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Posts from the ‘Science fiction novelist’ Category

Using Movies And TV As Inspiration For Novels, by Beth Revis

I love movies. Unreservedly. I think movies are a great place to look for inspiration, particularly when you’re writing for teens. Teen literature needs dynamic characters (i.e. characters who change) and a fast-paced plot – two of the main ingredients that work for movies.

When I find myself knocking on the door of inspiration, there are a few movies and TV shows that I tend to go straight to.

Firefly/Serenity

I owe this television series-turned-movie by Joss Whedon so much. It has everything: changing characters, snappy dialogue and a tight plot that is perfectly structured. Honestly? We probably can’t be friends if you don’t like Firefly.

Doctor Who

This is a great show to go to for ideas. Seriously. It has so. freaking. much. in it that you’ll definitely be able to come up with some of your own ideas just by watching it. In the average Doctor Who episode, there are about ten more plot twists than are needed – take one of those and develop a whole story from it.

Veronica Mars

Dialogue. Dialogue. When you need to make your characters sound right, watch an episode of Veronica Mars. Runners-up: Gossip Girl and Tangled.

How To Train Your Dragon

This animated movie might be easily overlooked, but don’t. It’s brilliant. I love how smart the whole story is, from showing the growing relationships (as opposed to telling), developing character growth and just telling a great story. You need to see this one.

Becoming Jane

I feel obliged to include a James McAvoy title. This is a great one to remind you that you shouldn’t make everything perfect in your story. Don’t be afraid to show that happily ever after don’t always happen. Runner-up: Roman Holiday.

Penelope

Here’s another James McAvoy title, just for you! I love this one for sheer delight but, as a writer, I also appreciate the world building here. You have a character, Penelope, whose life and world are directly connected in a very real way. When you need to make something odd fit into your story, look at how Penelope did it. Runner-up: Shrek.

What are some of your favorites? What do you learn and discover from movies?

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Beth Revis’s author website: www.bethrevis.com

Beth Revis’s bio page

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Across the UniverseA Million Suns (Across the Universe)Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)    Code Name VerityWinter TownKeeping CornerTarzan: The Greystoke Legacy

Writing Teen Novels
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Techniques For Overcoming Writer’s Block, by Beth Revis

Writer’s block is a common malady – or is it? I always struggle when people ask me what I do for writer’s block, because I don’t think I’ve ever really felt it. I’ve gotten stuck, yeah, but I’ve not gotten truly blocked. So, on this subject, my first instinct is to analyze what’s wrong. I think, however, being blocked or stuck is individual to each author. For me, when I’m stuck, it means I’ve gone down the wrong path in writing and I need to backtrack and figure out what the story should be. So, the first step is to figure out what your individual problem is. In most cases, however, what’s needed to get over writer’s block is a few simple steps.

1) Identify the problem: In some cases, being stuck means you’re just bored. Find a way to spice the story up – if you’re bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it. In other cases, being stuck means that your characters have come to an impossible situation – or just the wrong one. Solving this will mean backtracking, possibly restarting the whole novel. Really sit down and brainstorm where things started to go wrong – then you can identify how to fix it.

2) Change methods: I usually write on my computer, but when I get stuck, I switch to a legal notepad and a good pen. Something about switching the method in which I write gets the words flowing. Sometimes I just write out a “mind map” – just ideas, linked with arrows. Eventually, I start writing the scene – and when I get to the point where I can’t write fast enough by pen, I can go to the computer and pick the story back up.

3) Change location: This is my other secret to success. If I’m not writing well, I change location. At home, I tend to write either on the couch or at my desk. If I peter out on the couch, I move my laptop to the desk, and vice-versa. But if I’m really stuck, I will often leave the house entirely – a coffee shop is a safe bet, or, if the weather’s good, I’ll go outside. Going somewhere else to write puts you in the mindset that when you get there, you need to write – and so you do.

