Things I’ve Learned About Writing

As I mentioned a few posts ago I like to write. It’s not something that I only started recently, I started my first book when I was ten. I wrote it for years and looking back on it now I get a good laugh. Blogging has really helped me connect with other writers though, and to connect with the Young Adult community, which is the age group I write in. Through blogging I have had so many wonderful opportunities with my writing. I am going to talk about them today in case there are any writers out there who don’t have a blog and aren’t involve. Here are some things that I learned because of this blog.

I am going to do a few posts on this because I have learned so much, but my first post is all about what Ruta Sepetys has taught me and how I have learned from her.

Ruta Sepetys
It is no surprise that Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors. Between Shades of Gray is such a wonderful book and like Out of the Easy is written with such realism. When I am writing I think to myself “What would Ruta do?” and what she would do is write the truth. So when I am writing and trying to figure something out or exactly how I should write something I always remind myself to write the truth. When mentioning the difference between writing truth and facts, all I can really say is how I feel on it. To me writing the facts is cold. There isn’t a lot of emotion in that. Facts happened, there is no debating them. They are just there. When you write the truth it’s not something that has been predestined. For example, in Between Shades of Gray the people around Lina die during their term at the labor camps. Ruta Sepetys could have made these people non-essential people in Lina’s life, she could have made Lina aware of their deaths and they effect her because it means other Lithuanians are dying. The truth of the matter is, in a story like Between Shades of Gray, it is important to show the truth of situation that Lina is in and kill off the people that she is close too. So, I have learned from Ruta, write the truth no matter what. It won’t be the glamorous happy ending that your readers want, but it is the real one. Write the truth.

Ruta and I

Another thing that I learned through Ruta Sepetys are the things I learned at the SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference in September. Ruta Sepetys has been a champion for this organization, mentioned it in countless interviews, and talked about it to me numerous times. So when the opportunity came to attend the Mid-South conference in September I would have pushed people out of the way to get there. That leads me to the first thing I learned, go to a writing conference. I write Young Adult so the SCBWI is perfect for me because it is a conference tailored for my age group.
I have always been a really solitary writer. I didn’t talk about it to anyone, I always felt like it wasn’t something not to talk about. It wasn’t something to be proud of. It took me a while to get over that. When I went to this conference it was the most amazing feeling in the entire world. I was in a hotel filled with writers going to classes with people who have the same interests. My biggest fear going in was that everyone was going to be scary and competitive over their works. What I actually discovered was a bunch of people who wanted to support me and my dreams. Every person there was so wonderfully supportive and all the writers wanted to help each other out. What I also loved was that the authors, agents, and editors that attended wanted us to succeed. Wow. That was such an incredible feeling. I highly suggest attending a writers conference like that and if your age group fits into a SCBWI age group then I would suggest attending that conference. It was life changing.

Another really important thing I learned at this conference was through my very first session of the day. It was taught by Tracy Barrett. She taught us to show, don’t tell. When I sat there listening to this session I thought I understood it. I sat there and nodded right along with the other attendees. It wasn’t until this month, months after attending the conference, that I finally realized what that meant. Because it took me so long to actually figure it out, and it was only through writing, I think that it is something that each individual writer really needs to figure out for themselves. But remember to always keep it in the back of your mind and when you realize what it means to your writing it will be on a continuous chant in your head while you’re writing. Show don’t tell.