This year, since you can access this content online anyway, I figured I'd squeeze it down to one post with my notes organized by lecture, so you can get an idea of what went on and what points affected me most. I completely recommend this conference for anyone in the writing industry, or with hopes of being in it. The actual records and lectures are still up, so check them out!
All right. We begin.
- Call on past experience and emotions
- Observe the world and the people around you--be a stalker
Pay attention to:
- Character desires and motivation--look at goals
- External forces--your character must act and react
Should Writers Worry about Trends/Marketing?
- Writing trends do not apply during writing--just write
- Don't chase trends
- Start thinking about the market when you're past the writing stage
- Try to catch onto waves and recent trends with your completed book
- Otherwise, let it alone
- Most ideas are not original
- Seek inspiration in the ways that work for you--through other art and research
- Live your own life to be inspired
- Different ways to decide which ideas to go for
- Be yourself
- Build relationships with other people
- Writing is more important than promotion
- Stick with what you’re good at
Six stages of response:
- No! She’s wrong! She is absolutely and completely wrong about this!
- Crap. She’s right.
- But I can’t fix it! Changing this will have a domino effect and make the entire plot unworkable. It cannot be fixed!
- Oh, wait. I see how to fix it.
- You know, this change is pretty good. I’m liking it.
- This is brilliant! Why didn’t I do it this way in the first place?!
Middle Grade Boy
- MG age kids don’t generally disrespect adults
- Boys don’t act on romance--tease or show off
- Boys and girls still separate in general
- Villains/antagonists with specific qualities, not too dark but still scary
- Don’t kill too many characters
Things to look at during revisions:
- Pet words
- Cut weak words
- Adverb usage
- Specific vs. vague words
- Extraneous thoughts and plot points to cut
- Flow and dialogue
- Plot and story arc
- Show vs. tell
- Grab the reader from the beginning -- don't cram, don't be mysterious, don't info dump
- Do raise questions, create a voice, be simple
- Work with your agent and be honest
- Be clear on your story premise in your query
Perfecting Your New Adult Voice LIVE
- New Adult is about the transition from teenagerhood to adulthood
- The space in between becoming a legal adult and settling into an adult future
- Mostly contemp at the moment, but will eventually expand to other genres
Diversity in Writing
- It's important to work towards diversity in writing
- Keep trying to do it, even if you get flak, because flak will happen for any reason
- Do be respectful and well-informed, avoiding stereotypes and making characters look exotic
- Voice is determined by words, sentence structure, slang, etc
- Gives you a deeper look at their world and culture
Courage and Kid Lit
Children’s lit is about bravery and courage at the core.
Debunking New Adult Myths
- Ages 18-26
- Not just about sex, though sex is a predominant theme
- Remove filters (I feel, etc.)
- Match writing style to emotion
- Emotional high points should be integral to plot and character journey (i.e. The Hunger Games: volunteering for Prim, Rue's death, the berries)
An important element of thrillers is the ticking clock.
Can You Handle the Truth? LIVE
- Don't be generic in your Twitter pitches--focus on what's unique
- Apparently, a lot of people are pitching dream-related stories now, as well as mental illness
- Alt history is an interesting genre at the moment
- Brooks Sherman: "I see a lot of people trying to be 'epic' in their queries, but they come of cliched and general instead, sabotaging the tension. Examples: 'The last thing she expected...,' 'He made the ultimate sacrifice...,' etc."
- Victoria Marini: "When attempting to be epic people assume that vague and over-arching are smart bets, but the less specific and concise the query, the more likely it is to get lost among the slush."
- Brooks Sherman: "My one piece of advice on queries is keep in mind that you need to grab our attention right away--say, with a compelling or witty logline--then build on that by explaining the larger conflict. Introduce us to your main character and stick with them; don't get distracted by your subplots! Keep it simple."
- Katie Grimm: "Sometimes the query doesn't match the first chapter at all, and that's a huge problem"
- Evidently, agents have a thing right now for Gone Girl and Code Name Verity
Twitter Pitches LIVE
- Don't use the phrase "the hottest boy in ___"
- Lots of recent pitches with comas and waking up special
- Apocalypse stuff a hard sell after The 5th Wave
Basically, don't be jealous, petty, or gossipy
Writing Sibling Relationships
- Birth order affects dynamic--Katniss, the Cahill Sisters
- Difference between sibling views
- Envy between siblings/who's the favorite?
- Secrets, shared and not
- What are their "roles"--intelligent, pretty, etc
Surprise, Suspense, and Paramystamance
- "Surprise is something that you know is going happen, but that your reader doesn’t see coming, whereas suspense is that thing that your reader knows about but is still holding their breath as they wait for it to happen."
- Use the red herring approach--send readers in the wrong direction
- Make your hero flawed and villain alive
Writing is hard, so you better be in it for the long run.
The Class Schedule
- School environment is important to understanding character
- Create a class schedule for them indicating who is in which class
How to Pitch to an Agent
- Create different size pitches--elevator/Twitter pitch, 3-5 minute, the long conversation pitch
- Think from the agent perspective and focus on talking points
- Cancer-related romances and zombie stories are hard sells right now
Middle Grade Writing + Publishing Q+A LIVE
- "A good editor’s suggestions are worth gold! Now when I initially balk at an idea, I step back and let it sit for a few days. Most of the time, she is right. On the few items that I really didn’t want to change, I just talked with her. Editors respect authors, and they’ll learn to trust you just as quickly as you learn to trust them."
- Fairytale retellings are on their way out but they still have some potential, especially in MG
- 8-12 is standard MG, upper MG is usually boy oriented and runs 11-15
- "Just like the movies--in late and out early for every scene. Don’t ease into a scene."
- "In MG, the parents tend to be absent; in YA, they tend to be antagonists. In MG, the characters are usually trying to fit in; in YA, they’re usually trying to stand out. In MG, the characters often try to please authority figures; in YA, they often fight against authority."
Quick and Dirty Editing Tips
- Watch the "wandering body parts"
- Redundant actions: don't need locales--heart beat in chest, nod head, stand up/sit down, shrugged shoulders, thought to self
- Stop with "feel," "hear," and "know"
Be unique and true to your own style; fight negative thoughts
Killer End Lines
The end lines of chapters can be just as effective and important as novel end lines.
First Page Critique LIVE
Mostly what I got out of this is that I am awful at writing first pages.
Twitter Pitches LIVE
Just got rejected live for the first time. That was unpleasant.
Every scene must have a purpose: yours and the character's.
- Voice and character driven stories are super important
- Editors and agents really like talking about books, haha
- Publishing is so slow it "makes you want to stab out your eyeballs"
How Booksellers Sell Books
- They love ARCs and being able to recommend books
- Social media and author signings are big
What advice from this post did you like best? For those of you who participated in Write On Con this year, what was your experience?
Images via WriteOnCon, stockphotos.com, highschoolpuzzle.com, jerrywilson.com, Twitter, fanpop.com, unitedforimpact.org, and noblurr.com,