Wordy Wednesday (“Writer’s Digest Conference NOTES”)

I’ve got notes to share with you from the Writer’s Digest Conference last weekend!! WHOOOO!!! πŸ˜€

(Me outside the New York Public Library!)

Because I don’t have the time to go through all of my specific notes right now, I’ve instead decided to share with you the Three Top Lessons that I learned at the WD Conference for this week’s Wordy Wednesday. Later on, I’ll get more concise notes up for the various sessions, detailing what I learned in all of those, but for now this is what you get. πŸ™‚

“You don’t buy a shovel because you want a shovel. You buy a shovel because you want a hole.”

— Lesson from a Conference Attendee

I apologize for not knowing the name of the woman who so eloquently stated this, but if anyone should ever happen to know who she is, let me know because I’m basically going to live the rest of my life on this principle. (Well, my writing life anyway.) But how does this apply to your writing, right? Good question, dear reader. (You know you were totally just wondering that. Don’t even lie.)

Answer: Why do you read a book? It’s because you want to get something out of it, isn’t it?

From laughter to tears to adrenaline, we all want to feel something from every book that we read. When you’re writing a story, you need to ask yourself what the reader’s going to get out of reading it and how to better bring those elements into focus throughout the story. It’s not about writing the obvious things, but writing the intricate things. You can write about the school play, or you can write about your specific experience within it…

… Which leads us to our next lesson:

It’s not a bad idea. It’s just that you’re focusing on the wrong parts of it.

— Lesson from Jack Heffron

Jack Heffron’s session “Making Good Ideas Great” focused a lot on the numerous stories of manuscripts Heffron had run into throughout the years where the writer had a good idea but she was fleshing out the wrong elements of it.

For example, my current WIP takes place primarily in a dream world, so I was making the main character’s experience within this dream world the focus of my novel, but then I realized, through talking out the plot with my mom after attending Jack’s lecture, that it’s not actually about that. It’s about my MC learning to cope with the sudden divorce of her parents and all of the havoc that ensues in her life due to that.

Again, you have to think about what the reader’s going to get out of your book. Whatever that is, that’s what you need to make stand out in the story; that’s the important part.

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that’s not what ships are built for.” (John A. Shedd)

— Lesson by Chris Baty

Writer’s Doubt it probably the worst thing that can ever happen to you. It’s way worse than Writer’s Block, or feeling like you don’t have a story to tell, or anything. It’s debilitating and disheartening… and I had a really bad case of it over the weekend. I was so depressed for a couple days, there, that I started to feel a sense of camaraderie for Virginia Woolf (which is, you know, not exactly a good thing).

I usually don’t let bad things get to me. I’ve actually gotten excited over getting rejected before, because I’ve always held the belief that each rejection is just one failure closer to my imminent acceptance… but then all of a sudden it hit me that I might not get published. And even if I do, that doesn’t mean my book’s guaranteed to be read by anyone. And even if people do read it, that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to like it.

What right do I have to think that my novel is good enough? What right do I have to think that people would actually want to read it?

And then I went to Chris Baty’s closing keynote address on Sunday, and he reminded me why I write. Because while a ship in harbor is safe, that’s not what ships are built for. They’re built to go out to sea; to weather storms and to feel the wind against their sails. The same is true about writers. While it’s easy just to keep our writing to ourselves, that’s not what we’re meant to do. We’re meant to share it with others, and to weather the hard times because we know it will be worth it in the long run.

So even when it’s difficult to keep going, even when all you can see is doubt on the horizon, keep going.

Even when you can’t see the sun beyond the clouds, keep going.

There’s no reason to do anything unless there’s the risk of failure. That’s what makes life exciting and worthwhile.

Go get out of that safe harbor and experience the world. Do the things that scare you.

Just. Keep. Going.


18 thoughts on “Wordy Wednesday (“Writer’s Digest Conference NOTES”)

  1. Pingback: Writers Digest Conference 2012, Part II (or, How Do You Pitch a Peculiar Parrot?) « A Fuzzy Mango With Wings

  2. YAY, POST!!! Thanks for this. x

    (Oh, and could you PLEASE spare some time to help me with the short story? Like, twenty minutes, if you can? Sorry to nag, but I HAVE FIVE DAYS LEFT, AUGH!)


    • Yes, yes — I’m getting to it. Sorry that I haven’t had a chance yet! Things have just been really crazy with theatre and school and writing. The only homework I have tonight, though, is some math bookwork and an AP lit project, and neither of those are due tomorrow, soooo… I promise to get to your story before I go to bed tonight. πŸ™‚

      Sorry, again! I feel really, really awful that I haven’t done that yet.


  3. Thanks for putting these up, this is really inspiring!!! Yeah, I had a bad case of writer’s doubt last week for pre-editing…this is definitely helping me get out of my funk πŸ™‚
    LOL I wish I could have gone, it sounded so funnnnnn… πŸ™‚ I need to read Dreamcatcher really badly!!!!


  4. Yay! Finally! Wow, all this stuff is so inspirational. I was expecting, like, “grrrr, hmpph, official stuff about the publishing industry” (the onomatopoeia is necessary, yes) and then you put up these metaphors and stuff!
    Still annoyed… I live right next to New York City; I should have gone to the conference! Stupid midterms…
    I should read Dreamcatcher sometime soon; I cannot fathom a book where divorce stuff is more important than a cool dream world. Once midterms are done I promise to write lots of nice comments and threats (like I did for Kira because she didn’t post all of What It Takes to Deal) on Dreamcatcher.
    Anyway, sorry for the long comment.


    • Well, there was definitely some “grrrr, hmpph, official stuff about the publishing industry” stuff too, but I felt like all of that was too specific to share in such a broad post, so I’m going to be picking out the important facts from all of those and I’ll share them either this weekend or next week.

      Don’t worry, the conference wasn’t ALL touchy feel-y, inspiring metaphors. πŸ˜‰

      YAAAAY for reading Dreamcatcher, whenever you get around to doing that!! πŸ˜€ (Warning though: I’m going to be taking it down off of Figment soon, so you might want to read it sometime in the next couple weeks.)


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