BooksSDCC '14

SDCC 2014: How to Create a Novel Panel

Megan Miller ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

As the convention center began to wind down, one of the last panels encouraged con-goers to continue not only appreciating art but also maybe making it themselves. Led by teenaged twins Brittany and Brianna Winner, along with Steven-Elliot Altman and Richard Hatch, this noveling how-to panel discussed how to get started on writing, get published, and make a deal in Hollywood.

The panel began with the twins describing how they’d gotten their start. They’d been born premature and had been very sickly as children, and bullied as a result. Superheroes in comic books inspired them, because they were people with flaws who one day discovered they could do something great. In fourth grade, the twins’ learning disabilities, namely dyslexia, began to manifest, and their father was the person who encouraged them to write a book to combat it. After years of working with their parents on this manuscript, they submitted it for awards, won, and began to distribute their novel in stores and by bringing it to conventions, the first of which was San Diego Comic Con. They showed a video from their first SDCC and then thanked their father for his help.

Altman explained how he had started writing at sixteen and after completing two novels and having both of them rejected many times, he continued to write because he felt that he had to put his ideas onto paper and continued trying to get published. Eventually he did, and his advice to the audience was to “be tenacious” and continue to submit your work, while also writing and telling stories for your own benefit.

Hatch explained that everyone has something to say; writing is a process of self-discovery, he explained, it’s for the writer. He wrote Battlestar Gallactica novels through licensees to get his start.

They four panelists then entered their discussion on writing itself. Their first tip was that it doesn’t matter how you write; pen and paper is just as good as typing on a computer, and vice versa.

They talked about their method, which was to plan out the very basic ending, then the basic beginning, and then create the middle by connecting the two. These are all one sentence descriptions, and typically the end and the beginning are opposites. Idea planning is building from the foundation up, Brianna added. Richard’s helpful tip was to stop worrying about grammar and spelling, and instead write something that you resonate with.

A lot of the remaining time focused on methods of publishing. They went over the conventional publishing method, then self-publishing through physical copy distribution, and then self-publishing through ebooks. Steven also covered a lot of how to sell a story to a studio through an agent or manager, and what profit looks like in those situations. Along with that, they also said that while you market your book, you should use as many visual cues as possible; creating a trailer or art for your novel (or hiring someone to do these for you) can put you miles ahead where you would be without them.

During the short Q&A (the convention center was closed to closing by then), they were asked about how to get past less-than-ideal financial situations. Some of their tips were to market on social media, a totally free platform, and to bring your product to conventions to sell to pay your way through the con in the first place. They also emphasized not hiding your work and sharing it with others.

The final question was about writing sequels, and how to get through blocks in the middle. Their main advice was to continue writing; they suggested sitting down during a free day you have and making yourself sit there until the end of the day. If that doesn’t help, they added, you should start answering questions such as “What comes next?” Ask these questions, and don’t stop writing your novel until you’ve answered them.

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