I spent this week in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Writers Conference, in A.E. Cannon’s Boot Camp class. It’s an intensive class requiring lots of reading and lots of writing. In the afternoons we have breakout sessions. I have learned a lot. I thought I would share some of the insights I have picked up.
First and foremost, the thing I already knew and rediscovered is that you should always keep growing and learning, no matter how far in your career you go. Allie Condie, author of the breakout phenomenon in Young Adult literature, talked about the four things she is still working on. Kathleen Duey, author for more than 20 years of dozens of books, talked about things she has only figured out in the last five years. I plan to continue learning from other writers and friends forever.
Brandon Mull, author of Fablehaven and Beyonders, described these five things you need in a good story: Characters, Relationships, Trouble, Choices, and Consequences. That was just a nice way to take a new look at the old story elements.
Mary Kole, an agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency, said, “For me character is the lens into the story.” Many other people during the week agreed with her that character and voice trumps plot. She said plots can be fixed. Character is harder to fix. Voice is even harder.
Another big idea that kept appearing in every session was that the stakes must be high for the main character. Facing death, losing friends, stuff like that.
Kristen Chandler, author of Wolves, Boys, and Other Things that Might Kill Me, summed it up well: Obsess, write, repeat.
And A.E. Cannon said, “Write a book someone wants to read.”
Easily said. Now I need to get to work and get it done.