I'd like to see more writing with a strong voice. I probably see too many things that aren't bad -- they're just not outstanding. They don't have a particular personality that stands out and demands to be read. There's a lot of flatness in writing (conferences have a tendency to foster that, by telling prospective authors there is a "right" way to do things), and I'm always interested in the clear, quirky, outstanding voice coming out on the page.
I couldn't agree more that workshops at writers' conferences foster "flatness" in writing by teaching that there is one correct way to write.
I have published only four books, but many people would say I'm qualified to call myself "multi-published" and write articles or teach conference workshops on how to plot, how to write interesting dialogue, how to create believable characters, and so on. But I say I am not qualified to teach those things. I might be able to offer a useful tip here and there, but I'm no authority on what it takes to write a great inspirational romance novel and get it published. Perhaps because I write in a very "organic" way, I couldn't begin to teach anyone how to do what I do. Even if I could, wouldn't you rather write like yourself than like me?
Conferences like RWA and ACFW allow far too many inexperienced, mediocre authors to dispense advice to gullible unpublished writers. Online writers' forums and e-mail loops exacerbate the problem when newbies who have latched onto certain "writing rules" share them with their even-newbier pals and everyone gets caught up in unimportant details. Here are just four of the silly things some writers have come to believe are keys to getting published:
Don't use any dialogue tag but "said", which is invisible to the reader. Other dialogue tags intrude.
Never use adverbs with your dialogue tags.
After you've written the first five chapters, throw Chapter One out and begin your story with Chapter Two. You can't possibly write a good first chapter--you will always put too much backstory in it.
Never use italics. That's weak writing.
There are many more, of course. And as Chip suggests, the more of these rules we all take to heart, the less distinct our individual writing voices will become. That's doubly unfortunate, because you can follow every rule and still not get published.
The real secret to getting published is: Write a ripping good story. Even if you're a little lavish with your adverbs, and if you get silly (as I do) about italicizing words, and if you occasionally write "he opined" or "he sputtered" instead of "he said," and if you break just about every other Writing Rule you so eagerly recorded in your conference notebook while sitting through all those workshops, chances are good that a publishing professional won't care because those are small things, fixable things, and they'll be well worth correcting in order to publish your amazing story.
So if anyone wants some free advice from yet another "multi-published" romance writer, here you go:
Be yourself. Tell your story. And have fun!