So this weekend I went to CONduit up in Salt Lake city. It was a great experience! Lots of fun, lots of friends, and lots of excellent panels on writing.
The usual crowd was there: Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, L. E. Modessitt, Bob Defendi, Dan Willis, Paul Genesse, Julie Wright, John Brown, Larry Corriea, James Dashner, Eric James Stone, and tons of others. Besides the bigger names, I saw a lot of other aspiring writers like myself who have yet to make it big–friends from World Fantasy and LTUE. It was good to catch up and reconnect.
Friday had a number of excellent panels. My personal favorite was A Writer’s Life, in which a number of relatively newer writers gave advice on breaking in and talked about what their lives are like now that they’re published.
At one point on the panel, a fearful aspiring writer asked the question: “when do you know when it’s time to quit and give up?” The responses from the panelists were quite insightful. Basically, the only way to know that you need to quit writing is if you can imagine your life without it. If you can’t, you may feel that you’re writing currently sucks, but you’ve still got stories in you, and those stories need to find a voice.
There were a number of other gold nuggets on that panel. Larry Corriea surprised me by saying that there is no such thing as an “outline writer” or a “discovery writer”–that these concepts simply describe writing tools, and that different projects require different tools. Julie Wright said that if you are not enough without a publishing deal, you will never be enough with it. John Brown (I think) said that writer’s block doesn’t exist: if you’re blocked, it means either something’s wrong with you or something’s wrong with the story.
Saturday had a number of excellent panels as well. The guest of honor was Barbara Hambly, and she was a delight: witty, saucy, and full of interesting stories and great advice. For her main address, she simply talked about how her life has changed in the past thirty years, but it was fascinating.
One of the more interesting things she said was that God places an angel with a flaming sword in front of every door in our lives that we shouldn’t take. Sometimes, it seems that you’re simply staring down a corridor full of guarded doors–and sometimes, especially towards the end of life, it seems that you’re staring down a corridor and the angels are saluting you. That made her tear up–she’s had a long, rough, yet interesting and vibrant life.
When asked to elaborate on the decline of the fantasy market in the past twenty years, she gave a very interesting response. Today, instead of buying fantasy novels by the pound, fans are immersing themselves in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. Because it requires much less effort to play a game than to read a book, people are turning to games as a substitute.
Another fascinating panel was Riding the Rocket, in which a number of established authors discussed the career blast off and what to expect. Lee Modessitt made the point that there are two basic approaches to writing: storytelling or writing excellent prose. In order to be successful, a writer has to master both, but they generally start out better at one than the other. The key is to know which one you’re weaker at and consciously work on it.
When asked about their greatest fear, the unanimous answer was that they’re terrified their next book will tank and that they’ll fade into obscurity–that they’ll be forced to go back to that dreaded day job. The only way to deal with that, though, is to keep writing, keep working on your craft, and control the things you can while not fretting too much about the things you can’t. If you do what you can, things will generally work out for the best.
There were a ton of other excellent panels, other nuggets of wisdom. I recorded a number of panels, but I’ve decided not to post the mp3s publicly here: if you want them, just email me and I’ll send you a copy.
All in all, I’m very glad I came! Besides all the panels and networking opportunities, it was just a lot of fun to hang out and talk science fiction and fantasy with a bunch of like minded people. CONduit is an awesome convention–if you’re a local Utah writer and you have the chance to come, I definitely recommend it!