So yesterday was the first day of WriteOnCon--and it was A-MAZ-ING. I don't think I left my computer for more than a single hour all day. I was on from 8am-3pm and then 4pm-9pm, driving my family crazy, becoming limp and ragged, and learning so freaking much. I haven't spent so much time on preparing for publishing and stuff in years. It kinda brought back the old excitement I used to get when I'd start sending out a book for the first time.
After 75 rejections, you kinda lose sight of all that.
So today, and then Saturday (first weekend at college!!) I'll be giving you a summary of what I learned at WriteOnCon. Today's summary comes from the first day of WriteOnCon, which was yesterday, 8/14. Saturday's will come from today, 8/15. To begin...
QUERY LETTERS TAKE WORK
The first thing I learned during WriteOnCon actually started a few weeks ago, when I was allowed into the forums and began posting work. On the forums, see, you can post query letters and sample pages because Ninja Agents will stalk the forums during the conference for their next piece to peruse. You also get lots of editing advice. LOTS.
See, I always thought I was a big, genius query letter writer, because I've been doing it since I was twelve, right? Well apparently not. Maybe that helps explain the rejections. I mean, I had all my basics--professional business letter format, one page only, address the agent/editor by name, include summary/word count/genre/previous credits--but apparently I severely lacked in the actual writing-something-interesting sector. I put the blame on my inability to write anything short.
So over time and with the very stark and helpful critiques by the other Con-ers (I cried, I'll admit), I think I've finally got my ON THE DAWNING query together. So here's what I learned from that:
1) Use something more like a back-cover promotion than a straight summary.
Agent Emily Keyes: "Queries that already sound like marketing copy are great. You need to think about your novel as a sales person."
2) No passive voice.
OK, so that should've been obvious. But I'm really bad with that, OK?
3) Put your word-count, genre, etc at the END of the summary.
Because you gotta hook 'em first.
And of course, be clear and concise at all times. You don't have to reveal your whole plot, but you do want to give a good sequence of events with a clear sense of what's at stake.
COOL QUOTE: The Difference Between Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels
Editor Liesa Abrams: "In MG, characters are learning how they fit into the world, in YA they’re learning how they stand out!"
SOME ARTICLES I LIKED
WriteOnCon is FOR FWEEE!!! and open to anyone, so you can read these yourself:
Author Leigh Bardugo had a nice article on getting critiques from friends before sending out. I agree that this is absolutely necessary--I definitely have my own edit crew. Author Veronica Ross listed some ways to stay in the writing groove, which I agree with--plus my own addition, which is that I get good ideas in the shower! :) Author Shelley Moore Thomas had a very cute and amusing video about making book-related giveaways. Editor Molly O'Neill also had an amusing article with fun pictures about the craft of writing.
COOL QUOTE: On the Editor/Writer Relationship
Agent Mollie Glick: "I always tell my clients to 'manage up' with their editors--i.e. to deal with them the way you would a boss."
Also, apparently editors/agents are not into the starting-with-a-dream sequence these days.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF WRITERS
Another interesting thing I learned is that I am a "pantser" writer as opposed to a "plotter." Yes, those are the official terms. Apparently they come from the UK. Pantsers come up with their novels/plots by the seat of their pants, meaning we don't plan. At all. OK, so sometimes when I'm partway through a novel I'll get a bunch of ideas all at once and I have to write them down somewhere, but pretty much I'm a pantser. I hate planning.
Which is what plotters love! Neither way is the wrong way to write, of course. Both are good, both have advantages, and your choice depends on the way you think. Of course, I'm biased towards pantsing, because it comes so naturally to me. But I thought that was interesting.
WORLD BUILDING WORKSHEET
This comes from Mindee Arnett:
What is the story about in its most general terms?
What kind of world does this story place in? (Medieval Europe? Preindustrial? Futuristic? Try to be specific here, but don’t be afraid to change and modify as the story becomes clearer)
Who is the main character and what is his/her primary motivation at the beginning of the novel?
How much do they know about the bigger world they live in?
WRITING EXERCISES FOR VOICE
by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Exercises to Help Find Your Voice:
Write a brief description of someone you know as if you were a psychiatrist, a criminal, and an artist. Then write their description as yourself.
Write the scene you’ve always secretly wanted to write. Not to be published, edited, or even seen by anyone else. Just let the self-indulgent words flow and see what comes.
Read your work aloud, and try to feel when your words are not authentic. If you’re forcing out the words, then you are not staying true to your natural voice.
OTHER WRITEONCON THOUGHTS
I have discovered something very creepy and desperate. It's something that I do. It's something that lots of Con-ers do. And it's so freaking addictive, I can't get off the computer. It's called "Stalking the NInja Agents." You don't contact the Ninja Agents here; you don't speak to them. All you can do is wait for them to talk to you--more often than not, they critique, rather than asking for pages. And so people like to stalk their movements and see where they are at all times. But the more you stalk them, the more pathetic you become.
AND YOU CAN'T STOP IT.
You just want to know where they are at all times. Which, most likely, will never be your posts. True. Story.
That pretty much sums it up! See you Saturday with the second installment. ;)
Image via WriteOnCon.
I'm an unpublished novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, and a freelance editor. I love psychology, cats, social justice, and love! I'm also a huge fangirl. More than anything, stories are my life.
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