This weekend I went to a CONVENTION! It’s the second year in a row I’ve gone to JordanCon, the fan convention for the renowned fantasy series the Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan.
However, I was not attending JordanCon as a fan. I was attending as a WRITER. JordanCon has a fantastic Writer’s Track featuring lectures by a nice collection of authors of varying degrees of prestige and skill.
Conventions are a lot of fun, but deciding to attend one can be a big decision. It can be expensive depending on location and hotel rates. It’s giving up a whole weekend. And it’s a NEW thing, which itself is scary for a lot of people, me included.
So I thought I’d share a little bit of my experience this year. By describing the environment and the panels hopefully you’ll get an idea of whether or not conventions are for you.
My favorite part of JordanCon is the people I have access to.
The first category of people is INDUSTRY PEOPLE.
Meeting people in the writing industry is helpful career-wise, but what it really comes down to is meeting your FAVORITE writing celebrities!
Conventions are THE place to interact with the people at the top of the writing world. One such person is Brandon Sanderson, who attends JordanCon every year.
In the world of this particular convention, Sanderson most known for completing the Wheel of Time series subsequent to Robert Jordan’s passing. Beyond that, he’s probably the second biggest celebrity in the fantasy genre right now (the first, of course, being George R R Martin). His Mistborn series and his Stormlight Archive are HUGE best sellers. He has a TON of other titles beloved across the board by fantasy readers. He’s a BIG big deal.
The first surprise I had at JordanCon the first time I went was that I could just go up and TALK to him. I could ask him questions about his books. About writing. About ANYTHING!
Heck, this year I played in a Magic: the Gathering draft with him!
And he’s one of the busier people at the convention! There are TONS of authors there of more modest prestige who you can ALWAYS catch for a quick word.
Outside panels, this fairly easy. ON panels, it’s super easy. It’s encouraged!
Both years I’ve attended, I’ve asked upwards of fifty questions over the course of the weekend about ALL aspects of writing: story structure, voice, conflict, worldbuilding, how to tackle this or that particular obstacle, the business side of things, EVERYTHING.
And there aren’t just authors. There are editors of major publishing houses and writing agents. There are even a couple playwrights and screenwriters!
This year, I met Anthony Taylor who currently writes an anime-ish kids show that’s broadcasted in Thailand!
Bottom line, conventions are THE place to network.
The second category of people is the UNPUBLISHED WRITERS.
It’s important to network with people already IN the industry, but it’s just as important to network with people trying to get into the industry. Especially if they’re at the same place you are.
Conventions are a great place to make friends who can critique your work, help you in the areas you need, and make new connections. Reading their work or even just talking to them opens you up to new styles of storytelling and differences in creative processes.
It’s also just FUN.
Most writers start off writing without many people they can talk to about their craft, which can be a real drag. Making friends who are writers makes the writing lifestyle livelier, which it TOTALLY needs. Believe it or not, sitting alone in a room staring at a computer screen for hours at a time can get dull.
The third category is FANS.
Even attending the convention as a writer and not as a fan, you get to witness a very important part of the life of a writer which is FANDOM.
Watching popular authors interacting with their fans is a fascinating window into how people will be seeing YOUR writing one day. Seeing how to handle fans when they’re annoying, when they ask odd questions, when they want to hog your time IS quite crucial to your career as a writer.
Fans are not only the ones buying your product, but they’re your chief advertisers as well. We’ve all met (or been) that fan who recommends a book or show or movie to EVERYONE they know and gushes about it at EVERY opportunity. Alternatively, we’ve also probably seen more than one case of a fan meeting their favorite author, having a bad experience, and not only never buying another book from them but telling EVERYONE how much of a jerk that author is.
Going to a conventions is a great way of seeing what will be expected of you as your writing career progresses.
Next week I’ll talk a little about PANELS and how to get the most out of them.
I’ll leave you with my favorite picture from the weekend: me and Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicles. (I’ll talk about him a bit too next week!)