Being a Better Writer: How to Use a Writing Resource Like LTUE

Welcome back writers. I’d venture a guess that you’ll likely be able to guess what big event is going on this week simply by looking at today’s topic.

That’s right. LTUE, Life, The Universe, and Everything, which is the writing convention for writers, is happening this week. It’s a big deal. I’ve been readying myself for several weeks now, making sure that I’m prepared and ready to go when this Thursday rolls around. Which is going to be tricky, because my first panel begins at (shudder) nine in the morning. Which for me is in the range of “Okay, I’m awake, but what time is it?”

Never fear. I’ll be more alert than that. I’m adjusting my sleep schedule to ensure that I’ll be arriving well-rested and prepared to talk writing. If you’re going to be in attendance this year, then I do recommend swinging by the panels I’ll be on, as well as my other appearances. I’d love to say hello, and I’ll be dispensing nuggets of writing wisdom on request. You can see what panels I’ll be on at this link to last week’s news post.

Now, today won’t be the last time I talk about LTUE, as we’re obviously going to have the end-of-day write-ups that I share each year on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. But on Wednesday I’ll be posting my own highlights of the schedule, noting which panels I intend to attend or recommending those that might be useful for certain topics or concepts.

But today, we’re diving right in with a sort of special Being a Better Writer post, and we’re going to be talking directly about how to use a writing resource like LTUE.

See, there’s a lot that goes on at LTUE, but one thing that people sometimes forget when they’re in attendance is that first and foremost, LTUE is an educational con. Yes, it’s neat and fun to be able to meet some of our favorite authors and creators in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy space … but we’re not there just to meet them. And when they bring up that book that you really love or that scene that you thought was very cool, they’re not just brining it up because of that—though they definitely love it too. No, they’re bringing it up because they want to illustrate a point, or demonstrate something.

Yes, it’s easy to get distracted by “This is one of my favorite books, and I can ask the author about it when the panel opens up to questions!” But remember that the point of many of these panels—but not all—is to learn. For these authors and creators to pass on the knowledge won by hard sweat and tears. Or that they learned by attending LTUE long ago and have since adapted into their own understanding of writing.

So yes, today I want to talk about preparing for and attending a writing resource like LTUE. So that those of you who are attending get the most out of it that you can.

Don’t get me wrong: There isn’t really a “wrong” way to attend LTUE unless you completely decide against your own prior wishes to attend and learn nothing. One can attend just for fun. I just ask that if you do, realize that the majority who attend are there to learn and understand about writing as well as have fun. So they may ask questions about specific writing processes or situations they’ve been unable to solve in their own writing that you might not be as interested in if you’re there just to meet some authors you love. Just nod and let them ask: they’re there to learn.

And if you are as well—or if you’re going to be attending any similar convention—the you’re going to want to hit that jump. Because today, we’re talking about ways to get the most out of cons like LTUE, to grow your writing talents.

Check the Schedule

Okay, so you’re coming to LTUE (or a similar con) to learn? First thing you should do is check the schedule.

No, I’m serious. You’d be surprised how many people I see at LTUE standing in the hall saying “Well, what should I see next?” or being surprised to hear that there’s a very popular panel … and showing up after it’s full to the brim and can no longer seat attendees.

There are a wide array of panels each hour at LTUE and similar cons. Check the schedule in advance and know what they are so that you’re not finishing one panel, wondering “What should I see now?” and then showing up to a panel you really would have enjoyed fifteen minutes late.

The tardiness doesn’t bother the presenters, but it may bother you. Even if you just have a rough idea of what panels you want to attend, looking over a schedule in advance not only mentally prepares you to be thinking about what you’re looking for, but it’ll give you a bit of advance idea of “Where will I go from here?”

It’s something that’s easy, and it doesn’t mean you won’t open up that same schedule often to check a room number or remind yourself when a certain panel is, it will mean you’ll have more time to walk around the con talking with people and having fun at panels, instead of wondering where to go next.

Pick Panels Based on Value, Not By Who is Doing Them

Gonna name drop here, but it’s not meant in an unkind way. Yes, an author like Brandon Sanderson is fun to talk to, and he has great writing advice to give. But is it the writing advice you are looking for?

Again, nothing against Brandon or other popular authors at cons like LTUE, but sometimes it’s easy to let out celebrity blindness take over from our logic of “But do I need to know about that?”

At the end of the day, it does come down to “What do you want to learn?” There will be times at LTUE where you are going to have to choose between multiple panels. Or between one panel you really want to go to because you want to learn about the topic … and a panel that has someone very famous on it.

When that happens, which one is more valuable to you? The panel with the information you’re looking for? Or the panel with information you already know … but said again by someone famous?

Despite the framing, there isn’t a right or wrong answer here. Sometimes we have to make compromises. Maybe you came to see said famous person. In that case, that panel is more valuable to you than the other.

But you need to make that weight and judgement yourself. More than once I’ve talked with someone at LTUE and mentioned a panel I’d just come from, only to have them express “Oh, I wish I could have gone to that! When was it?” and then sheepishly admit that they’d gone to a panel they weren’t that invested in just because a popular author was on it, and they wished they’d even looked at the other panels.

