I love conventions. Although there are a few on my bucket list (like the comic cons of New York and San Diego) I really enjoy regional fan conventions like my hometown’s Dragon Con. There are also plenty of great reader-focused conventions that I love attending.
As I’ve attended cons over the years, both as a fan and an attending professional, I’ve learned a few things navigating different panels and fandoms that help me write—some obvious, some subtle. So here’s a list of things fan conventions taught me about writing novels.
There are fans out there for nearly everything, even if it’s niche.
With thousands of people cosplaying, watching anime, playing games, etc., there’s something for everyone. That can be true for your quirky idea as well. If you love what you’re writing, that comes through on the page, and somewhere out there is a reader looking for that exact story.
You have to put yourself out there.
This one can be hard, especially for the introverts out there (I’m one) trying to navigate through crowds of fans—or thousands of authors. You can’t stay in the shadows hoping to be noticed. You have to let people know you exist. If there’s a trope you love to write, chances are there are other people who love it too. Find your people, interact with them, cultivate them. Fellow fans can become supporters and your fans too.
Everyone has a story.
Fans come to conventions for a wide variety of reasons and that reason is their “why.” The answer to that why may not be the most dramatic story, but when you mine its depths and answer that why, you could uncover a goldmine of a concept. Everyone has a story, and there’s a story for everyone. In this melting pot of a world, different narratives should have a seat at the table. Just because your story doesn’t fit the established mold doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be told.
Don’t be afraid to answer the question, “What if…?”
The best part of fan conventions is people-watching, and watching people in their various cosplays interacting with each other can spark great ideas. “What if Spike Spiegel and the crew of the Bebop met Mal and the crew of Serenity?” could launch a space opera series or “What if the Black Panther met Panthro?” could spark an epically funny mistaken identity snarkfest.
This one is a no-brainer of course, but sometimes we as writers put ourselves under a tremendous amount of pressure. Yes, it’s a career, but it’s a career we chose because we love it. We worry about being “on,” worry about marketing, worry about the sagging middle, worry about selling enough books. You’re at the con to have fun, and by being your authentic, fun self, you may just garner new fans.