Thanks for all the comments on my last post. This week I am armed with a better to do list and a better attitude so I'm hoping things improve.
Without further ado, here are my notes from the YA Panel with Kristen Chandler, Lisa Mangum, and Robison Wells. It's funny how a lot of the advice is repeated across the different genres and authors. I really liked Lisa Mangum a lot. I think I related to her because she wanted to be a writer, but became an editor before starting her writing career.
Lisa really likes to outline her story first if she has the time. Then she feels like she can write about whatever she wants each day because she has a general plan. Robison explained that there is an entire spectrum of writing processes from complete free write to a very detailed outline. He said that different processes will work better for different books, but that it's more difficult to free write for sequels because you are working within an existing context. Kristen noted that you don't need to write from start to finish. You can take detours as long as you know your final destination.
Developing main characters
Kristen likes to think about the background of the characters and then visualize them to the point where she knows them personally. She then tries to emphasize the parts that she feels a personal and emotional attachment to. Lisa gives every character a flaw, a wish, a dream, and a fear. She said that this helps to create rounded characters. Robison begins by looking for conflicts to create a main character.
Catering to the genre
Kristen admitted that sometimes it is tempting to write something you know will be liked but that it's a wicked thing to do because it will be easy for your readers to see through your writing. Lisa said it's ok to use formulas for writing as a launch pad, but you need to add a part of you to make it unique.
Robison is a big fan of writing groups as long as they are done well. He said it's important to find people who respect what you are doing and have something to contribute to your writing. He said that if you don't have a writing group, then find someone who is in your target audience who isn't a writer and ask them questions about your writing (for example, how did you feel about the main character?). Lisa said that your writing group should be a safe place to fail and a happy place to succeed. She also said that it's important to recognize when your goals have changed and you have outgrown your writing group.
Kristen said that it's important to look for and acknowledge ideas. Once you start looking, you won't be able to stop them. Lisa said to write down ideas even if you don't think you'll use them. You may have another idea later that could potentially build on the original thought.
They talked about going to conventions to make contacts and get critiques. Kristen said that if you are going to take writing seriously, it is important to learn your industry. Conventions are one of the best ways to do that. Robison said that they are valuable for both learning and networking.
I thought it was interesting that Robison Wells was the first panelist so far to say that he didn't always want to be a writer. He actually hated reading growing up. (Blasphemy!) Then, in college, he read Huckleberry Finn and it made him recognize the value in reading. After Finn, he made a list of all the books he had been assigned to read growing up that he had never read and, eventually, he became a writer. On a sidenote, I wonder how many writers/readers have Mark Twain to thank for their love of books.
And that's the YA panel in a nutshell. I have just recently become a YA fan . . . I had so many friends who love YA that I decided to give it a go. I haven't read too many yet, but I loved Heist Society and, of course, Hunger Games. Seriously counting down the hours to that premiere this weekend.