not only did they give great talks, but they mixed with everyone afterwards in the convention bar (and there is always an attached bar). But the key note speakers were just a small part of what made it so great.
Conventions attract people from all demographics who have one overriding thing in common; writing. Meeting other people who are serious about their writing is one of the most important things a writer can do. You get to talk about issues, successful tricks, and you can find out about resources or opportunities you might otherwise never hear about.
Being at a convention gives you permission to be a writer, and your presence there shows how serious you are about improving you craft. After you have been to a few conventions you will probably find that you get less out of the talks, but you still get a lot out of hanging out at the bar. More than a few life-long friendships have been born at conventions, and I would highly recommend you make the most of it.
The hardest thing about going to a convention is dealing with the downer you inevitably fall into when it is all over and you return to your ‘normal’ life. I channelled this feeling into making me seek out other opportunities to feel like a writer, which I’ll cover in the rest of my Top 10 blogs.
After much planning and picking, I’ve decided not to post about my top 10 non-fiction books at the end of the month.
It struck me as far too personal a choice in terms of topic. Every book I picked was about writing, psychology or animals. If you were hoping for my self-help book tips, well the one I’ve recommended to many people that I think can help everyone is Maximum Willpower by Kelly McGonigal, and I was so impressed with it the first time I read it that I’ve already blogged about it.
So instead I thought I could write about something readers of this blog might actually be interested in; Top 10 things to do to feel like a writer. Just because you haven’t been published, or not enough to make any real money, doesn’t mean you can’t feel like a writer.
This list will be the things that have given me that little writer-flutter in my belly. They are the things that keep you slogging it out even when you think you’ll never get there.
The new Top 10 starts tomorrow!
This week I had the strangest story idea experience. I was reading a light-hearted book, and (as often happens) a single sentence sparked off a totally unrelated idea for a story. This idea was dark. Not just creepy dark, but blackest-pits-of-the-soul dark. It scared me.
I stopped and ran the idea over in my head again, feeling revolted by it. I was simultaneously pushing it away while trying to delve deeper. I could see the sliver of good in it, but the good skirted so finely on the edge that it would be hard to see. It would be easy to read the story the wrong way, to get the wrong idea of what I was trying to say, but if read in the right way it could be amazing.
I don’t think the story was intended for me. I must have had my story rod raised and it caught a bolt intended for someone else. I’ve often said that I think stories come from the collective unconscious and we just catch them and write them down. The way tales come so completely formed, it seems like there could be no other way.
The weird thing about this experience is that now I can remember barely a thing about it. I have shadows of the story, but they are like the memory of a dream; you know you had the full plot, but you can only get tiny parts now. And I guess that makes sense, if it was meant for someone else, it can’t live in my brain at the same time.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if one day I come across the story and remember it? I’ll track the author down and ask them when they got the idea. I suspect it will be this week. I hope someone with the right skills does write it. I still keenly remember the incredible feeling of the idea, I just wasn’t ready to climb down into that pit.
My friend and I have dared each other to ask every author at Adelaide Writers’ Week where they get their ideas – just so we can watch them roll their eyes. The truth is neither of us will have the guts to do this because it is just such an embarrassing question. Writers get ideas from everywhere! Usually the problem is deciding which ones you will let in and which you will ignore.
But it has made me wonder about the rest of the population. Do non-writers really not get ideas for stories? Do all their fantasies revolve only around them and other people they know? Or (and I refuse to believe this assertion) do some people actually not make up any stories in their head about anyone?
I watch a news story and I start imagining the fallout of events, I read a book and I think about where I would have taken the story, I listen to a song which might ostensibly be about the basic boy and girl falling in or out of love and I can turn it into a dark paranormal novel, maybe even a trilogy. Doesn’t this happen to everyone on some level???
If I was to list my top five favourite things about being alive, making up stories would be on there. If, and I hope I’m talking to no-one here, you have never made up a story after you left school, try it now. Even if you need to fan-fiction it and lift someone else’s characters and setting, try it (there are no copyright breaches when it stays in your head). You may just find you like it.
Very few of my stories fall out of my direct experience. Most are inspired by things I see happening to others, or wondering what would happen if things happened to others. My most recent publication was directly inspired by my old workplace.
Let me start by saying that I loved working there, the people were amazing and the work was interesting. But when the market turned and the share price plummeted, rounds of redundancies became commonplace, happening every three months or so. It was a stressful time for everyone.
My team went from 11 people to 5, yet we had the same amount of work to do. Everyone in my team was staying late, working from home, checking their emails on their phones at all hours of the day and night, everyone, that is, except me. When I walk out of the office, I believe in leaving the office behind. Maybe that’s why I was the next one picked to be made redundant?
So because I write speculative fiction, not contemporary fiction, I decided to use a different work pressure, one that might be an issue in the future. The original title of the story was ‘Work life balance’, but I realised that I was commenting on the lack of balance. So then I decided to call it ‘Work’ but that also seemed wrong because while it was work, it was also my character’s entire life. So I ended up with the title ‘Life’ because work and life had become the one. In retrospect that is not very clear, so the title is a bit crap, but hey that was my thinking at the time so I guess I’m stuck with it.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy Life – and thanks to Antipodean SF for once again picking up my flash fiction!