I was humbled at WIFYR, to say the least, not only by what other people have done and how well they write, but also by how much there is for me to do. And I'm sure other people remember different things from conference, depending on what their challenges are, but here's what I need to work on: STRUCTURE.
I think the structure of some books can be easier than for others, but in every case, writing a novel is different than other writing, not just because it's fiction, but because your readers expect a certain order. There are certain rules. Yes, rules can be broken (and that's how different structures were created), but you have to know what you're doing if you're going to break those rules, and your novel's content has to match the structure. It has to make some kind of sense, somehow.
In my case, the two novels I'm working on are completely different, and in both cases, the content demands some unconventional structure. In my Rocky book, I had to completely change the structure once I realized who the reader was that my character kept talking to. Plus I wanted to add in some fights, because what kind of Rocky book doesn't have boxing? In my Alzheimer's book (which is, or was, about halfway done its first draft), I have to jump around in time a lot because Alzheimer's is a progressive disease. While many YA novels take place over a summer or even a school year, that's not really an option for me.
So I need to ask myself over and over again, does the structure work here? Or is it so contrived that it draws attention to itself? I got some good ideas from WIFYR, and then I took some of each of them to my critique group, who built on those ideas and gave me even better ones.
It will take a lot of work, but I think my novels will be much better for the changes *tears her hair out*. Really, it will. I can rearrange everything I've written and add half a novel of scenes that happen in between what I've already got.
I'll keep you posted. If I'm still breathing under all that paper.