MystiCon

I attended MystiCon this weekend for the first time!

Technically, it was my second time registering for this event. The first time was last year, but because of school deadlines and such I couldn’t make it that weekend and ended up bowing out to work on papers. This was my first smaller, local fantasy convention, and it was definitely an interesting experience. I didn’t realize there was such a vibrant social group of local authors in my area! If you are one of those people interested in one day becoming a writer, I can’t recommend this kind of con enough. I learned a lot about what other authors of all stripes are doing in the area, especially in helping one another with marketing opportunities. Did you know that since last year, local authors have been coming together for what is called the Roanoke Author Invasion, a giant bookfair/signing event for regional authors of all kinds? I didn’t, but thank goodness I do now.

That was just one of the great things I learned about in the two days that I was able to attend MystiCon. I can’t wait for next year, when I will be applying to attend as an author and get a slot at one of the signing tables.

On the fan side, this year’s MystiCon was pretty big because the guest of honor was none other than George R.R. Martin himself. I am not going to lie, I was totally in line at 9:00 am Saturday morning for his 11:00 am event. He read two chapters of Winds of Winter that I hadn’t seen released elsewhere yet, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There were no pictures allowed, but I sat right on the front row. He talked a lot about the burdens of fame, and how he wished he had become famous when he had more energy and could keep up with the demands of this new phase of his career.

Really, that brings me to what was, for me, the theme of the conference. What I kept hearing over and over was “Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.” This is something that keeps coming up in my life recently. I was inspired to see that most of the writers at this conference were also juggling day jobs, like me, and making that work. They spoke about how a writing career builds itself slowly, and no one is an overnight success. Even authors already living off their work said the same thing. One author, Liz Long, had a panel on marketing for writers, and she emphasized that pretty emphatically by talking about her own career. Liz has six books out, and a seventh on the way, all self-published. She told us that, as a self-published author, one couldn’t expect to make money back on the first or even second book. Any extra income should be reinvested in the next book, if the author did earn out. That was really important information that I wish I had heard when I was a younger author. Too often, it seems, self-publishing is talked up as a silver bullet approach to a writing career, as opposed to an alternate path that has just as many pitfalls as traditional publishing.

In any case, I have a lot to think about and work on in the wake of this conference. I’ll leave you, then, with the only picture I have (I know, that’s a bit of a fail) for you to enjoy. Behold, the Woman-King of Westeros.

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Burnout

headdesk

There’s this thing that happens sometimes when you push yourself too hard or aren’t being honest with yourself. It’s called burnout. It may also be called writer’s block. Take your pick.

I prefer the first term, because to my mind this is an overall issue. Writing and writing well is dependent on the balance of your entire life. It doesn’t occur in isolation. You don’t have a separate reservoir of writing energy that remains untapped no matter what other activities you get up to. The opportunity cost inherent in living each and every day remains no matter how much you really want to finish that book. Sometimes especially if you really want to finish that book.

Today, I sat down at my computer and wrote around 150 words. That was it. 150 words towards my end goal of 100,000. Meaning that if I wrote 150 words every day, I’d still have like 600 days of writing left. Which is two years. Two years of writing. It’s less than that because I’m already down to 75,000 word to go, but still. That still is like 1.5 years. I’m supposed to be doing about twice that. Hell, maybe three times that.

To be honest I have been over writing this book since I started. Don’t misunderstand. I want to write the book. But my passion for the world is not quite there. I am not quite in the place I need to be to write this book, mentally, emotionally, what have you. That said, I am WRITING THE DAMN THING. I have the whole damn book outlined and mapped out, I have made it this far, and I am going to freaking GO FOR IT.

Suitably, I have recently received some great advice on the subject.

You may or may not listen to Writing Excuses, a podcast run by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal, as well as Dan Wells and Howard Tayler. I’m pretty sure these people write full-time. I had a wonderful epoch of my life that lasted about three months or so where I was writing full-time. I finished a whole book in three months. There have also been a few blessed breaks in my time as a college student during which I could crank out half of a manuscript or so. But having a full-time day job is a hard sell for a writer, especially when I use all the same skills in my day job that I do for writing fiction. It often means that, by the time I get home or get to a place where I could write, my brain is as crispy as an overdone piece of toast. This is burnout. This is the place I live right now. The Writing Excuses team did a whole piece on this. It is called Newton’s Laws of Writing. You should totally check it out, but I will sum it up below.

Writing has momentum.

See, I’ve proven this fact with this post! Here I have already written 500 words! Really, though, the theory here is that once you start, it is hard to stop. The greatest threat to the writer is long absences from the page. Even if you only write for 10 minutes, only scrape out a sentence or a paragraph, the thing that keeps you going is to return to the page, again and again.

So, with that said….

…here I go.