Oregon Coast Children's Book Writers Workshop

I spent last week out of town and off the grid in Oceanside, Oregon, where I was one of the faculty at the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop. This was my second year at the conference. Frankly, I wonder if the attendees got as much out if it as I did. And I’ve been writing since 1968!

The truth about writing is that you always learn something new. Anyone who claims to have it all figured out is either brain-dead or lying. If nothing else, listening to what other writers, editors, and agents have to say helps recharge your batteries. You come home eager to get to work.

Several of my Facebook writer friends asked me to post the most significant ideas I got from the workshop. I won’t try to do it all at once. I’ll start with April Henry’s talk.

April writes for both adults and young adults. She specializes in mystery and crime fiction. She is good! I wouldn’t start an April Henry novel late at night or when I’m in the house alone. Here are some of the notes I took from April’s session. I hope I got everything right. If not, blame me.

1. Write what interests you. If you’re writing longer fiction or nonfiction, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on it. It may as well be interesting. Having an interesting topic to research and write about is an added incentive to sit down to work.

2. Bad writing is better than no writing. April says, “You can always edit crap. You can’t edit nothing.” Don’t worry if what you’re writing is any good. That comes later. Live in the moment. Just write.

3. You don’t have to quit your day job. You don’t need huge blocks of time to be a writer. If all you have is twenty minutes a day, write in those twenty minutes. But make sure to do it every day.

4. You don’t have to outline. But you can. Every writer is different. Every project is different. Some writers outline; others don’t. Try it. If it works for you, keep doing it. If not, move on. Find something that works better.

5. Tenacity is as important as talent. April told us of a time when, as an aspiring writer, she attended several writers workshops. Two or three attendees stood out. The editors and agents at the conference were eager to see the completed manuscripts. Ultimately, they didn’t take them. The writers tried two or three more times, then eventually gave up. April admits that she wasn’t as good a writer at first. However, she didn’t give up. She kept it. I might add, you can quit at any time. No one cares. Those who keep on writing may not make it, but they have a far better chance of succeeding than those who don’t.

6. Showing vs. Telling is harder than you think. Amen! Be aware of that when you write your first draft. Be even more aware of it as you revise. It’ll come. It takes practice.

7. Revision can be the most fun of all. I agree. Good writing is rewriting. It needn’t be a chore. Sometimes I get my best ideas and deepest insights on the third, fourth, fifth, and even later drafts. Never be afraid to revise. When you think your manuscript is perfect, set it aside for a month and look at it again.

I have April’s comments on my desktop so I won’t forget them. If you’d like to learn more about April and her books, click HERE. (She has a terrific website!)

To learn more about the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop, click HERE.

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