Tag Archives: writer

Writer’s Toolbag: Attending Conventions Part 2

In part one I discussed a bit about attending a convention and some of the things to look for when selecting whether to attend or not.  Here in Part 2, I’ll discuss how to go about attending as a panelist.

Getting into a convention as a panelist is quite a bit more difficult than merely attending.  For some conventions (looking at you Dragon Con) they’re very selective and you may never hear back.  For others, as long as you present yourself as a benefit to their convention, they’ll be happy to have you.

The first part of that is to be professional.  For most of these conventions you can browse their websites and find out who will be running the panels or programming for the convention.  That’s the person you want to contact.

When you do email them, write a professional introduction.  Tell them who you are and what you write.  Tell them what you’ve heard about their convention and why you want to participate.  If you bring ideas to the table, that’s generally a good thing, especially if you have an idea for a panel that would be fun and won’t require any additional effort on their parts.

The second part of this is remembering that the people running conventions are volunteers and they volunteer their time and effort because they like conventions and they enjoy getting people together to enjoy their genre of fandom.  If you present them with ways make a convention more enjoyable, then generally the people running the convention will be happy to have you.

The next part of that is how you behave at the convention.  Remember, this is about presenting yourself in a good manner.  If you’re participating in a panel, be sure to give other people time to talk.  If you are moderating, try to keep the panelists roughly on track, try to have some topics of conversation prepared, and most importantly be friendly and personable to everyone you meet.   Having dealt with rude panelists and audience members, it’s the quickest way to alienate a potential reader or connection.

As far as what to say, generally if you’re an author you’re passionate about things in the genre.  Talk about the things you find interesting, but gauge your audience.  If people are yawning, checking their watches or phones, or worst of all filing out of the room… well, that’s a bit of a sign.  Try to be entertaining, intelligent, and charming.  Basically you’re trying to establish yourself as someone who has something interesting to say.  That way they’ll remember you and maybe look at what you have to write.

Lastly, remember that bad impressions are more likely to stay with people.  The unfortunate truth is that most of the people you encounter won’t remember you at a convention, especially not the other professionals.  They meet so many people at so many conventions, that everyone sort of blurs together.  What they will remember, though, is if you’re the jerk who snapped at people or said derogatory things about other authors.  Good behavior may not get you a book deal or gain you lots of readers, but bad behavior will gain you notoriety and not  in a good way.

Writers Toolbag: What to Write

It’s commonly said: write what you love.  Yet at the same time, there’s still a strong push (not as strong as it once was, but still present), to write what is “marketable”.

That kind of thing presents a bit of a conundrum.  Do you write to what you think the market is or do you write to your personal preferences?  The short answer is: yes.

This is actually a tremendously complicated question and the real answer comes back to what you want out of writing.  You can be successful writing purely for market and you can be successful writing what you love.  Most people don’t get into writing unless they really love it and when you’re gauging your success, it comes back to your feelings about writing.

Writing to market is when an author knows something is selling so they write that.  This happens for new authors and it happens for well established authors.  With new authors, they often see “X” is selling really well, so they set out to write their version of “X” and make lots of money.  Most often what happens for the established authors is that one series sells really well or receives critical acclaim, so they write more of that.  It’s human nature to seek approval for our work, and writing to market is a way to seek “guaranteed” results.   The problem, of course, is that if you don’t enjoy what you’re writing (or worse, if you view it as a chore or even painful exercise), then that emotion carries over into what you write.  At best, you end up with a sort of generic result that is devoid of much of anything, at worst… well, you end up with a disaster.  The key to writing to market is blending in the things you love about writing.  Take that hot-selling genre and put your own spin on it, make it interesting and into something you are passionate about.

Writing to preference is the flip side of the coin.  You may have this really great idea that you can’t wait to get down on the page.  Oftentimes it isn’t even hard to write this stuff… but when you go to sell it things get a bit problematic.  Publishers like stories that can be summed up in a few words.  For self-publishing, if you have to take ten minutes to explain it all, you run the risk of potential readers shutting the door or moving on before they give it a look.  Writing to preference is often innovative and exciting, but it’s a hard slog on gaining readers.  You have to work hard, build up a readership, and it only works if you get people to be as passionate about it as you are.  The problem is that readers as a whole are very conservative.  They like the familiar.  Most readers want to know, going in, the genre, topic, characters, etc of the book.  When you go to write your idea, if it doesn’t fit into one of those easily defined categories (or even if it just isn’t what you normally write), you risk turning away readers before they even open your book.

