Everything You Need To Know About Convention Panels

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I share a lot of notes from “panels”.

If you’ve never been to a convention, you may be unfamiliar with panels. If you’ve only been to corporate/work conventions, you might look at them as torturous boredom. Or, at the very least, strictly educational.

At their most basic: panels are simply several people, sitting at table, facing an audience, sharing their thoughts on a subject.

Typically, these individuals are what’s referred to in the DC metro area at least as “SMEs” – subject-matter experts.

And, quite often, these panels have one of the panelists acting as a moderator. A good moderator asks the panel questions, makes sure everyone on the panel is heard, tries to keep any debate lively without getting too personal, accepts the questions from the audience, and does their best to help with crowd control.

A typical con panel is 50 minutes, with the first 30-40 minutes being for the panelists to talk amongst themselves about the subject, and the last 10-20 minutes being for Q&A. With a brief introduction at the beginning, and a minute or so for closing thoughts and self-promotion at the end.

Now, panels aren’t the only things to attend at a convention, there are workshops, dances, book-readings, concerts, parties, and more. In fact, before I got so involved in my writing journey, I had attended a bunch of conventions and maybe 2 panels. These days? It’s a weird weekend if I attend fewer than 20.

Never fear, you can be a writer or a fan without ever attending a convention. Although, that’s partially why I like to share my notes, so that those who can’t, or don’t attend panels still have access to the nuggets of information I try to glean from the experts.

But, should you ever attend a convention, I want to set you up for success — so you’re seen as an excellent audience member and not someone to avoid.

4 Things Not To Do During The Q&A Period

  1. “This is more of a statement than a question…”

    If you attend panels, if you’re on panels, you will hear this phrase. A LOT.

    I know that there are plenty of bright, intelligent people in the audience, I know many of them would have made excellent panelists themselves, and many ARE actually on other panels. BUT. Unless you are on this panel, this is neither the time, nor the place to insert your own opinion on the subject.

    Save it for twitter. Or facebook. Or your friends — after the panel. You will not impress the panelists, you will not impress the audience. You will, however, trigger a massive eye roll, and a lot of tuning out.
  2. Providing tons of background for your question

    Especially in writing panels and gaming panels, audience members will want to provide background for precisely why they’re asking this question, in the hopes that they will get a tailormade answer. And because they’re just plain excited about their world and their story and… everything.

    It’s fine to give a little context, but no more than 20 seconds. I’ve listened to audience members who took up to 5 minutes to get to the question portion of their statement. Most moderators aren’t going to let you get that far.

    When you take that long, you’re taking time away from the panelists answers, and keeping other people from asking their questions. (And sometimes? It comes across like you’re stealing the time to market your own stuff, which is exceedingly rude.) If you know you have trouble getting to your question within 30 seconds, work with a friend in advance to rephrase until you can. Or, take it off-line, talk to them after the panel or at their table.

    Caveat: People at merchandise tables are NOT your audience, they are trying to sell their own merchandise and it is incredibly rude to scare away potential sales by dominating their attention.
  3. Off-topic Questions

    The panelists are prepared to speak on the subject described in the program. The other audience members are there to hear the panelists talk about the subject described in the program.

    If you have a specific question, that is unrelated to the panel, ask it after the panel.
  4. Asking tons of questions

    If no one else is asking, feel free, but don’t monopolize the Q&A period. Ask one, then give other people a chance to ask theirs — they’re paying as much to attend as you are and deserve the chance just as much. Only, if no one else has questions, should you go for a second question.

All that said, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask for recommendations, or a panelist to speak more on something they hinted at.

For some shameless name dropping here, I once attended a panel with the ever-famous George RR Martin on it, and, once the panel opened to questions, I asked a question addressing what I *thought* the panel had said it was going to be on in the first place. (Martin complimented my question, but the moderator actually answered my question the best…)

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, if the Corona-virus permits, I’m actually signed up to be a panelist at three cons this spring and summer. Hopefully, I’ll be as good behind the table and I try to be in the audience.

