I’m not one of nature’s extroverts. I became a writer, for heaven’s sake. My daily routine involves plenty of human interaction; it’s just that the humans with whom I’m interacting are people that I’ve made up and they tend to behave in ways that I, at least, find predictable. (Not always, but that’s another story.) I’m much more comfortable with the written word than I am with the spoken, and I tend to bravely run away from large-scale gatherings where I’m going to be expected to interact with other people. Not conventions, though. I make an exception for conventions. Conventions are great.
And the answers I got were, literally, career-changing for me. I’d been sitting with a manuscript that I’d completed many years previously and which had undergone multiple drafts since then, but was going nowhere on querying. I felt like it had potential, regardless, but I didn’t know what to do with it, so I asked a question as a follow-up to one of the points they’d been discussing: should I get a professional edit on the new draft before starting the process of sending it out again to agents and publishers? Both answered no. It’s very expensive, they said, and you probably don’t need it: you almost certainly know the person or people who can give you the kind of in-depth critique that you need. I thanked them both profusely and turned to my friend Maeve, who was sitting beside me: an avid reader of science fiction, a woman with an excellent grasp of the written word and a keen sense of story. “I’ll do it,” she said.
And she did. And on the basis of her feedback, I reworked the novel into the version that got published.
I now offer professional editorial critique as part of my writing work, and I give the same advice: there are absolutely circumstances in which a professional edit on a full MS might be worth the investment to an emerging writer, but they are specific and unusual, and unless I see clear evidence of that in our initial discussion, I’m going to suggest you save yourself a fortune and ask your well-read friend.
Today is 1 October, which means it’s time for OctoCon, the National Irish Science Fiction Convention, another favourite of mine. It’s online again this year, and I’m sad to miss out on that very specific energy that infuses a convention and makes the space feel special, but I will say that virtual-world conventions are something of a lifeline to an author with a young family and who can't, therefore, travel easily, pandemic or not. I'm buzzing with excitement at the prospect of diving back into panels and kaffeklatsches and readings and heartfelt discussions about Star Trek that I can’t really have with anyone else. At the conventions I’ve been to, I’ve met authors whose books will forever occupy part of my soul, I’ve had long and profound conversations, and I’ve made wonderful friends. There's nothing in this world quite like an SFF convention. So if you’re going to OctoCon this weekend and you see me hanging around (virtually, at least), please come and say hi.
I’ve got stuff I need to discuss about Star Trek, and I feel like we might be on the same page.
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