ROW80 Check-In 7: What I learned at WriteOnCon

Hello gentle reader,

this week my writing schedule was completely thrown off, thanks to WriteOnCon.

On Friday I did a recap of the online writers conference WriteOnCon and today I thought I could go over a few things I learned during this crazy week. YA writer Aimee L. Salter already wrote a great blog post on this topic and I suggest you read it since she really made the most of the conference (she received six full manuscript requests and a direct referral to an editor!). I was less dedicated than her to fully take advantage of the conference (I only spent a few hours a day in front of the computer) but I did learn a few things worth sharing if you ever want to get published traditionally …

1)      Write an awesome book first.

Having a successful author platform and thousands of followers won’t do any good unless you have a great book to sell. Ultimately, agents and editors want an amazing book that will blow them away. The author platform and the followers will only be the “icing on the cake”.

2)       It’s a crowded world out there.

I read dozens of awesome queries on the WriteOnCon forums. These writers are going to get published, I have no doubt about it. And instead of being depressed by the prospect of having to “compete” with all those great writers, I found that reading their work on the forums  was motivating. Because now I know what agents getting my query will compare it with. I know I have to be as good as all those talented writers out there.

3)      A query has to make your book stand out.

Before WriteOnCon, my query was ok. I had sent it to 5 agents and got 2 partial requests. I hadn’t committed any of the Deadly Sins of Querying. My query was professional and brief. It included the agents’ names, the title of my MS, genre and word count, and a brief summary of the plot/main characters issues. But having an average query is not enough to get published. A query has to be outstanding. I learned that I had to make every word of my query count to make it unique and to really hook my reader.

4)      Don’t rush.

You should never send a query or a manuscript that is not ready and in the best possible shape. But getting your query/MS ready and in the best possible shape takes time. And it’s OK. Take a year to polish your MS. Take two! Revise, revise, revise. If your book is really unique and awesome, it will get published regardless of trends and external influences.

5)      Seek help and feedback.

I have said it before on this blog, but WriteOnCon confirmed my thoughts: you can’t do this alone. You cannot get your MS ready and awesome without people giving you feedback on it.

6)      Listen to the advice of professionals.

They are the ones who will read your query and hopefully buy your book and turn you into the next J.K. Rowling. Listen to what they have to say. Read their blogs, watch their vlogs and seek their advice. Be professional. They are.

7)      Trust your instinct.

A conference such as WriteOnCon is a great way to get advice. TONS of advice. And by the end of the day, you’ll notice contradictions. Don’t mention world-building in your query. Mention some elements of world building in your query. Don’t say you’re planning on writing a book series. Let people know you’ve devised your book as the first installment in a series. Don’t start your novel with a dream/prologue/MC running. It’s ok to start your novel with a dream/ prologue/MC running as long as it’s essential to the story. A YA novel shouldn’t be longer than 75K. No, 80K. No, 100K.  Actually 115K is ok in some cases. The next YA trend is edgy contemporary. No, it’s historical novels… You get the point. If you listen to everyone in the profession, you end up pulling your hair out.

So, at the end of the day, trust yourself. Make your book as awesome as possible and believe in it.


To check out other fellow ROWers, click here.

14 thoughts on “ROW80 Check-In 7: What I learned at WriteOnCon

  1. I had every intention of spending the week trawling WriteOn Con, but circumstances intervened. However will definitely get back and check the forums to see what I missed. I’m glad you (and Aimee – a well deserving overacheiver) got so much out of it.

    Your tips were great too – first and foremost it is about the writing. Good advice from professionals is like gold – but I agree about trusting your instincts. Best of luck for a good outcome with your queries!

  2. Juliana Haygert says:

    “If you listen to everyone in the profession, you end up pulling your hair out.” << so true.
    I lurked more than anything during WriteOnCon this year. It is a great conference 😉
    Glad to see you enjoyed it!

  3. Jeff Clough says:

    I think it always comes down to the writing, but one thing people sometimes forget about platform building is that it can take a looooong time. I’ve read several articles–a few in Writer’s Digest–which suggest something of a tandem approach: once you have a solid draft of your novel, start working on your platform.
    Even after a first draft, most writers are at least six months away from the query stage. Spending some of that time connecting with others and establishing an online presence can only help.
    At least, that’s the theory.

  4. Carrie-Anne says:

    I was at Write On Con too, and really enjoyed it. I was still in a small minority as a historical writer, but the minority wasn’t as tiny as it has been when I’ve participated in contests and blogfests. All the contradictory advice and suggestions can get a bit confusing, but the most important thing is just to write a good story, instead of worrying it doesn’t fit with trends or is a certain length. I naturally write longer books, but the length works for the types of stories I write, so I don’t worry about it.

  5. Thanks for the link round up! I had trouble registering, so I missed pretty much all of it. I plan on going back and reading the forums and posts, though, because there’s a ton of good information.

  6. EM Castellan says:

    You haven’t actually “missed” anything since everything is still available to read on the blog or the forums for a few months at least… That’s what I like in online conferences 🙂

  7. Mike Paulson says:

    I really wish that I could have experienced Write On Con as you did. It sounds like it was an amazing experience. I’m currently fabricating my first novel, but intend to eventually make a career of writing. Hearing from the experts in this field would have been invaluable.

    I really appreciate the words of encouragement toward traditional publishing. The vast majority of people I listen to now say that a new writer shouldn’t bother, but I’ve always felt differently. It’s good to know that, if someone like me offers up a quality product, and markets it professionally to agents, and is persistent, that there is still a decent chance that publication can come. I will take your advice as I move forward and work toward my goal of being a traditionally published author in the years to come.


    • EM Castellan says:

      I still want to give traditional publishing a chance before turning to indie or self-publishing. As one NY agent put it a few weeks ago, if you go the indie way and sell your book well, you’ll always wonder if you could have been a NY Times best-seller by publishing traditionally…

  8. Great list of tips, EM. I have had my head swimming with contradictory advice, so your point to go with one’s own instincts is so vital. So is the one about having the best book one can–all the followers in the world won’t help if one has no book to give them.

    I hope you have a lovely rest of the week!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s