Monday, February 1, 2010

Write what YOU write


I spent the last three days in New York at the SCBWI Winter Conference. It was awesome.

The best thing about the weekend was that I finally got to meet my writing group girls in person. They were everything I'd hoped and more. We spent pretty much the whole weekend together going to classes, watching speakers, having a group critique session (which was awesome--I'll share details in a few days), eating, and sleeping (and talking in our sleep).

Here we are:
From left to right: Karen, Me, Megan, and Marie

We also ran into a few familiar blog faces like Frankie from Frankie Writes and the lovely Carrie Harris.

The best thing about the conference wasn't the AMAZING speakers (though there were several that were incredible) or the great information (though I learned a LOT), it was the time I got to spend with friends and be among over 1000 people who were passionate about writing.

Over the next few weeks I want to share some of the things I learned at the conference. I'm not going to give any rundowns about what the speakers said, because you can find all of that at the SCBWI Conference Blog (which is packed with fabulous information). I'm going to share what I got from the experience.

If you asked each of the 1000+ writers and illustrators at the event what they felt the main message of the weekend was, I wouldn't be surprised if you got 1000+ different answers. But, I came away with one very solid impression about how to make my writing better.

Write what YOU write.

We listened to a lot of editors, writers and agents talk about the current trends in publishing. They told us about what is selling and what isn't, but they'd always, always followed this up by saying: DO NOT WRITE FOR THE TRENDS. If you write what you love (and what you're good at) your chances of making it in the business are so much better than if you write what you think editors are buying.

I need to be more confident in what I write. I admire so many writers in so many genres and I often wish I could write fantasy, or brilliant literary fiction, or picture books, or dystopian YA. But I love middle grade fiction. It is what I write well. My characters don't go to wizarding schools, they aren't vampires, and they don't speak in chatty teen slang, but they are unique and relatable and I hope someday people will love them.

What do you write well?

50 comments:

Blank said...

Cool! I'm still trying to find out what I write well. I'm just writing what I think is fun. Jumping all over the place. Maybe one day I will find my thing.

Jill Kemerer said...

Sounds amazing! And how cool that you got to meet your writing group? Nice post!

Aubrie said...

I'm glad you had a good time. That is great advice! I tried writing a scary story once and it was NOT scary. I realized that I'm totally a fantasy writer all the way. Don't even ask about the literary fiction piece I have at home.....what a disaster.

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Im sooooo glad I got to meet you! Next time we have to actually sit down and talk:-) Glad you had such a good time!!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

That's a good lesson, Natalie! One we must all learn. :-)

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Love reading about what others took away from conferences. Even ones that - sadly, I miss. Great shot of the writing group - I feel like I know them all through their blogs too! Looking forward to the follow up posts.

Anissa said...

Sounds like a fabulous time! Yay!

I think your advice is right on. We each have to find our own voice and place.

Bane of Anubis said...

Great advice, now i just need to figure out whether what I'm writing is what I like or if it's the ether implanting its will on my subconscious.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

So happy this was a success. And hooray for "ordinary" middle-grade. We can never have enough of the books that shaped me (and countless others) as a child.

Melissa said...

Great post Natalie! You're right - you have to find your voice and your area of writing "expertise" in order to shine. So far I'm sticking to YA spec fiction.

Glad you had a great time at the conference!

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Glad you had a great time at the conference and how fun to meet your writing group face to face! As for writing what you write, I think that's terrific advice. I write funny, snarky characters who always end up falling in love at some point, whether it be YA or adult. I have accepted that I will never write literary fiction. And I know Oprah will never pick my book for her book club. But that's okay. :)

Janna Qualman said...

I'm glad you had a good time, Natalie! And thanks for sharing this call to write ourselves. I appreciate that very much.

Jen said...

Yay for the great time!!! Love the pictures, and hearing the experience! One day I will attend and can't wait!!

I am sure that several people will fall in love with your writing, and some who already have! I think it is important to stick with what you love to write, if you follow the trends you aren't always guaranteed to love what you do, and then it wouldn't be any fun would it!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I LOVE your characters. And I miss you already. :)

Renee Collins said...

Fun! I love meeting writing friends in person. It's the best. And what a blast to be in NY!!

As for what I write well . . . um, I'm still in the process of finding out. There are many things that I love to write, but loving to write it and writing it well are two different things, aren't they? :)

L.T. Elliot said...

I write speculative. (fantasy/steampunk) That's where my heart is. I wish I could write contemporary or even MG/YA but I can't. My heart isn't there and I can't pull it off as well as others. I'm glad you're being you. It's the best person you can be.

destrella said...

Great pics! I wrote a similar blog post recently and was nervous that I was being too narrow minded. Glad others agree. :O)

V. S said...

My heart is in the hands of YA. I am so glad that you had a fun time!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I love that photo of you guys! I think it was special to finally meet but also to meet at an event that was all about writing. There is something magical about that.
My problem with writing what I write is that I like to write so many different ways. I think I need to write what inspires or compels me to write for now and see what roads it takes me down.

Holly Rutchik said...

Oh, I am so happy you had a great time - I was thinking of you guys.
I have a question - how did you guys start your group? I need to join a crit group and don't know where to start! There is nothing in my area and I don't know if it matter that I write non-fiction. If anyone can give me some advice, please stop by my blog! Thanks!

Suzyhayze said...

Oh! What a timely post. I'm in that place... where I write fiction.. stories... literary... and some have characters in them that are teens, and some don't... but the teen one is stuck in a genre, but it's literary. ACK!!!! A strange place, but I keep writing, and the voice is secure even if I'm not :) I can't wait to read more updates!

Jemi Fraser said...

Gotta admit - feeling a touch of envy right about now! What an awesome experience!

