This past week I attended Nebula Con for the first time. This was my first writing con ever. And it was, let me tell you, an experience. So I thought it would be fun to tell you all about it today, including some lessons I’ll be keeping in mind for next year.
The con was entirely virtual this year. Which for sure had its pros and cons. I’ve never been to a live con before, so I can’t compare the experiences.
I can tell you that it seems like it would have been a lot harder to get to panels if I’d been there in person. Many times the panels are double up, so some serious decisions would have had to be made if I couldn’t watch the replay later.
And there was just so much! There were a ton of panels about writing, marketing, and time management. You know, all my favorite things. There were Q&A sessions, meet and greets, and office hours with successful authors and agents. And of course, there was the Nebula Awards ceremony. Oh, such an inspirational vibe! If you can watch that and not get inspired to write some potentially award-winning words, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
If you’ve never been to a con, or are considering going to an online con, here are some things to keep in mind.
It’s exhausting, even if it’s virtual
I was expecting Nebula con to take a lot. Panels were often scheduled from nine in the morning until midnight, my time. And I wanted to get to as many of the panels as I could. I paid money for this con, I was going to squeeze every last bit out of it as I could. I bought energy drinks and planned to order in all three days. (Good thing, too. Because on the first day my kitchen sink exploded. Mercury Retrograde at its finest.)
Even with these preparations, I was just done. I’d taken vacation time from the day job, and I was so thankful I’d taken the Monday after off as well. My plan originally was to watch the panels I’d missed and go through my notes in more detail. What I did instead was sleep and read This is How You Lose the Time War. Then sleep some more. So if you can, plan on taking a recoup day after any convention, even if it’s virtual.
Prepare to take a ton of notes
This one I was ready for. I bought a specific con notebook and everything. And let me tell you, I needed it.
Not only were there some amazing writing and marketing tips, but I was also getting story ideas left and right. I was also having realizations about my WIP. I was also learning about books I need to read, websites I need to lurk on, and opportunities I need to seek out. There wasn’t a time my pen wasn’t going during a panel. So, be prepared.
Your tbr list will explode
Oh, the books I learned about. So many of the panelists had great books they were talking up. So many of my fellow con attendees had great books, too. That isn’t even including all the writing must-reads that I learned about. And I was just writing them all down. Not like I already didn’t have a massive tbr list. But I learned about so many indie or small press authors because I was cracking jokes with them in the comment section. And what did the conversation always turn to? Of course, our books.
Take office hours if they’re offered, and prepare for them
I had the opportunity to talk to DongWon Song during the convention, and I was just star-struck. I knew I was going to get tongue-tied taking to them, so I wrote a list of questions I wanted to ask in advance.
I didn’t think of enough questions.
Getting some professional advice from someone I admire was amazing. If you get a chance for office hours at a con, take them. And write down questions beforehand. Write twice as many questions as you think you have time for, and ask them in order of priority. Because I didn’t write nearly enough, and my social anxiety kicked in too hard for me to think of any more at the moment.
Meeting new writers is the best part of the con
I met so many cool writers during the con. We all followed each other on social media, made jokes, and gave each other advice in the comment section. We made plans to meet up like kids at sleep-away camp. It was awesome.
Having fellow writers around to keep you accountable and commiserate is amazing. They understand what it’s like to juggle day jobs with writing and marketing books, while maybe catching a few hours of sleep. So I was overjoyed to make some new writing buddies.
Nothing you learn there is going to do you any good if you don’t act on it!
Finally, it’s important to note that my Nebula con experience isn’t done yet. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got a stack of notes. I also have some panels left to watch. I have websites to check out, writing exercises to try, and books to read. Because I can go to every con, read every book, watch every Youtube video, and it won’t do me a damn bit of good if I don’t act on what I’ve learned.
It might take me three months, but damn it I’m going to do it.
After all of this, I think it’s clear that I’ll be going back next year. Hopefully, I’ll see you there.
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