Saturday, August 14, 2010

WriteOnCon -- My Notes

So, the most exciting thing on the web this past week was the first annual online Writers Conference at What a fabulous idea! A conference online! No expensive plane trip or hotel room! No conflicts of timing! You can attend any and all of the workshops! And wonderful, extraordinary agent, editor, author resources, all at your fingertips!

So, here's the notes I have so far from this wonderful event. Notice that I haven't yet finished attending all the workshops, and will add to this list as I do. Plus, this list is Tweet-style because I used Twitter to take notes (this includes being listed from newest to oldest, reverse order chronology).

Risa Green on Transitioning from Adult to YA
  • High school is a universal experience.
  • Try to make your YA characters do things that is not expected. Don't treat them like adults; they're kids.
Agent Mary Kole on Avoiding Character Stereotypes
  • What is your character's primary conflict w/ each of the other characters in the story? & how does it change?
  • Characters are defined by their relationships to other people, and all relationships are complicated.
  • The worst thing that can happen in your writing is cliche.
Aprilynne Pike on Creating New Mythologies:
  • Having an entirely new mythos is a great way to make your story command the attention it deserves!
  • When you are creating a new mythos, you have to be bold! You really have to change something!
  • As you are creating your new and unique mythology, ground it in tradition.
Agent/Author Mandy Hubbard on Creating Memorable Characters:
  • Love, love, LUV this workshop from Mandy Hubbard -
  • Use the plot to force your character out of her comfort zone. 2/2
  • Once you’ve demonstrated her Archetype through actions and dialog– blow it all to hell. 1/2
  • By choosing right character type, you’ll maximize your ability to exploit..conflict, tension, plot, setting.
  • Ask - what kind of character would be most interesting in this story...would struggle the most in this situation?
Stasia Ward Kehoe w/ Simon & Schuster on Reaching out to Schools & Libraries:
  • Have ongoing positive relationship w/ librarians & educators. Become part of reading community where U live.
  • You have the gift of telling kids that writing is fun and freeing.
  • If you're published make sure you've got a reading guide. Teachers can use in the classroom when you visit.
  • Be the local writer who everybody knows and loves.
Agent Weronika Janczuk on Plotting:
  • In addition, always start your chapters & scenes as late as possible & end them as soon as possible.
  • You need to, with every crisis, raise the stakes. Create the possibility of failure.
  • Quest-The key is that your characters are proactive & don’t allow the world to affect them; they affect the world.
  • Inciting conflict requires main protagonist(s) to make a choice—face the conflict head-on or be cowards.
  • There needs to be one major conflict that motivates the character the entire way through.
  • Sometimes writers won't have a major conflict that drives entire story; novel jumps from subplot to subplot.
Lisa Schroeder on YA Romance:
  • Have your characters encompass a wide range of emotions - happy, angry, sad.
  • Make your hero & heroine admire desirable traits in each other. Show why 2 are being drawn to each other.
  • Perfect is not ok. Readers may feel Prince Charming exists w/out any flaws. And that's not true.
Vlog with Editor Martha Mihalick, Agent Elana Roth, Paul Samuelson (publicist from Sourcebooks), Agent Kathleen Ortiz"
  • Martha Mihalick - Be authentic. I give that advice a lot in terms of writing/voice, but it's equally important in online world!
  • Elana Roth - Regular, fresh, interesting content wins out any day of the week.
  • PaulSamuelson - Authors need to communicate w/ their audience & a place for their audience to learn more abt them & their books.
  • Paul Samuelson - Using meetup and foursquare are GREAT ways to push traffic into a store.
  • Martha Mihalick - I really like trailers, but I'm not sure we have any way to tell whether or not they're helping to sell books.
  • Kathleen Ortiz - I think another reason we push the online presence is because it SHOWS your dedication, to a certain degree.
  • Elana Roth - I have several authors with NO web presence at all. This has not stopped me from selling their work.
  • Elana Roth - advance is going to depend more on the commercial value of the book. not your twitter base.
  • Kathleen Ortiz - If you have 1,000 followers but NO ONE comments on your blog posts, it shows no one cares.
  • Kathleen Ortiz - Your blog is sometimes your first impression. Make it a good one.
  • Martha Mihalick - If I get a manuscript that I love, I ALWAYS google the author to see what online presence she/he has.
  • Paul Samuelson on social media - I also think different people are better/more comfortable on different platforms.
  • Paul Samuelson - I do know that authors with large platforms are given more consideration.