I often feel I should write MG because that's what I'm teaching at the moment - but my heart is elsewhere. Glad to hear I shouldn't feel guilty :)

kathrynjankowski said...

Glad you had a good time. Looking forward to hearing more about the conference. I'll be going to the L.A. event in August (easier and cheaper for California girls).

I'm writing fantasy now and expect to do so for a while, but I'm open to wherever my interests take me.

Shelby said...

I've been told I write dry humor the best. I don't feel it. whatever.

Susan R. Mills said...

What a great lesson! Thank you for sharing. I needed to hear it today. I can't wait to read the rest of your posts on the conference.

Tamika: said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time- I had no doubt! I look forward to meeting many of my blogging friends one day.

Georgina said...

When I read the title of your post, I breathed a big sigh of relief. Write what you write. I CAN do that! And I like that even after talking about trends, agents and editors still said W.W.Y.W.! (I just made that into and acronym because it's such an important reminder.) Can't wait for more of your conference notes! - G

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm so glad you had fun- it sounds like the conference was a blast!

I adore historical fiction- I couldn't imagine writing anything else!

Erica said...

Sounds like a wonderful experience! So cool that you got to meet each other! Great pic ;o) I think that is fabulous advice!

Thanks for the link to the SCBWI blog - will check it out. Can't wait to hear all about it :o)

Jessica said...

Great advice! I'm looking forward to your posts. :-) Glad you had fun.

Linda Kage said...

I love that advice too! Thank you.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, that's so fun you got to meet your writing buds!!
And great advice. I wish I could write a lot of things, but I got go with works for me. :)

B.J. Anderson said...

It looks like you had sooo much fun! And I think I write middle grade pretty well, too. And speculative fiction short stories. Weird combo, but it works.

Terri Tiffany said...

Looks like you had a great time! yay that you got to meet your critique partners-- I hope I can too someday.
I also agree and am glad they said DON'T write for the trends!
I went back and forth with that issue a few months ago and finally decided to write what I love. Even if it won't sell right now!

Sarah Skilton said...

Adorable pic! The trip sounds like it was a blast. I know what you mean about sometimes wishing you wrote trendy genres. My main writing fear is that I write a hodge-podge combo of mystery, romance, drama, darkish humor that isn't easily categorizable but it's what I'd love to read, so... eep.

Dawn Simon said...

How fun that you and your crit group met in person and now have pictures together! I thought of you when I was at the conference, but didn't get to meet you in person. Maybe next time.

The conference WAS awesome. I still haven't posted about it, though I plan to tonight or tomorrow. I agree--you can't chase trends. I love MG--YA and MG are my faves. Keep doing what you're doing. You're already succeeding.

Elana Johnson said...

That is beyond excellent advice. It's so hard to take sometimes, isn't it? I mean, we want to write a fabulous book that everyone's going to love, but it's so hard to do when you don't know what will be fabulous in 2 years!

It sounds like you had so much fun! *jealousy ensuing*

Tracy said...

I'm glad you had such a great time! And that advice is so simple, but I think it's a reminder we all need to hear. It's so easy to compare yourself to another writer, but it's really not fair to do that because everyone brings something different to the table.

Welcome home!

Lisa and Laura said...

This is excellent advice! It took a little while for Lisa and I to figure out what we write well, but we are starting to feel right at home targeting a tween audience. And here we thought we were writing YA all along. Our agent summed it up pretty well for us. Tweens want to read about older kids doing grade-school type things. Who knew?

Heather Sunseri said...

Thank you, Natalie, for this message. And what a timely message it was for me. It's amazing to me how sometimes something can be nagging me and one of my blogging buddies will write the perfect encouraging message to keep me from sinking down in self-doubt! Glad you had fun at the conference!

Amy Tate said...

Oh I'm so glad you had a good time! I'm sure your brain is mush, but as soon as you sort through it all, I can't wait to hear about everything you learned. Funny you should say that we should write what we want...I came away last year with the same message. I'm so thrilled that you got to meet your partners too!!!! Welcome back!

Shelli said...

sounds awesome! im definately headed to LA this year :)

Sandy Shin said...

I'm glad you had a great time!

And that advice is very much true. There are days when I want to write for the trends, but in the end, I tell myself that I'd never be able to finish writing something I don't love. After all, if I write for love, if it doesn't sell/work out, I'll still have something I'm proud of. If I write for the trends and it doesn't work out, I'll have nothing.

Word Designer said...

I'm so glad you write what you love because you do it so well.

By the way, did you know there is no link-back to your blog?

Wordy
Word Designer

jdcoughlin said...

That sounds like so much fun! I love going to conferences, hanging out with writers. It makes me feel like, yeah, I can do this. They're all doing it, so might as well jump into the fray, too. But what great advice, for all of us. In writing, in relationships, in life, staying true to ourselves makes thing so much enjoyable.

Thanks for sharing!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Looking forward to hearing all that you got from this conference. Sounds like an amazing weekend, Natalie!!!

What do I write well? I don't know, but I do know that romance is what I like to write most.

Henrys said...

Great advice. I think you have to love what you write and if you're just writing for the market place it would be hard to do that.

Mary Campbell said...

You're all so cute and it's fun that you were able to get together. I bet it was a blast to be teenagers again having a sleepover. I agree that I should write like me, but I'm still trying to figure out what that me is.

Di said...

So that's what your writing group looks like. Very cool Nat. Looks like it was a fun old time of learning & writing.

ASHLEY LADD said...

Sounds like a fab conference. I'd love to attend more. At the moment, I have one awesome critique partner but I'd love to be in a larger critique group again.

I've struggled with writing for the market and writing what I love. One of my editors advised me to write with the market in mind.