For all of you that read the article on our experience at Teen Author Boot Camp you will know that we will be sharing the notes that we took with all of you. This is the first of our notes featuring keynote speaker, Ally Carter. Author of Heist Society, Uncommon Criminals, and the Gallagher Girls. Seeing as she was a keynote she didn’t have one specific topic to cover and instead gave some pretty great advice on writing in general.
Ally Carter told us of her theory that she named the Garden Hose Theory. This seems a little bit weird at first, but she explained how after a long time of not turning on your hose the water inside is going to be dirty and gross. But after letting it run for a little while it will start to run clear once again. This can be compared to writing in that when you start writing it’s going to start out pretty bad, but as you go one it gets clearer and clearer on what you need to do.
Seeing as she was also speaking to a bunch of teenagers she had to address the “Am I to young to get published?” question. She answered this question by saying that no one cares how old you are as long as you write a good book. All you need to be published is to have a finished book that is good. She also told us that we shouldn’t let our ages speak for us but rather our writing.
Ally Carter told us that the basic things you need for a book is conflict, a main character, a goal, and something preventing the reaching of that goal.
In this modern-day some of us feel like all of our ideas have been done before, and this can be a big downer. In fact Ally Carter experienced this after she went to a hangout with other authors and found out that they had very similar sounding books. But, as they talked more about their books she found out how different they were. She told us how it all just boils down to how you write a book that changes it. Every book is a little different.
She later discussed tropes and clichés. Tropes are devices that authors use to further plots in a familiar fashion, and clichés are overused tropes that are overplayed and predictable. She taught us to not use clichés, but to use tropes sometimes. And when you’re starting to write it helps to lean into tropes more as to help increase your audience at first. She also told us about how people have auto-buy tropes, one of ours here at All The Writing HQ is dragons, anything with dragons has immediately got our attention.
Ally Carter told us that our one job as authors is to find our specific writing process.
Some tips on boring parts in a book were given as well. One of these tips is, to put blatantly, don’t have boring parts. Every part of a book should be driving forward some kind of plot line, it is okay to have rest moments however. One line she gave us is that a scene to boring write, is too boring to read.
A lot of writers have anxiety on starting, and that you just need to start writing. Returning to the Garden Hose Theory you just need to let the water run dirty until it runs clear. And whether you spend that time writing or stressing over writing time is still going to pass. And one important thing to do is just to make a habit out of writing to keep the water running clean.
Tips on editing were also given, but not in the sense you may imagine. She said that time is the best editor. After writing your draft you need to let it rest for a bit so that you can come back later and read it with fresh eyes. And you’ll be able to tell when you’re done. This step away strategy also works for writers block.
One concept she taught us is that sometimes we can get caught up with new ideas, or “New Shinies”, and you want to start that one because you’ve gotten bored of your old story. But, you just need to persist through.
All in all was a great keynote that covered a large array of important topics, and useful tips.
Visit Ally Carter’s website here.