Lauren was a great end of the day keynote. I think many of us were feeling overwhelmed by how far we needed to go with improving our books and Lauren was that bright ray that said: Don’t worry, you can do this. I recommend you check out her book “The Twin’s Daughter.” I’m maybe halfway through and so far I’ve enjoyed the imagery and story she’s weaved together. You can find Lauren here. Now onto the notes!
Don’t chase trends. Write what you want to read. If you try and chase a trend by the time you have a book written the trend will likely have come and gone. Set daily goals for yourself in your writing. Doing this is taking control of your writing career and moving forward. And if at first you don’t succeed, write another book. (And personally I think you can shelf a book you created and come back to it later. You never truly have to “throw them away.”)
Gather all the wisdom you can so you are able to make the best decisions about both creating and polishing your work. The two biggest mistakes you can make: 1) listen to all the advice you’re given, 2) ignore all the advice you’re given. It’s a happy medium you must determine yourself.
On agents, ideally they want to work with you on improving your book. Ask your agent about any questions they have as well as some of your own on the feedback they might give you.
HOW TO TAKE CRITICISM
Don’t get teary-eyed. Don’t have a knee jerk reaction. The best thing you can do is to say, “Thank you. You’ve given me a lot to think about.” What she means is don’t get defensive about your work. The feedback might be right, or it might be wrong. Give yourself time to really consider the suggestions you’ve received so you can know whether to accept or ignore it. Also, you don’t want to discourage beta readers from ever helping you out again. You need them to be honest. Your chances of getting published are much better when you’ve polished your manuscript without your ego getting in the way.
She had a 3-tiered approach to revisions:
- Make minor changes first.
- Then make the mid-size changes
- Now the big revisions.
Sometimes you may feel discouraged by all the changes you need to make. Starting with the simple things, like typos or grammar errors gets you into the groove to move onto the rest. (I’ve found this to be true in my own experience).
When it comes to editorial advice, she says there are three kinds of changes:
- The obvious changes. (This is likely grammar or typos–anything that once pointed out you easily agree need to be changed).
- Lateral changes. (Where you please them, but it doesn’t change the book that much. I think another way to approach this is assessing what it is exactly they’re saying doesn’t work and then applying your own ideas on how to make better.)
- The hell no changes. (These are the changes that would alter your story past recognition to where you hate it.)
You have to balance out your writing. Always write as an artist, but also write as a professional. I think she meant be willing to take and apply criticism but remember that at the end of the day it’s your art, not anyone else’s.
When it comes time that you’ve been published, she said to apply the 5-minute rule. That is to only give the reviews 5 minutes of your time. Five minutes and then back to work.
YOUR ONLINE LIFE AS A WRITER
We’re in the digital age, which means most of what we post online is usually permanent. Don’t talk back to reviewers. It makes you look unprofessional and thin-skinned. The only instance when you should talk back is when they’ve accused you of plagiarism, but that’s it. Don’t feed the trolls. There will always be people who hate you, and often a lot of those people are generally miserable anyway and want to make you the same. Don’t fall for their games. Don’t look down on what other people write. We’re all at different stages in our writing careers. Be encouraging and building, not discouraging and destructive. And don’t take it personally if other people look down on you. We all have different tastes, and you can never please all of the people all of the time anyway.
Never tell an unpublished writer that it just takes talent. Never say that published writers are lucky. We are all one lucky break away from being published. It only takes one yes.
Keep your mind running on two tracks at the same time. On the one track, you want it to be published, but on the other track be pleased with progress, even small progress. You cannot be a good writer without being a good reader first. Get to know your market. And lastly, the only person who can take you out of the game is you.