I spent last weekend in Colorado Springs at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. What I love about conferences are, not only the workshop know-how you stuff into your brains, but all the slightly neurotic writers you bond with. My people. (chest thump.)
Here are 7 things I learned from the weekend (I might turn a couple of these into longer blog posts later):
1. Don’t be afraid to talk to others. Even if big groups intimidate you, you can still grab someone one-on-one for a more intimate conversation. There were many people I’d love to keep in touch with. (And you may find an editor who is attending the conference as a regular attendee . . .who gives you their card—I did.)
2. NYT Bestseller Gail Carriger spoke as one of the keynote speakers. She wrote down every single event that happened to her during her debut year, from different editing rounds to cover movel emails. (note to self—do this) Did you know she had almost 3 books of her steampunk Parasol Protectorate series written by the time the first one hit the shelves? I had no idea books were written this far in advance.
3. When world building, keep in mind all aspects of the culture. History (could include myths), arts (music? Painting? Literature?), government, social groups (how are families structured? Friend groups?), ect. I’d even add geography to the list. (How does the actual land influence how people live? Can they farm? If so, they might have school systems based around that, and so on)
Adding in these details will make your story more rich and more satisfying to the reader.
4. In the workshop, we had different authors read aloud dialogue-heavy pages of their books-in-progress. The rest of us had to guess how old the characters were. Talk about an eye opener. Most characters didn’t sound close to their age when read aloud to strangers.
If you see me descending upon little old ladies trying to grocery shop in a flurry of pages, you’ll know why.
5. There are many different types of humor, but humor thrives in chaos. This is my problem. I like to have a scientific explanation for everything when I’m writing. Even for humor. When there’s humor—it doesn’t need to be explained. Chaos. The unexpected. That’s where the laughs are.
Also, humor thrives in the simple. Now’s not the time to interject your characters’ autobiographical monologues. Short and simple. That’s the funnies.
6. Should you work with or without an agent? Great question. With today’s small presses, it’s possible to work without an agent. Especially now that you can hire subrights agents to sell your movie and foreign rights later. You could keep the standard 15% agents usually take from whatever you make. However, you have to be your own bad cop and won’t have somebody rooting for you throughout your career in the way an agent can.
This is what you should be asking: If you don’t have an agent, you will have to do more work, but you will have more control. Is this worth the 15%?
7. Agent Beth Phelan taught a workshop about New Adult. You might have known New Adult is an emerging genre showcasing characters ages 18-25. Right now, almost all New Adult is contemporary romance. Hopefully, the category will expand to embrace all genres.
So what’s the biggest difference between Young and New Adult? In YA, characters decide who they are and who they want to be. In NA, the characters actually become who they decided to be. So no, NA not just YA slapped with some sex. The themes themselves are different.