At the end of the day, you need to identify why you write.  Do you want big sales?  Are you writing for yourself or for others?  Do you have a message or story you want to share?   These things shape whether you should write more creatively or more focused.  In a perfect world you can blend the two and finding a good balance point is always something you should work on.  The worst possible thing, of course, is getting burned out, writing things you don’t want to be writing.

Writing is hard.  Make it easier on yourself and understand your own motivations for writing.  Then you can decide whether you’re really writing that Kaiju Paranormal Romance Noir story because you want to or because you think it will make you money.



Writer’s Toolbag: Finding Your Voice

Taxes Writer Image 2One of the first bits of professional advice I found confusing was regarding my “voice”.   At the time, I figured I’d just write a story, how I wrote it was my voice… right?

Well, sort of.  You see, a writer has a certain tone that they use when they write.  It’s a mix of word-choice, plot choices, pacing, and characterization that not only singles out who you are as a writer, but it also has effects upon your readers.

Some authors have a frenetic tone that writes a book fast and also makes for a quick read.  Such styles lend themselves well to fast, action-oriented stories.

Other authors are driven by the details.  Sections of dense, complex prose is there to lay out the world in a clear, enriched fashion.

There’s no one “right” way to do this, just what works for you as an author.  I find that I have a different voice when I write military science fiction than from my epic fantasy series.  Some of that is necessary in that you don’t want “modern” terms and comparisons in a fantasy setting (at least, not without good reason).  Some of that is simply that I’m writing with a different goal in mind.

Voice plays into reader expectations as well.  As you develop readers and fans, they come to expect a certain voice.  If you don’t write that way, it can lead to confusion.  They may not be able to pick up on what’s wrong, but they’ll feel it.

So how do you develop your voice?  Well, in a big part, it’s simply how you write.  The words you chose and the way you shape your story.  The central piece of this is understanding your voice.  It comes back to your central ideas and your unique perspective.  The details that you pick out to put into your writing, the way that your characters react to events, even the colors you take the time to mention.

There are dozens of books on finding your voice.  The central part that I’ve found is writing more.  As you become more comfortable with writing, as you relax and enjoy it, you infuse what you write with more and more of yourself.  The things that get you excited, the scenes that you love, that will speak with your voice.


Book Review, March 2015 Update, and a Small Request

Echo of the High Kings, Book I of the Eoriel Saga
Echo of the High Kings, Book I of the Eoriel Saga

A new review for Echo of the High Kings and an update on my schedule for March.

Author JP Wilder has a book review of Echo of the High Kings up on his blog here.   JP has some awesome books available in both epic fantasy and contemporary fantasy genres, so I recommend looking at those, he’s got some good stuff there at his website.

As for March, I’m happy to announce that I’m doing editing on Wrath of the Usurper, outlining the sequel to Fenris Unchained, and starting writing on The Prodigal Emperor.  I’ve also opened a Twitter account.  So if you want to see updates from me on that forum, you can follow me there under KalSpriggs.  It’s another busy month for me, as you can imagine.  Book sales for Fenris

Fenris Unchained by Kal Spriggs
Fenris Unchained by Kal Spriggs

Unchained are very good and I’m excited to say that I’ll be doing more books with Henchman Press as a result, starting with the previously mentioned sequel to Fenris Unchained.  If you haven’t bought Fenris Unchained, you can find it here on Amazon, here on Smashwords, and coming soon to Barnes and Noble.  Fenris Unchained is currently on Amazon’s top 100 for Military SF and also for Space Opera, it’s a fast, exciting story and writing it was a lot of fun for me.

March is also my last month drawing pay in the US Army as an active duty officer and as yet, I’m still looking for a day job.  So, if you’re thinking: “How can I make certain this nice author keeps a roof over his head and putting food on the table so he can write more books?” The answer is: please tell your friends about my books.  The money I earn from writing definitely helps to keep a roof over my family’s heads, so if you’ve been putting off writing a review or telling a friend, please get the word out.  Reviews help and word of mouth really helps.  For that matter, leave reviews for all your favorite authors on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble or wherever you read.  Every review helps, believe me, it’s become essential to reaching new readers.  I don’t write for the money, but right now, the money makes it possible for me to write.