Monday, July 6, 2009

Variables in Writing

Many of you are preparing for your upcoming trip to Washington, DC for the National RWA Conference. Like many, along with struggling with your packing list, figuring out how on earth you are going to bring home all of those books, trying to memorize that pitch of yours and finally, you are also combing over the tons of great seminars to attend. This is a tough trip! Today, however, I want to take some time to focus on the seminars.

Here is that tough love statement. The seminar you attend will not be the golden ticket to getting you published.

As I said, there are tons of great seminars to attend and each one is fantastic for what is being provided. After the conference, along with being physically exhausted, you will be highly motivated and charged up for your writing project. You will hear things in seminars and scream silently to yourself, "That's it. If I just do that, the book will be golden!"

Now, here is the thing. You should scream that. At every session you attend, you should leave with one little tidbit of what it takes to make a piece of writing good. That one little nugget that makest that manuscript a little better, a little stronger, and hopefully a bit more marketable. But... these are just nuggets.

Like any business, there are a lot of variables that come into play when making that final product marketable. Let me expalin it this way. When I was working on my first MA in literacy, my research went out to study what it was in the classroom that caused student learning to be successful. What I found was interesting. Most of the research out there only attributed student learning to small elements. It might be the curriculum, it might be the inherent ablity of the student, it might be the way the classroom is set up, it might be the implementation of the teacher. What the research did not show was that all of the pieces of the puzzle - the teacher, student, curriculum & environment - had to be in place and working together to make student learning happen. Give a fantastic curriculum to a terrible teacher and learning will not occur. Give a great teacher a perfect curriculum, let them implement the curriculum in a perfect environment, but toss in a student that simply doesn't care, there will be no learning.

The same holds true with publishing. The perfect query letter will not get you published if the premise of the story, or your writing is bad. The fantastic hook or opening chapter will not get the story anywhere if the story fizzles after chapter 2 or 3. You can create the best dialoge possible but if the narration isn't balanced with it, the story is simply a conversation. The point is, these are all pieces of the puzzle, and even then, not all of these pieces work with every single manuscript out there. These are all just variables.

Please do not get discouraged by this. Go to those sessions and pick up all of those nuggets of information. Keep an open eye and think. Think about your manuscript. Think about who you are writing this for. Think, think, think. Keep a huge list of things you want to go and "look at" in your manuscript when you get home. But also remember, these are not the single pieces that will fix the entire story.


  1. Nice post. I agree with most of this. Authors/Agents need to want and hold the desire to work together to make a book successful.

    I can also relate to the whole teacher/student comparison--my chemistry teacher was awful and I wanted to learn because that stuff is on tests/state testing so it was horrible.

    One day she spent the whole day teaching us how to balance formulas and when the class understood finally it turned out she taught us wrong and they weren't right!

    I hope all the pursuing authors have a great time at this conference and find things to apply to get them where they want to go.

  2. Another good post. I posted a thank you note on my earlier comment. Was out west.