This weekend I had the very great fortune to attend the Baltimore Writer’s Conference. It was my first time attending such an event and let me just say, I am incredibly thankful that I did. For anyone who has never considered getting involved in the conference circuit, I strongly suggest you reconsider. Not necessarily because you’re going to learn any incredible tips or tricks which are magically going to get you published (you won’t), but if for no other reason than to meet other people in the same situation as yourself. It came up several times during the conference that we, as writers, tend to exist in a vacuum. The nature of writing is that you do it by yourself. So it is a good thing when we are given the opportunity to interact with others who understand, and to learn about their triumphs and their failures.
Now I could write out a blow-by-blow of everything I did and heard at the Baltimore Writers Conference, but that would be boring. So instead, here is a list of the top ten things I took away from the event. If anyone has any questions or wants to hear more – please let me know!
In no particular order:
1. Every story has a backstory – try to find it. This will give you a deeper understanding of your characters, your world, and your overall story, even if the backstory is never put on the page.
2. Memorable stories on timeless themes will always attract readers – whether or not it fits into a trend.
3. Marketing is not a dirty word.
4. When writing YA, you must keep your audience in mind because your readers are at a formative stage in their life. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address difficult subjects, only that you need to be aware of the difference between how young readers will receive the subject as opposed to how an adult would.
5. Authors get virtually no say in what their cover looks like.
6. Kids like to read up – so if your target audience is twelve to fourteen, your protagonist should be fifteen or sixteen, etc.
7. The most important thing in writing is to find the voice of your character.
8. As a new, young writer you need to finish your first book, and then move on. A lot of people spend far too many years on their first book, and never get past it.
9. Sometimes you need to switch genres in order to get published.
10. There are three things you should consider when writing a new scene: First, what does each character want. Second, what will happen if they don’t do it. And finally, why now?
All in all, it was a very successful conference for myself. I met some wonderful people, had some great conversations, and found myself feeling a renewal of my enthusiasm for the entire querying/publication process.