Learning From Others

As a YA writer, you’d think I’d have joined SCBWI already, wouldn’t you? But I hadn’t. For some reason I had it in my head that you had to already be a published writer in order to become a member. Turns out I’m wrong, which is wonderful. I suppose it was officially a week ago that I joined SCBWI. Now I’m a member of the local chapter and a critique group here. It’s an online one, like the other critique group I’m a member of, but it’s small and filled with only YA members. My other critique group is constantly growing (I currently have no idea how many members there are…) and from all sorts of genres, which is nice because of the variety of prospective that comes along with that. I think the SCBWI one will trun out to be great. I’m also working on joining an in-person critique group.

I joined at just the right time for this. The third weekend of October, the local SCBWI chapter is hosting a writer’s conference. Of course I quickly registered to attend it, which is super exciting. It’ll be my first writing conference. This is going to be a great experience, both the critique group and the conference. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot and grow as a writer.

Also about a week ago I decided to give a Writer’s Digest course a try. I’m a VIP at WD and do some of their webinars from time to time, which are always interesting and insightful but I don’t think I’ve ever really learned something new about writing. I just like to do them to hear a literary agent’s POV on things. But I decided to the the First 10 Pages of Your Manuscript bootcamp anyway. It was one weekend and three literary agents, two of the three were YA enthusiastic, would look over the first ten pages and give insight into what worked and what didn’t.

I really think I learned a lot from that. I had been thinking about tweaking my manuscript in a certain way, but unsure of how to go about doing it. The literary agent I got, the lovely Paula Munier, was extremely nice and extremely helpful. She really went above and beyond to help everyone who attended. Another great thing came of it, all the YA writers who were attending decided to get together online afterwards and continue critiquing each other’s work.

Writing can be done in solitude, and for a long time I did it just that way, but the more I open up the others and share the more I learn about my own writing style and the more I grow. I’m really glad I joined SCBWI and very glad I did WD’s Bootcamp. Getting other people’s perspective is invaluable.

Writing the Breakout YA Novel

When I first started to write my manuscript, I didn’t think about what genre it would fall into. I didn’t really care, I just wanted to tell my story and knew I could figure out the rest later. I don’t think it does anyone any good to write a story with a specific genre in mind, or a lesson they want to teach someone, or to follow a current trend.

Trends change, it’s pretty much impossible to guess what the next trend will be and the current one will probably be dead before you can publish the novel you are working on right now. No one likes to be taught a lesson by a novel, particularly teens, but we all learn something anyway. If it’s a good story then we enjoy it and when we think about it later we realize we learned something. But have you ever read a story that was blatantly trying to teach you a lesson? Like “Don’t do drugs, kiddos!” those aren’t fun. I think a perfect example of this is the movie Charlie Bartlett. It was funny, entertaining, and interesting… until the end became a blatant moral lesson about how kids shouldn’t do drugs.

Yeah, I agree, doing prescription drugs when you don’t have a prescription is a bad idea. Duh. I figured that out from the rest of the movie, being blatantly reminded that at the end just made a five star movie fade to a three star one. I’d rather read/watch a great story that has a moral lesson to be learned subtly on the side.

Plus, if you write your story without any of those things in mind, you open up the possibility to surprise yourself with what your finish product turns out to be.

I’ll admit, I got into researching the market place and the publishing business later than I would have liked. I wish I had started it years before I did. When I first started to test the water and see what was going on I invested a lot of time in Writer’s Digest. Reading their blog, their magazine, their writing books, and all that fun stuff. I’ve bought a tutorial or two (which used to be WD webinars) but they always came with a package deal, so I didn’t intentionally buy just one of them.

But last week I signed up for a live webinar event and it finally happened today. It was an hour and a half webinar called Writing the Breakout YA Novel and it was hosted by literary agent Holly Root. By the way, that’s a name you should know. She’s an extremely active, high up, literary agent. You’ll probably want to query her if you write adult or young adult fiction. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of the webinar (other than a query critique by Holly Root — which I’m so excited about!) since I had done a lot of research in this area already.

I’m glad I attended it, though. It was nice to hear how the YA market is growing and there are still a lot of opportunities in it now. Even though the traditional publishing business is in the midst of change because of technology advances and such (and no one is for sure what will happen to it). Most of the fellow writers I talk to on a regular basis are indie self-published authors and they aren’t that reassuring when it comes to the traditional publishing place. I love all you indie writers, of course, but usually you went indie because you have little or no faith in the traditional publishing market (or you are disenchanted by it). To each their own, as I always say, but going indie isn’t what I want. I’m not ruling it out, but I’ve always wanted to go the traditional route.

A third of the webinar was new and interesting to hear about, another third I already knew but it was still nice to hear Mrs. Root’s take on it, and then the last third of it… I may or may not have gotten distracted by interior design ideas. Of course when I got distracted I was still listening and taking in what was said (I’m brilliant at multitasking at least that’s what I tell myself). I don’t know what it is, but if I’m not multitasking I feel like I’m wasting time. Except, of course, when I’m writing. Though, I’m always listening to music/watching a movie/tv show at the same time… In less I’m revising, then I’m usually just listening to music (if anything).

I digress, my point is this: the YA market is a live, thriving, and to hear that makes me happy.