Kendra Levin at Viking on Revisions:
  • Perfection is not your goal. Your goal is to tell this story as clearly, thrillingly, & beautifully as possible.
  • With lower stakes, stories lose their ability to make excite readers’ emotions, and therefore their power.
  • You want to push your character as far as he or she can go, because it makes better drama.
  • Everything your protagonist does should be an outgrowth of what he/she wants. Tuesday,
  • Nine out of ten plot problems come from not knowing what your main character wants.
Agent Michelle Wolfson on Advances:
  • More than ever before, readers want to know their authors, so it's important to build your audience now.
  • The publisher is never going to spend enough on marketing or publicity to support your book.
Agent Elana Roth on Voice:
  • Don’t be the person UR friends would describe as “vanilla” or “white bread.” Or if .. Jewish, “seedless rye.”
  • Use details. Details keep us grounded, and make your character real.
  • It kind of sucks to say, but voice is incredibly personality specific.
JS Lewis on MG:
  • At the end of every chapter, the little voice inside their heads should say, “okay, just one more chapter . . ”
  • You need at least one character that will keep your readers guessing. Is that character friend or foe?
  • Even 4-yr-olds Think Elmo & Dora are Lame.. Kids want to read stories abt people who are older than they are.
  • To solve that problem, you have to inundate yourself with where your target market is at today.
  • Kids hate retro. I mean, how nostalgic could a twelve year old actually be?
  • If U still live in Neverland–if U have stories w/ young heroes & heroines..screaming to be told, then U’ve found a home.
Agent Catherine Drayton:
  • Be generous & supportive of your fellow authors &..when you need support you’ll have a community behind you.
  • The 1st thing an editor will, “Does the author have a website & are they actively involved in social media?"
  • Writer’s block is a real danger when all you have to do is stare at the computer & think about the bills.
Vlog with Editor Molly O'Neill, Editor Martha Mihalick, & Agent Holly Rooton Myths & Misconceptions:
  • Molly O'Neill: Children's publishing is the best business in the world. A really generous community.
  • 2nd books are particularly challenging. You have more going on if you're under contract. Talk to your agent/editor.
  • On blogs/Twitter/etc.: Martha Mihalick: There are so many things you can do to promote yourself. Do what you're comfortable w/.
  • Molly O'Neill: Stories aren't dead. Stories never will be dead. We'll still be here.
  • Molly: Books that gain traction often happens when an editor buys smthg she's passionate abt rather than smthg that's hot.
  • Myth/Misc.: A good title will help you catch the eye of an editor and an agent. But it will often be changed.
  • Molly O'Neill: You can't start out by wanting to teach kids something, or moralize, or preach..They want a great story.
  • Holly Root: You want to stand out because you're awesome, not because your package is awesome. (LOL)
Editor Molly O'Neill on Give Yourself Permission:
  • to write a scene or story that might make certain people who love you shocked & surprised.
  • to step away from measuring yourself against other writers.
  • to ignore..conflicting pieces of advice, & simply write the story w/in U that wants to be told.
  • to be where you are in your path as a writer..Even if you think you should be farther along.
  • If you grow as a writer, it is your doing. If you remain static as a writer, it is your doing.
From Author Janette Rallison on Refining Your Craft with Each Book:
  • Put us deeply into your character’s head and we’ll care about what happens to him or her.
  • Don’t let your characters wander through your novel without motivation and goals.
  • Whatever genre you’re writing, ur main character has a problem & ur book is the story of how they deal w/ that problem.
  • Don’t let your characters wander through your novel without motivation and goals.
Agent Suzie Townsend:
  • No more vamps, no more angels, no more para that feels like Twilight all over again w/ a guy who's 1/2 harpy 1/2 unicorn.
  • Even with multiple POVs, it should still be predominantly about one character - it should be their story.
  • FinePrint is 5th largest ind. agency in Manhattan w/ a subrights director & film manager-so it's full service.

What was your favorite insight from the conference?


  1. I wish I had participated. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It was a great conference. And what a "novel" idea to do it online. Looking forward to next year.

  3. Wow! This is a fantastic overview of the conference! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. :)

  4. Thanks so much, Elana. There's still a few workshops I want to attend and notate--but the great part is, I still have the time!!

    You all did a fabulous job of arranging it. What a brilliant idea. I can't wait until next year!

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.