On the weekend of November 18-20, I attended my first ever creative writing conference organized by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) UK in Winchester. It was welcoming, invigorating, informative, humbling, encouraging and inspiring. I joined SCBWI upon the recommendation of several of the writer mothers profiled on Mums Write and can now wholeheartedly add my recommendation to theirs.
I went to the conference hungry for guidance. Guidance was on tap at a warm-up session called ’20 Tips’, in which participants compiled a list of 20 survival tips for writers.
Good ideas are worth sharing, so here they:
- Take every opportunity for professional feedback from agents and editors.
- Remember you are doing “it” — writing or illustrating — for pleasure. Take a break if you need to, to stay well. You will get your mojo back.
- Create action in scenes so you don’t have “talking heads”. It’s also helpful to have the action/setting have a subtle symbolic thread.
- Take a secondary character from your story. Write a scene from their point of view. This can help to develop characters or to move the story on, if you are stuck.
- Take time to clear your mind and prepare to write. Go for a walk, gym, whatever works for you.
- Capture your ideas! Write them down, so that more ideas can come.
- Don’t get too bogged down with research. Do initial research and start writing. Then research as you go.
- Whether you can draw or not, physically draw the story (even in stick figures). Then fill in the words.
- Try writing a dialogue scene in different locations, e.g., busy train station v. church.
- Search YouTube to access a broad range of picture books. There are many “read aloud” channels where entire books are read out loud.
- Writing is acting on paper. Get into character to make it real. What does your character need the most right now?
- If you are seeking affirmation, affirm yourself first. If you write, say, “I am a writer,” whether it’s a hobby or a profession.
- Useful apps: Simple mind & Sticky.
- The mind is a great tool for generating ideas, but a terrible tool for storing them. Use a well organized notebook. (See www.bulletjournal.com or Google “bullet journal” for advice on notebook organization techniques.)
- Exit the world. Remove interruptions.
- See revision as a see-saw process. You write, perfect what you’ve written, then realise you need to break it up and rebuild from scratch. Accept that you will need to repeat this process many many times along the way.
- Buy a laser printer.
- Use blogging to reach out to your heroes and role models.
To these I would add one more: If resources (time and money) allow, try and attend a writer’s conference. It offers unparalleled insight and appreciation for the craft, fresh approaches, and unexpected, rich connections. Attend with a clear set of goals in mind – and then recognize that the most important lessons will be those you never anticipated.