That was a quote from the New York Times Bestselling author of Going Bovine, Libba Bray when she gave the opening keynote address at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in New York a couple of weekends ago.
"Just say no to the hot Pterodactyl boyfriend" - that was a key message throughout the conference, and a message that I got in a way that I hadn't before. It's about discovering your true voice and writing what's authentic to you. Don't try to predict the trends (or the stock market or the weather) by the time you write a book with Pterodactyl boyfriends, find a publisher, get a contract, and see it on the shelf - years will have gone by and your hair will be as long as Jocosa of the Earrings'*.
Write what is truly and authentically in your voice and trust that readers will connect on an emotional level to your characters. Publishers are looking for that unique voice that stands out in the slush of the pile.
Some other gems from Libba:
- find the crack in the rock - a deeper understanding of your characters;
- first you jump off the cliff and then you build the wings- if there are no stakes then it is not worth writing - write like it matters to you;
- put some marrow on the page;
- honour your work with honesty - make this the year of writing dangerously, commit to writing with heart and soul, get to the unguarded place where miracles can take place; and (my personal favourite),
- every time you use a cliche the terrorists win.
While you don't want to blindly follow trends, you need to be keenly aware of what's going on in the publishing market. Seems like fantasy is on the wane and dystopia (say what! - yes, I too had to google it!) is on the upswing - don't even get me started about steampunk (this is, apparently, a steampuck spider).
* In a few weeks, I'll be updating you on the state of Jocosa of the Earrings' hair and her submission to the god of agents.
Next post: the Winter Olympics, NY and the climatological conspiracy cracked open!