Things I Learned at Balticon

It's actually things I learned or had reinforced at Balticon, but that isn't as snappy a title.

  1. Joe Haldeman's wife is a very sweet lady and I get the honor of calling her "Aunt" now because the whole Haldeclan is a fantastic bunch and will do things like "adopt" friends of the family. I'd never met her before this weekend. I still haven't officially met Joe.
  2. Several different people on several different panels said it's really important to read bad books and watch bad movies. Sometimes several times. Watch them and try to find what didn't work. Why is this a bad movie or book? What could fix it? Was their potential in it?
  3. There are a lot of highly acclaimed books that are actually pretty crap, and that's OK too. 
  4. There is nothing wrong with writing in the second person. 
  5. At least one person should hate a choice you made in your writing style.  But if the majority hates it, it was probably a mistake.
  6. Never kill the "dog".
    1. If you're going to kill the dog, don't do it by surprise. Foreshadow it so when people go back and re-read they'll realized they should have known all along.
    2. And by "foreshadow" they mean shadow. Don't make it obvious. Make it so the reader goes "Ohhh... that's what <that thing> meant" or "Crap. All those times they made heart attack jokes...".
  7. You can always go back and add foreshadowing in a later draft.
  8. Reading, researching, listening to music or podcasts, and watching TV can count as "writing time" so don't let people make you feel bad about that.
  9. Social media also counts as "writing time" because you're making connections and interacting with your audience. 
  10. DO NOT TEAR DOWN OTHER WRITERS.  That can hurt you professionally in so many different ways.
  11. DO NOT ARGUE WITH YOUR CRITICS. That can hurt you professionally in so many different ways.
  12. Writers' groups are brilliant things.  Also, people who really want to write professionally will not steal your ideas so don't be afraid to share. See rule 10. 
  13. You should write every day if you can. If you're in the middle of a depressive episode or totally fried from your day job or due to family stress/commitments, read instead. Watch TV.  Listen to music. See rule 8 and 9. Also rule 12.
  14. If you have a full-time job, take a serious break between ending one job and starting the writing. Especially if you work from home and your work space is also your writing space. Go write somewhere else if you can. 
    1. Connie Willis writes at Starbucks.
    2. Panera is also a popular choice.
  15. Writing longhand can sometimes help your brain switch between full-time-job and writing. It's also good if your day job involves a lot of typing, or to prevent you from getting stuck in a revision loop and not moving forward.
  16. Read the submission guidelines. Every time. Even if you've submitted to the place before because things may have changed. Follow them. Gimmicks or rule-breaking will get their attention, but not in a good way. It can hurt you professionally in so many ways. 
  17. Someone out there in the world made an incredibly amazing Dalek costume.