Aspiring authors: go to writing conferences.
At conferences you mingle with other writers, agents, editors, book packagers, illustrators. You can learn how to manage your writing life, how to balance writing with other aspects of your life. You can learn what specific editors are looking for right now.
You get out of your head, out of your office, away from your computer. Surrounded by other writers and industry professionals, you get a taste of the big picture. This solitary career (or dream or hobby, depending on your level of commitment) becomes something social and fun and serious and informative.
You can find conferences through organizations you belong to, online and from other writers. For children’s writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has two national conferences a year and regional conferences all over the country. Visit www.scbwi.com for information.
Then there’s the old standby – Google writing conferences and go through the list for conferences that fit your genre and region.
An agent recommended Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart trilogy as an example of a fun YA mystery series to be emulated. So I read the first one, The Ruby in the Smoke. And was impressed. Pullman is more recently known for the His Dark Materials trilogy, including The Golden Compass.
The Sally Lockhart trilogy is a whole other kettle of fish. The Ruby in the Smoke is set in1872 London and features a diverse cast of characters of all walks of life. And back in 1872, people cared about such things.
Vivid characters, evocative language, an unusual heroine, and a multi-faceted mystery, all come together to make a great read. This is just the sort of thing I would have loved to read as a kid. When it was published in 1985, I was a teenaged girl, but I had moved on to more grown up fare (or that required for High School English class or for my father who preferred me to have a grounding in the classics of English literature). So I had never heard of Pullman or Lockhart or this opium-fueled romp through 19th century London.
If you love to get lost in a good mystery, give this one a go.
Okay, all you new and aspiring writers out there: If you really want to write for public consumption, you need to be part of a critique group. At least one.
My critiquing friends keep me motivated, help me write to a deadline, and point out those errors that I’m too close to the manuscript to see for myself. Sometimes they point out things I know are a problem and just haven’t fixed. They nudge me in the right direction. The insight of others is such a help.
And reading the work of others is a great way to learn the necessary skills. Learning to look for pacing issues or plot holes or rhythm, grammar, dialogue, emotional impact, etc., has made me a better writer.
They are sounding boards for potential new ideas. They are a cheering section to help me finish a manuscript or when I’ve received a rejection.
So now I’d like to publicly thank Gail, Eric, Kristen, Suzanne, Cynde, Tamara, Laura and Madeline for being there. You know who you are and you rock!
For a solitary endeavor, it sure takes a lot of people to succeed!
In my latest research of agents, I have read a number of fantasy novels for teen girls. This is not a genre I would choose to read. I’m more of a mystery and suspense gal. But, I really enjoyed these:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
Evermore by Alyson Noel
And not a vampire in the bunch! In fact, the only one of these that would classify as a paranormal romance is Evermore. Graceling and The Hunger Games take place in fictional worlds, one a facsimile of old-world Europe, one more like a post-apocalyptic North America. Wondrous Strange takes place in modern-day New York City.
I liked each of them enough that I might actually read their respective sequels and prequels. Just because I want to know more about those characters. Just for fun.