In addition to my desire to learn all I could to apply towards my YA project on the way for NaNoWriMo, I was curious to see how the whole “free online conference” thing would work from a communication perspective. (I have a masters in mass communication and am always a sucker for anything related to media and communication).
Organizers Jamie Harrington, Elana Johnson, Casey McCormick, Shannon Messenger, Lisa and Laura Roecker, and Jennifer Stayrook did a terrific job in getting a whole host of authors, agents, and editors together to address a wide spectrum of issues in kidlit – from meter in picture books to sex scenes in young adult novels.
Content was a mixture of standard blog posts, vlogs, and live chat and/or video sessions with industry professionals, which gave the illusion of attending a panel or Q&A session in person at a writing conference. I’ve never been a fan of vlogs – you never know what kind of content you’re going to get (and unlike blog posts, you can’t scan them and see if they’ll be worthwhile) and if you have a dicey internet connection, it’s usually not worth the hassle. But in the context of an online writing conference, the vlogs added a human dimension to the content. Although I will say some presenters were more effective than others in using the different medium to full advantage.
You can find links to all conference content here, but I’ve pointed out my favorites below. Please note that I didn’t really concentrate on any picture book-related stuff as it is not one of my writing interests.
And now, without further ado, here are my picks:
Give Yourself Permission by editor Molly O’Neill – I found this to be a great inspirational post that came – appropriately enough – early on in the conference. It really resonated with me as an aspiring writer who’s still struggles sometimes with finding balance, figuring out the “right” way to do things, and measuring progress.
In Defense of a Less Than Huge Advance by literary agent Michelle Wolfson – I found this to be an informative practical piece on a topic that I at least haven’t seen addressed elsewhere. Wolfson does a good job of disentangling what the dollar signs really mean when an author is ready to sign with publisher.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Revision by editor Kendra Levin – Levin provides an overview of overarching questions you need to address with your manuscript as a whole. She also has a couple of revision tips towards the end of the article, including this (which is always good for me to remember):
Remember that no matter how much you revise your manuscript, it is never going to be perfect. Perfection is not your goal. Your goal is to tell this story as clearly, thrillingly, and beautifully as possible. So let go of the idea that you must get everything perfect, and instead have fun playing in this elaborately detailed playground you’ve created for your brain.
Panel of Professionals chat (Elana Roth, Kathleen Ortiz, Martha Mihalick, Paul Samuelson) – I found all the panels hugely illuminating of the submission process and how important first impressions are. This panel in particular focused on a writer’s online presence and how important that is in building a platform.
Plot and Pacing by author/literary agent Weronika Janczuk, part one, two, and three – This series of posts is epic, yes, but worth a look. Parts one and two review different ways to structure a novel, and Part three brings it all together, with ways to strengthen your novel’s plot and overall intensity.
The Revision Process by author Cynthea Liu, part one, two, and three – Part one focuses on ways you can evaluate your own writing, Part two is how to evaluate your story, and Part three talks about how to revise. Lots of useful nuggets.
Queries with literary agent Natalie Fischer – This may be of more personal interest to me since I found out Fischer also reps Romance (yay!), but it was also valuable for those at the query stage. If you don’t want to scroll through the entire chat session, be sure to check out Adventures in Children’s Publishing’s overview of this session with all the useful bits highlighted.
Panel of Professionals chat (Anica Rissi, Joanna Volpe, Suzie Townsend, Mary Kole) – This panel focused on the ever-present enigma that is voice in writing. If you spend time with any of the panels, make it this one, as there were some great distinctions made about voice that are valuable beyond the YA genre.
Writing Realistic, Captivating Dialog by author Tom Leveen – A useful overview of how to make your dialogue show characters’ motivations and other important elements of the scene. He also says that each line of dialogue should represent a win or a loss for each character – a fascinating way to think about characters’ conversations.
From Submission to Acquisition: An Editor’s Choose Your Own Adventure by editor Martha Mihalick – This was a playful but really informative way to show the routes a manuscript takes once it reaches an editor’s hands. Where would your novel end up?
Avoiding Character Stereotypes by literary agent Mary Kole – One of the few vlog posts that’s worth a second look – not necessarily a surprise from Kole who runs the popular and informative kidlit.com blog. Not just pointing out how stereotypes are bad, this post also show ways to create unique, interesting characters from the ground up.
Creating New Mythologies by author Aprilynne Pike – A clear overview of how to use the best bits from mythologies and make them yours in your story.
Looking forward to Write On Con next year. The bar is set very, very high!