Finding a Few Writing Conference Gems

Oh, how I love that sparkly feeling when the writing conference winds up and you can’t wait to get out the door and back to your own little writing cubbyhole to write, write, write!

But there were so many gems that I have to share a few. And when I say gems, I mean shiny nuggets of advice and wisdom, plucked from the presentations. But I could use the word “gems” for the presenters themselves. They were quite brilliant, too!

In fact, I’ll start with agent Sarah Davies from The Greenhouse Literary Agency, because she has this delightful British accent, which makes everything she says brilliant. I know that’s terribly biased and rather embarrassing to have such a blatant prejudice. If I’m being perfectly honest,  a Brit could snatch my favorite handbag from my arm and I’d probably throw the matching shoes after him(or her). That’s how charming I think the British are. (Even now, I’m totally writing this in a British accent. And eating a Girl Scout biscuit.)

Anyway, back to shiny Sarah Davies and her gems from her talk entitled “From Ordinary to Extraordinary.” I loved this part of the subtitle of her talk: The Art of Creating a Great, Saleable Story. Yes, I love to write. But I absolutely want to sell what I write. So, here’s a few questions and the tips I gleaned from her talk. And P.S.  You should be asking yourself these questions before you write your story.

Who are you writing this story for? Know your target audience. What age, what gender will find your story appealing? Picture the kid that’s going to pull your book off the shelf and not be able to put it down. Write for that kid.

Is your concept unique?  You already know how important it is to write something original. So, step away from your vampire story. Unless there’s something so ridiculously unique about your vampire that your target kid reader will stay up all night to finish the book. But just to be on the safe side, do a search on vampire books before you write 20,000 words and realize that you’ve just basically updated Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Do you know your pitch? You should have an idea of your pitch, what you are trying to say, before you write a word. Not what’s going to happen, but your great THEME, or a focused intention, or an inspired concept.

That should be enough for now. I’ll bet you’re already thinking about something you might want to tweak, or re-write, or double-check. I know I had a moment, sitting in my seat, when I thought, “Oh, dear. Is my story extraordinary enough?” I was thinking it in a British accent. Maybe that’s why I didn’t feel quite so panicky.

But if you are panicking a bit, you might want to dash over to the Greenhouse Literary Agency website. You’ll find tons of great tips. Oh!  And read Sarah Davies’ blog, too, for insight into the business of selling your stories. And check out a few of the books she recommends:

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver (Brilliant concept!)

THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff (Brilliant voice!)

WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET by Tricia Springstubb (Big story from small lives!)

Now, I’m off to polish my own manuscript and make it sparkle like a gem-encrusted bumbershoot! I don’t know what that means, actually, but imagine me saying it with a British accent and it’ll sound brilliant! (And P.S. Yes, that’s the very proper Sarah Davies, holding Cathy-on-a-Stick. She was a jolly good sport about it, even if she didn’t know quite why she was asked to hold a pic-on-a-stick.)

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8 thoughts on “Finding a Few Writing Conference Gems

  1. ha ha I love those Girl Scout biscuits.

    I was listening to a preacher last night on the Internet and the guy has a very strong Scottish accent (Alistair Begg) and my sister said, “Just because he has that accent people probably think he knows what he’s talking about it. It makes him sound smarter.” heh heh

    Thanks for the conference goodies. I wish I could have been there.

    • Oh, I wish you could have been there, too, Sally! I laughed, I cried, I missed hanging with friends who couldn’t make it. AND I won a prize. But I haven’t got around to posting that over at Cathy-on-a-Stick yet. Been too busy eating biscuits, don’t you know. 🙂

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  3. This is a great post, Cathy. I loved listening to Sarah talk, too! Very soothing…not quite what I hear in my head when I imagine your British accent though 🙂 I mean, Sarah’s didn’t make me laugh. Then again, you are a humor writer!

  4. Pingback: Did You Hear The One About …? | Cathy C. Hall

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