Have you attended con panels? Are there any tips or tricks I missed?

Link: Winterview with Me

To celebrate 13 weeks of winter, Hàlön Chronicles will be conducting one interview a week for 13 weeks. Join us on the hashtag #13Winterviews, or check out our right-side blog hop to sneak a peek at all the wonderful authors and artists I’ll be interviewing in the coming weeks. Hosted by: K. J. Harrowick Without…

via Winterview with Author Morgan Hazelwood — Daily Cup o’ Coffee


Winter is coming…and so is K. J. Harrowick‘s Winterviews Blog Hop! The first Interview is up, and we have twelve more great interviews with artists and writers coming up, including me! Check out th…

Source: Winterviews

Q/A: The Biggest Surprise About Writing A Novel [Also! Novel-versary Week!]

One Year Ago, Monday, I finished my rough draft.

(Or at least put down my pencil and stopped)

When you sit down to write a novel, the novel seems like the biggest thing ever. You have an idea, maybe even a plan on how it’s going to happen. But there’s over 100,000 words between you and it.

Everyone writes differently. I found word count was a good way to keep my progress going. Even if I didn’t feel like it, I would push through and get my words for the day done, knowing I could edit it later. Starting with 1,333 words per day for my kick-off month of NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month).

The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words. It’s a great start and there’s a supportive community of people all writing towards the same goal. (A standard YA (Young Adult) novel is 50,000-80,000 words. A standard fantasy novel is 80,000-120,000 words.) After taking December off, I lowered my goal to 10,000 words per month. 2,300 words a week is a much more sedate pace, and let me have a life outside of writing. A little reading, a bit of the gym, the ability to see my friends and family.

And I made it. I finished my novel after 10 months. 9, if you recognize that I took December off.

Yet, here it is, a year later and I’m STILL editing. It sometimes feel like I’ll never be done. Editing is harder to quantify, deciding when you are done is arbitrary. Like recognizing the obscene, you know it when you see it. Or, when you just can’t look at your novel any longer.

I’ve done a lot, I’ve taken a few months off to let beta readers review my work. I’ve tentatively started a sequel twice (although, as I’ve been changing the novel and the ending, the sequel is more of an idea that will need rework than a solid concept at this point.)

In my day job, I’m a programmer, we often start counting at 0. So, my drafts are labelled thus:

0 – Rough Draft (1 year and 1 day old)
1 – 1st Draft (I read through and made sure it was coherent.)
2 – 2nd Draft (I added revisions from my 1st round of beta readers, as appropriate. And rewrote the ending.)
3 – 3rd Draft (Major word count cuts, revisions from a new beta reader)

But, my newest beta reader only read the first third of the novel. So, once I finish this revision draft, I’ll be sending back out to willing beta readers, to see what they think of the edits. I imagine there will be a 4th round of edits from there.

And then?

Depends on how large the edits from that are. It will be either time for a copy-editor (sentence structure, punctuation, etc) or time to start submitting the novel to agents and publishers.

bloody keyboard gif

Am I done yet? Now? How about now?!

Q/A : Why Did You Write Demon Marked?

Q/A Wednesday: Where’d You Get Your Idea? Why Did You Write Demon Marked

For me, Demon Marked came to me in a dream. Literally.

Just a few key images that I wrote down when I woke up, years and years ago. I wondered about that world. I wondered how my girl got there. I started to write the story more than twice. It percolated for years.

Finally, I managed to commit to writing and finished the story.

What kept me going? Why did I write Demon Marked?


I needed to know what happened.

Who was the man in her dream? How did she get to the cliffs? How would she rescue [REDACTED]?! If I didn’t write it, I would never know what happened.

I’m a plot driven reader and that’s why I write. I try to make sure I have a visual world for my readers, but my imagination is typically more conceptional, or tactile. Sometimes, my story ideas come from wondering “what if…”, sometimes they come from brief images I dream, but always, I write to find out how we get there from here.