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Devourer of Words 041: Winter is Here

Marc Bernardin for Comic-Con's Toucan Blog

October brings many things—a crispness in the air, longer days, pumpkin spice in every friggin’ thing—but with it also comes the traditional end of convention season.

Sure, if you hunt around for a con you can find one or two—especially overseas—but for stateside comickers, the days of packing up banners and boxes, of practicing your pitches in front of mirrors, are over for the year.

But that doesn’t mean that a writer’s work is done. You will have three, very important tasks to complete before convention season comes out of hibernation next spring.

TASK ONE: Get Out There and Live

As much as you’d like to think that now is the time to lick your wounds or celebrate your triumphs, that’s not the case. Now, in fact, is the time to go into the world and do things. Writers are experience combustion engines. As much as we output story for a living, the fuel for those stories are first person adventures.

Go someplace you’ve never been, see something you’ve never seen, reconnect with friends you’ve been shirking because you’ve been too busy, meet someone who hasn’t already heard all your anecdotes. Love someone. Hate someone. Eat too much. Drink just enough. Take a class. Ditch a class. Drive till the wheels fall off. Pull the kids out of school and take them on a rollercoaster—unless you’re like me, and loathe rollercoasters.

Whatever it is, do it. It will make your writing better. It will dislodge things that have been idle for too long. The only way out is through.


Now that you’re loaded with new experience, it’s time to put it to good use. If you landed work during the past convention season, you’re gonna have to be doing it.

But if you’re going to be on the hunt for new employment next convention season, you have to come correct and come with the new. Those pitches that opened doors (or didn’t) the last go-round are now “burned.” They won’t work a second time—and everyone has likely already seen them—so you need new ideas.

What’s more, if those pitches impressed an editor, they’ll want to know that you’ve got more tricks up your sleeve, so this is how you put them there.

Do some “blue sky” thinking—chase notions down narrative cul de sacs; shake them out, see if there’s anything you can use. If so, great. If not, now you know, and on to the next thing.

Let your brain become enraptured with a new idea and then another and another. This is when you want bold strokes. Worry about whether you can sell those strokes later—the best thing you can do for your mind is let it run wild. You’ll have plenty of time to rein it in.

(And, before you raise your hand: no, those old pitches aren’t actually dead. You will use pieces of them, I’m sure, to patch holes in other ideas. And when editorial turnover hits the publishers, as it always does, those ideas will be viable again. Writers have to be able to use every part of the buffalo.)

TASK THREE: Say Thank You

Literally, write thank you messages to all those people you pestered during the course of the season, whether that pestering yielded work or not. You know why? Because almost no one else does it. And anything that helps you stand out works in your favor.

Also, your mother would like it that you have manners.

Marc Bernadin’s Devourer of Words appears the third Tuesday of every month here on Toucan.