Since the con was virtual, I didn’t have my drive to Maryland to stay at the hotel. Glad I didn’t either. We’re pretty cold here. Sunny and clear outside and the wind gusts bringing it below freezing. Since my first session on Zoom isn’t until 3:00, I get a lot of cycling in.

I’m doing a full cycle of the story. It’s a lot of cleanup of little things mostly. I took up what I got out of the editing book (plowed through that pretty quickly, though I’m going to review one section more extensively).

I started with spell checks because I didn’t want the errors distracting me during the cycling.

  1. Ran Word spell check. Word’s pretty good at catching certain types of errors.
  2. Ran Grammarly, skipping over all the false positives (anything with hyphens). But it’s really good at finding comma problems and other types of errors.
  3. Ran PerfectIt, which is a copy editor’s tool. It matches the story against the Chicago Style Manual. One of the things it does is note if you have a word hyphenated in some places and not in others. In one case, in context, some shouldn’t be hyphenated and others should be. That made me think about how to say the former differently. It also has a tool to remove the two spaces after the period.

I also picked up ProWriting Aid (lifetime subscription is on sale for half off, which is a really good deal). That’s the remaining tool on this list because it catches still another level of errors. Fixing typos is always a tedious part of the process of writing, so anything that helps I’ll take it.

Then I went to the beginning of the story and started reading through it. I found some repetitions, not too many. Added dialogue about something that needed to be mentioned. Discovered that I’d not completed the loop on a character action.

Cycling through also made me realize that I need at least a couple of passes over my climax. Getting towards the ending is always a rough spot for me. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and suddenly I want to run for it. So I always have to make sure everything is cleaned up pretty good.

I zoomed through almost twenty chapters in a few hours (and it doesn’t take long because I’ve been making cycling passes throughout the writing process).

Then off for the first con session: Welcome to ChessieCon. One of the things we discussed was con attendance. Chessie lost a lot of people because they weren’t able to do this in person. The crowd is older and doesn’t like Zoom. There’s been a decline of new attendees to ChessieCon, and also Balticon. Those are both literary cons. So they’ve been trying to figure out how to draw new people.

One of my complaints—which kept me away—was politics. We get smacked with politics every single day, all of it nasty and angry. Washington, DC is even worse. So when I go to a con, I want to escape into the wonder of science fiction and fantasy. On my first time as a con panelist, I landed on two panels that went very political and angry. One panelist said to me, “You’re not saying anything.” My response was, “When you get back on topic, I will.” A friend who went to Capclave reported some of the same problems.

The Underwater Cities panel was a lot of fun. We had a submariner and a science teacher with me. I watched Sea Hunt (reruns!), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (the more I learn to write, the more awful the series becomes), Primus (might have to see if that’s available anywhere), and SeaQuest DSV (the first season is best, though they were imitating Next Gen by adding a kid on a submarine). I also studied oceanography in college and very much enjoyed it. I have been pondering doing an underwater novel or series.

I think our foray below is likely to be tourism. Because that’s what’s happening with space now. People can pay $25,000 and go up into space.

After that, the Star Wars panel. It was at 10:30 PM and I’m afraid I was half asleep. It went in a different direction than I expected. I didn’t say it there, but I haven’t been as impressed with the more recent Star Wars entries. I think it’s a trend in Hollywood across the board where everything feels like low hanging fruit and the characterization isn’t always there for me (and may be the quality of the actors, too).

For example, I liked that we got a character like Rey. Yet, The Force Awakens felt like a Xerox copy of the very first Star Wars. I even watched one scene and correctly predicted what was going to happen. Movies should surprise you with unexpected directions. But this isn’t a thing specific to Star Wars. It’s a problem across the board in Hollywood.

Onward to more panels tomorrow!