All the advice that could be given to beginning authors has already been mentioned in my posts from writing workshops of the past (you can find more of them by clicking the "writers' workshop" tag under this post). Overall, I'm afraid all that could be said about speculative fiction has already been said in my earlier posts from ArmadilloCon and other conventions. There's no point in repeating it, so what's left? Jokes. Thankfully, jokes at ArmadilloCon are fresh every year, which is amazing, because the people are the same.
The writers who taught the ArmadilloCon writing workshop were trying to one-up one another on how badly they sucked when they were just starting out. Sharon Shinn: I'm a poster child for perseverance. I wrote 10 books before I sold one. Chris Roberson: I wrote 11 books before one sold. Sharon: But I wrote three or four after I sold the first one, that never sold. Scott Lynch, this year's Guest of Honor, can top that: he wrote 12 unpublished novels, many of them in high school. He never finished any of them before he wrote a novel that actually sold (I assume he's talking about "The Lies of Locke Lamora"). Thus, the skeletons in his closet are malformed embryo skeletons.
On revising your work: Most pros recommend completing the first draft of the book before revising, rewriting, or editing it. The alternative -- revising after you finish each chapter or page -- is not so good. Jim Frenkel, a Tor editor, says George R. R. Martin is an exception in that respect, and the worst role model to a beginner writer. "He doesn't go to on to write an new page until the previous page is perfect. And you wonder why his next book is taking so long?"
Sharon Shinn recalls what someone else has said on this topic. "Revising while you write is like drinking decaf coffee in the morning. Great idea, wrong time. Your first draft should read like it was hastily translated from Icelandic by a non-native speaker."
Ah, so I must be doing something right!
In other encouraging news (see, I said it was going to be all jokes, but there is some useful advice in there): yes, you can find time for writing. Julie Kenner wrote her first 15 books while working full-time as a lawyer, and the last seven of those with babies and small children (she has two). Martha Wells wrote some of her first books while being constantly distracted. At that time she worked in tech support, where she wrote programs in KOBOL. She worked on her novels while the programs compiled and ran. Her desk was in a very small space, surrounded by mainframe computers whose hard drives constantly made clicking noises. And since she was in tech support, people would drop in and ask questions all the time. So now she needs distractions in order to write, such as a television in the background.
I wonder which of my bad habits will one day turn out to be an unexpected blessing.
Pictures from ArmadilloCon 2009 are in my photo gallery. There are only a few of them there, but I'm adding new pictures every day.