Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Answers, Part 3: Writing

So, back in December, I asked you guys to ask me questions for me to answer. And I didn't forget about it--I mean, not really. Anyway, a month later: here's the answers!

Also: at first I didn't think this would take that long, but then when I was answering them, I realized this was a realllly long post, so I've got this divided up into three days. Also, also: I lost some stuff when I was cutting and pasting...I think I got all the questions again, but let me know if I missed one.


Susan Kaye Quinn asked What was your biggest writing craft "ah ha!" moment during those first nine books? Or maybe a series of ahas? Maybe aaaaahaaaaa? 
I think my biggest "ah ha!" moment happened after I entered--and failed miserably--in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. I didn't even get close. And I expected to win. After that, I was commiserating with some other authors on the Amazon forums, and we decided to read each other's works and figure out where and how we went wrong. We didn't know it, but we were forming a critique group, and learning to critique and edit is what helped me grow as a writer more than anything.

Martinelli Gold asked: I hear writers and agents adulating about the importance of conferences, but really, what are the good ones? Is it worth it to fly out to New York if you're from the Pacific Northwest? The only conference I've spotted in my area is for the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association. What are some great conferences? (Near or far.)

It depends 100% on what you want. If you're going to a con specifically to get an agent or editor, then (1) I think you're deluding yourself a bit, as this is rare, and (2) your best bet will be to go to a conference that has pitch sessions, such as the Writer's Digest conference (NY, near the time of BEA) or the SCBWI national conferences and some state conferences. It's very important to first check that there actually ARE agents/editors present there that you want to pitch to, and to realize that the chances are phenomenally small that you will actually connect with an agent/editor enough to sign based on conference attendance. It's not impossible, just rare.  (Also, I've heard the Rutger's conference is good for this, but I've not been, so I can't really give an opinion.) 
If, however, you're going to the conference to network with other writers, learn about the craft, develop new marketing/writing/editing skills, etc., then I think you've got a much greater chance at getting a good outcome for your money. If you're a children's writer, then I recommend SCBWI conferences. Personally, my state does great conferences, and I've heard from others that their states are great, too. I've not been to a national SCBWI conference, but I've heard that they're great, too. 
In my experience, I've been to two major conferences, and I value each of them. The first was the Writer's Digest conference--I participated in the pitch sessions and came very close to getting an editor and book deal through that. But even though I didn't, I learned from the experience about pitching, queries, and the business. 
The second was the state SCBWI conference. From that conference, I learned about the importance of networking, craft and writing, and made some valuable friendships and critique partners. I also participated in a pitch session--at which, the agent told me that my entire novel sucked and I should throw it out. So, keep in mind that pitch sessions are opinions, and that it really is very difficult to make a worthwhile connection. 
Also: weigh your options and the cost. For me, I spent a lot of money to fly to NY for the Writer's Digest conference, and it was worth it for me at the time. I spent far less money going to the state conference--and that was worth it, too. I learned at these conferences--but I didn't get a book deal from them. If I had known I wouldn't get a book deal, I might not have spent so much money to go to NY. 

salarsenッ asked: Writing in different POVs. What's your thoughts??

If it serves the story, do it. 

susancolebank asked: To ask a more specific question about POVs--when do you think a character would be better in first person rather than third? 

When it best fits the story.

Susan also asked: Do you concentrate more on character or plot? Why?

I tend to concentrate on plot--but by that, I mean that I try to make characters vivid enough that I know what they would do in a given situation, then I focus on the plot to put them in a situation that's interesting to read.

Gabrielle Carolina asked: At any point did you want to give up and stop writing?

Ironically enough, right before I queried AtU. I didn't think I could do better than AtU, and I sort of froze up a bit--it would have been easier to give up at that point, than to fail again. But I queried anyway, and I'm glad I did.

Kayla Olson asked: Do you prefer writing first drafts, or do you prefer the revision process? Why?

FIRST DRAFTS!!!!! SO MUCH!!!!!! It's fun to get the story down. It's work to make the story good.


Christine Tyler said...

These insights really are so helpful. Funny you mentioned the PacNW Writer's Association conference. That's the first one I'll be attending! So excited just for the experience. I'm hoping to try out New York in a few years :)

Jessica E. Subject said...

Thanks for sharing with us Beth!

I totally agree with the editing being work. I have many first drafts waiting, but now I am concentrating on the "work" end.

Critique groups are very important. I have learned so much from mine as well as my online critique partners.

Hoping to go to my first conference this year. Will be flying across country, to meet certain author friends rather than to get a book deal, but hope to learn a lot as well.

lotusgirl said...

I found the SCBWI conference I went to last fall to be very helpful and with the smaller crowd there's a much bigger chance to chat with editors and agents.

It's amazing to me that you almost gave up before querying AtU. I'm glad you were brave and sent it anyway.

Matthew MacNish said...

Great questions people.

I'm glad to hear you feel that way about conferences Beth, because I've always been too shy to go that route in trying to find representation. I will be going to WFC this year though. Just to meet writers and for fun!

Liza said...

I was about to add my comment and saw Matthew's above. Yup. Too shy. The idea of conferences scares me to bits...and this from a person who spent over 20 years as a hiring manager, interviewed all the time but HATED the job fairs. I loved your two quick answers: "If it suits the story." That's the old teacher in your coming out I think!

Jamie Fuchs said...

I agree Liza. Sometimes people want answers that they hope will give them that "AHA!" moment, but you really have to consider your story. You also have to consider your readers, of course, but if you worry too much about what other people think or if your story will only work a certain way you really limit yourself. Great questions!

Eric said...

Thanks for answering these. I totally love your last answer. It definitely is FUN to get the story down. Revisions are hell for me.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Oh man, I'm a first drafter too! Love the heady rush.

Thank you for answering my question! And I think I know one of those crit partners (Rebecca?), and they are truly a gift. :)

Shari said...

I always go to local conferences since I can't afford anything else, but they have always been informative and it's fun to meet other writers.

Enjoyed your responses to the great questions!

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