If you’re the type that’s going to have regrets like that, then check your schedule and decide what you want to attend LTUE for, then go to the panels that you will find most valuable.

Keep Questions Concise and On Topic

LTUE is awesome in that most panels end with a 10-15 minute Q&A session. This is cool. A chance to asks panelists about what they’ve been talking about!

But it helps when questions are to the point and concise, as well as on topic. And definitely do not try to ask questions that are really just an excuse to talk about yourself and how great you are. Or that are trying to add the audience member’s own “advice” to overrule the panels own.

Yes, I have seen both before. I’ve even seen both at the same time, from the same individual. The cringe that day was powerful. Also, some panelists have zero tolerance for that kind of stuff and will bring down the hammer. Seen that too.

And yes, it can be tempting to ask a question about a specific title written by an author that isn’t related to the panel. Sometimes this is actually okay. The panelists and the moderator will let the audience know what they expect questions about, and sometimes they’re ready and willing for questions beyond the scope of the panel.

Basically, ask questions about the proper topic. Keep them short and on-task, so that others can also ask their questions. Please do not raise your hand with the intent of “I’ll think of a question by the time I’m called.” Few do. Think of your question, then raise your hand.

Consider Taking Notes, Or Having a Means To

You’ll see a lot of pencils, notebooks, and laptops out typing during LTUE panels. These people aren’t ignoring the panel. Well, most of them. They’re taking notes! And if note-taking helps you learn, then it’s something you may want to consider doing as well.

Now, the type of notes can vary. Some people have their notes open for their book, and they’re making notes and connotations related to the panel that they’re figuring out as the panelists explain things. Others are making notes for future works. And some are just recording and writing down what the panelists say so that they can go back over it later.

You’ll see a lot of pencils and pens out at LTUE, and you’re more than welcome to join in if you think it’ll help you with your writing.

The Con Isn’t Just Panels

This is an important detail to keep in mind. LTUE is more than just a few panels every hour. There’s a vendor hall. There are authors and panelists hanging out in the halls. There are one on one pitch sessions and editor feedback sessions, where you can sign up to get your manuscript pitch or first chapter critiqued by various editors from different publishing houses. There are “kaffeeklatsche” meet-ups with authors.

There are a ton of activities, both educational and fun, outside of just the panels. So don’t think you have to be at a panel every hour. I usually find at least one panel to attend for every hour of the con, but many times I’ve ended up talking about writing in a small group in a hall, or gone down to the vendor hall to check out some books, or tested some games in the game room.

Don’t miss the panels you want to go to. Or the special presentations. But do check out the whole of the con. There’s a lot going on, and you might be surprised what you learn from a pack of three authors talking about their respective publishers.

Branch Out Sometimes

You know what’s really fun? Goig to random panels that have zero connection with what I’ve written.

I’ve gone to panels on garbage through the ages. Fascinating. I’ve gone to panels on the dichotomy of tomboy princesses and fluffy dresses. Funny and thought-provoking. You know what later work of mine juggled both? Only Axtara – Banking and Finance.

Point is, don’t just go to panels that you see the immediate need of. Pick interesting topics. Weird ideas. Things you’ve never thought about before. You’ll still learn stuff, you’ll have a good time, and you may get ideas for your next book. Or learn something that you didn’t expect, but now realize will affect what you’re working on.

This can strike out sometimes when a panel or presentation just doesn’t quite catch your interest … But it can also lead to some great times and great fun. Sands, some of the most fun I’ve ever had at panels has been picking panels on topics I didn’t need to learn about, but sounded interesting.

So branch out a bit. If an author or a group of authors agreed that a topic was interesting enough to be prepared to do a presentation about it, then there’s likely something worth saying there. And maybe, just maybe, you might really enjoy what it is.

Have Fun

LTUE is a blast. There are people to talk to, games to be played, folks sitting at tables and writing now that inspiration has struck following a particular panel … It’s just a lot of fun.

So, if you’re going to attend a con like LTUE, or the LTUE itself, be ready to have a good time. Be prepared to handle ancient swords, or chant with a crowd, or laugh as an author shares a funny publishing story.

Ask questions! Explore strange new topics! See interesting things!

And then, at the end of this three days of awesome … Take all that newfound knowledge, and pour it onto the page.

Come thirsty to learn. Leave quenched, and ready to write.

I’ll see you there. So until next time …

Good luck. Now get writing!

Oh, and don’t forget that you can leave questions and comments below, or that Being a Better Writer and Unusual Things is kept advertisement free thanks to the donations of our Patreon Supporter crew: Frenetic, Pajo, Anonymous Potato, Jack of a Few Trades, Alamis, Seirsan, Miller, Lightwind, Boomer, Piiec, Wisehart, and Taylor!

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One thought on “Being a Better Writer: How to Use a Writing Resource Like LTUE

  1. Don’t forget, if you are picked to ask the first question after a panel, *try* to stick to the list of topics that the panelist can reasonably answer *and* follow the advice of FDR: “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

    Liked by 1 person

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