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I got home on Wednesday from the 2013 SCBWI Winter Conference, which was held at the Grand Hyatt in New York. Apologies for the delay in getting this report up, but it's taken this long to get my thoughts together enough to produce a coherent report. I also apologise in advance for the quality of the photos - they're my own shots of things that interested me in the city but I'm definitely no David Bailey ...

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In line with SCBWI's blogging policy, I'm restricting this report to general comments and impressions rather than a blow-by-blow account. Anyone who wants to find out more should follow #ny13scbwi on Twitter, where there's more of a sense of what was discussed.

To repeat the approach I took for the 2012 conference, I'm going to split the report into two posts, with my report on the main conference going up tomorrow.

A full list of the conference faculty can be found here: here.

The Writers' Roundtable as a day-long event that included an editor panel and agent panel and two critique sessions. The critique sessions focused on the first 500 words of each person's manuscript/work-in-progress - one with an agent (I was in a morning group with Jenny Bent from The Bent Agency and I was in the afternoon group with Lisa Yoskowitz from Disney Hyperion). I found the critique sessions very useful - mainly because it's the first time in a few years since I had third party feedback on the opening of my novel and it was all very positive and gave me a number of things to think about.

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I took the following points away from the Editor Panel and Agent Panel:

- beware of looking for quick fixes to deeper issues in your novel. If an editor highlights something that needs fixing in your book, be prepared to take that point apart and completely rebuild it rather than just adding a short sentence or two - an author's job is to take an editor's analysis and interpret it into fiction;

- editors and agents all want an authentic voice but don't over-egg it - there's nothing worse than sounding inauthentic or patronising. The voice should give readers an insight into the characters and the story and dialogue should integrate naturally into the story;

- it always helps to know your market and where your book fits into it but don't chase trends because you'll never catch them;

- learn how to handle other people's reactions to your work (both the good reactions and the bad reactions) and learn how to separate good and bad advice by working out how it impacts on your vision for your story;

- if you're writing a book that deals with controversial or disturbing subjects and themes, then write what you want to write - put it all out there and then objectively analyse it to make sure that what you're doing fits in with the characters and the context. There are no taboo subjects in YA;

- although paranormal romance has enjoyed 2 peaks over the last 8 years, as a market it now seems to be on the way out and the demand for dystopias, angels, ghosts and Wimpy Kid style books is also starting to dry up;

- Publisher's Marketplace, editor's and agent's blogs can all give insights into trends that are beginning to develop but it's also worth while keeping an eye on television (including MTV) because it can tell you a lot about what's popular;

- chapter books are currently being actively sought, as are funny books (but be careful because you have to get the humour just right, which is very difficult to do) and picture books are doing well at weathering the poor economy because parents will always want to buy things for their children;

- New Adult is currently a trend that might turn into an independent market but presently it's being dominated by self-publishing successes and seems to be more an off-shoot of chick lit and book stores aren't currently proposing putting it into its own section. It was interesting to hear that YA really took off as a market once it developed its own distinct shelving space in book stores.

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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
candygourlay
Feb. 9th, 2013 12:26 am (UTC)
Great stuff! Thanks so much -wish I was there!
hooton
Feb. 10th, 2013 12:45 am (UTC)
Thanks! It was a really fun weekend and packed with information.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )