Naturally the UCW has been all agog over WIFYR. And sadly, I was not able to attend this year (sigh). But it got me thinking about all of the inspiration I've received from writing groups and conferences over the years. One speech given last year at WIFYR by Stephen Fraser, a literary agent from Jennifer De Chiara Lit Agency, has really stuck with me.
What he essentially talked about was the importance of following your inner compass.
At many conferences and at many writing classes, the fear for most not-yet-published writers is to look like an unpublished writer. To look like an amateur. So a zillion classes are given about what the "rules" of publishing are: exactly how long each genre should be, exactly how it should be written, exactly what most publishers are looking for ....
I don't know about you, but I always bristle at these boxes and labels and rules. My hand is the one that shoots up every time with the every annoying "But why?" (Yep, I'm still that kid in class.) Why do books with beautiful illustrations have to be for three-year-olds? Why do characters in middle grade books have to use pop-culture vernacular? Why can't a picture book have 1500 words? Why ...? Why ...? Why ...?
There are many reasons to follow many of the rules. But the answer usually given to me is always the least satisfying: Because publishers know that X sells because that is what has sold.
But Fraser pointed out the importance of being the first. You never know if your version of breaking the rules could be the one that starts a new trend.
Who knew sparkly vampires would be irresistible until it was done? Who thought that mixing fairy tale archetypes into a hodgepodge world based on Greek mythology and Joseph Campbell-like folklore would capture the fascination of young readers in today's pop culture ... until it was done? Who knew that rewriting classics using monsters would be a "thing"? Who said Death could be a popular narrator?
And this viewpoint came from a well-known literary agent who had previously worked at such publishing houses as HarperCollins, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster. In other words, a guy who is looking to publish rule-breakers. There are those in the publishing industry that can think outside of the highly organized, very rigid box of publishing.
And they are looking for writers like you and me.
This fact has probably given me more strength and determination to keep writing than any I've received.
So break it. The rule. The narrative arc. The law. The genre. The stylebook. The mold. The norm.
Take that idea of yours that just doesn't fit and run with it.
Write it from your soul. Be the one to do what hasn't yet been done.