Pandas, learning about writing, and spite

We did, in fact, return from Origins. I enjoyed the Author panels I attended, though I only ended up attending one per day. While I was jazzed to actually try out the author track, I was still primarily there on vacation, to play board games.

In the end, I attended:

Edit Yourself
I love editing possibly too much. I can’t help it. I also like weeding my garden, which has certain similarities. And I am one of those odd readers who get distracted by bad punctuation / grammar. But I am, admittedly, weird. It’s like an allergy. I can’t help that either.

The focus here was pre-editing before you send it to a real editor, which is a helpful skill no matter how much experience you have — the more you can smooth things out beforehand, the more time editors have to dig into more complicated topics, right? Saying “ahh, they’ll fix it in post” is true, to a point, but it is in everyone’s best interest to put the work in.

Some good tips, including “read aloud” — which I’d heard before, but usually wimp out on — and not being tempted to pile on descriptions just because you know what things/characters look like in your head.
The latter was oddly gratifying, because I’ve always felt I was alone in that. My view is, “I don’t care whether your mental image is exactly the same as mine, as long as you have a mental image to go on.” If I have evoked something for you, and it isn’t so out of step with the tone of the scene that it breaks the scene for you, great. I do not care how wide you think my characters’ jaws are, or the exact tilt of their eyebrows. As far as I’m concerned, radio is not the only theater of the mind, and I like it that way.

I do hope you don’t whitewash everyone in my cast, but y’know, that’s partly on you and partly on me. Otherwise, mentally cast however you want. That’s not what’s important in the story.

We’re off track now. Editing. Yes. Do it.

Self Promotion Sells Books
Why yes, yes it does. Everybody can go home now.

Okay, okay, so this panel drilled down into various factors, including an author website, social media, and most importantly, not being a dick on social media.

I asked my husband to come with me to this panel, because I would literally rather go to the dentist than promote myself, and I figured he’d do a better job of lovingly nudging me to do these things if he heard the same talk. This is not the most professional move ever, but this is the reality of my life.

In other news, I will probably eventually drag myself to Twitter. ghhhhhhhghghghrrrrglll.

Finding Work as an Editor
Not for you, Grasshopper, not for you.

As previously noted, I love the editing process possibly more than writing itself. And it isn’t about nitpicking or finding errors, really, it’s about getting into the guts of what makes a story work and trying to make it work better. I think the process has a bad reputation, and caring about grammar and punctuation and things has a bad reputation too. Musicians aren’t called unflattering names if they try to play without wrong notes, but if I care where that comma goes, I’m a jerk. Fair?

Anyway, getting into plot structure or continuity or whatever, for me, is like a gearhead getting elbow-deep into an engine. It’s about understanding how it all works and making it work better. Plot structure is my weak point, and so I try to learn more about how to make it better, and try to bring that out in edits. I love learning about it, even if that means I don’t have it all down pat.

However, due to several factors, I have no real chance of beta-reading or editing for anybody else. Like any other job-hunting, you need experience to get experience, and failing that, the right degree. “Trust me, I studied genetics and viruses but I’m just really good at grammar and love editing” holds no water with anyone, and rightfully so. I can check whether your science is reasonable, buuuuut I work in fantasy, where we all prefer to forget that winged dragons generally have six limbs and that isn’t a thing that happens in vertebrates really.

I don’t mean to whine, though. It was a very informational and interesting panel. I’m fascinated by how the field works and what people do in it. There was great information, down to the level of contracts and taxes, as well as approaches to editing (ex. realize what the author is trying to do, not what you’d do in that situation).

So those were the panels I attended. Recommended highly. I hope to see more next year.

Also related to writing: Bought two medieval recipe books from, which I have already used as an idea source. I’m not one to cook these things in real life, but I try not to fall into the “all stew and ale, all the time” trap in my writing. (I am haunted by the fact that refrigeration does not exist. Do not count how many times the characters go grocery shopping in Book 2. That way lies madness.)

I also attended a roleplaying session at Origins for the first time, a demo session of Ryuutama. Unfortunately, this session was right around dinnertime, and I got punchy and laughed for several minutes at the spell list for no good reason (except that it contains spells like “create 1 cubic meter of dead leaves” and that’s too cute to stand). Otherwise it was quite fun. I’m looking forward to putting together a hybrid in-person/play-by-email game of Ryuutama.

I suppose I sort of played one of the Dread games too, in a friend’s beta testing round.

How’s that for range?

By and large, though, I tend to spend most of my time either faffing about the vendor room or in the board room. Board games tried out this time:
Survive: Escape from Atlantis  – my husband played this growing up; it was new to me.
Takenoko  – my favorite of this batch.
Gloom – I’d wanted to try Gloom in Space, but they didn’t have it; next time. This is the only one of these that I’d played before.
Kill Doctor Lucky – second favorite of this batch. SPITE POINTS. Just saying “spite points” makes me snicker.
Cottage Garden – ooh look, this technically isn’t out yet! Aren’t we fancy. Tetris + bingo, kind of. I’d recommend it.
The Networks – we didn’t have time to fully get into this one.
Tsuro – thanks to the CABS folks, who recommended this when we came up like “we are too tired to think and have 1 hour before our next thing, whaddya got”.
Veggie Garden – By Quick Simple Fun, an apt description as well.
Rampage / Terror in Meeple City  – it’s kind of astonishing how bad I am at this game.

On a more personal note, it’s interesting to compare this experience to past experiences through the lens of working on treating my social anxiety. It’s still easier for me to be an attendee than an exhibitor, but this was a more chill experience than I think I’ve ever had at a con. Even compared to other Origins-es. Of no particular interest, just noting something.

Leave a Reply