Stop writer’s block before it starts: A lot of time, for me, I get stuck because I’m lazy. This is usually when I’m at a hard part to write, or when I feel tapped out. In order to stop myself from getting to that point, I do these two things:

1) Use a timer: When the going gets tough, the tough get a timer. This is a trick I picked up from PJ Hoover, author of Solstice. I use just a simple egg timer – I tend to set it for about an hour. During that hour, internet’s off. The only thing I can do is sit in front of my computer. Stare, if that’s all I can handle. But usually, that gets words going.

2) End mid-scene: Another trick I picked up from someone else (but I can’t remember who!) is to stop writing for the day before I run out of steam. Don’t end the chapter or scene you’re working on – leave it a little bit before you finish. Then you can easily pick back up the next day.

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Beth Revis’s author website: www.bethrevis.com

Beth Revis’s bio page

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Across the UniverseA Million Suns (Across the Universe)Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)    In Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's StorySaraswati's WayDeadly Little Voices (a Touch Novel) (Touch Novels)Angel Dust

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Sci Fi Novels For Teens, by Beth Revis

When I first finished Across the Universe, one of the first things I did was head to my local bookstore and ask for comp titles (titles that I could compare to my own). My bookstore had only a handful of examples to show me – The Host, Ender’s Game, and… that was it. Fortunately, Young Adult science fiction (or YA sci fi) is definitely changing and is certainly on the rise.

If you’re like me and always on the look out for new YA sci fi, here are a few recommendations to get you on your way:

  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner. This is one of my favorite reads of the year, and it’s stunningly gorgeous. This novel is told from multiple points of view, alternating between a teenage war hero and a pampered rich girl, both of whom are stranded on a planet after an interstellar space ship crashes. With a brilliant twist at the end that made me nearly fall out of my chair, you won’t be able to put this one down.
  • For Darkness Shows The Stars by Diana Peterfreund. This is my only recommendation today that still takes place on Earth – a far-into-the-future Earth where mankind’s recovering from its own destruction. And the best part? This one’s based on Jane Austen. I bet you didn’t see that coming! Be sure to check out the sequels, which are picking up other stories from the past and putting them in a modern, sci fi world.
  • Black Hole Sun by David McInnis Gill. This is definitely a sure bet for any teen boys and reluctant readers in your life. This novel is all about the action – on a different planet, in a world that will appeal to fans of Firefly.
  • Starglass by Phoebe North. This debut novel will definitely make you think. I’m still in love with a scene near the beginning where main character Terra finds a message carved into a tree – a tree on the generational spaceship in the middle of space.
  • If you’re more into short stories, there are two dystopian anthologies out now: After, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, and Shardes & Ashes, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong. While not strictly sci fi, these anthologies do have some sci fi stories (and all the stories incorporate a futuristic, dystopian world). With a large variety of stories in each anthology, you can’t go wrong.
  • There are also my own space sci-fi books, the Across the Universe trilogy.

As you can see, there’s a wide array of sci fi on the market now – it’s one of the fastest-growing genres in the YA field. Be sure to check out these and many more titles.

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Beth Revis’s author website: www.bethrevis.com

Beth Revis’s bio page

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Across the UniverseA Million Suns (Across the Universe)Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)    SparkDark Hunter (Villain.Net)The RepossessionCode Name Verity

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

How To Find A Literary Agent, by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Based on the writers I’ve known, there are four basic ways to find an agent:

1. Query an agent through Literary Marketplace, or another reference book that lists agents who are accepting solicitations. Write up a very polished letter, no more than a page or so, in which you describe your book, say why it has commercial appeal, tell the agent why you are contacting her in particular to show you’ve done your research, and if that agency says you can do so in their submission guidelines, send in the first chapter of your book. Repeat a few dozen times until you find an agent who wants to take you on. This is how I got my first agent, who managed to sell my first book before we parted ways for mutual reasons, and though the partnership didn’t last, I’ll be forever grateful to her.

2. Go to a writing conference and pitch your book to an agent. This is how I got my second agent. I met her in person, we had a certain simpatico, I showed her the first paragraph of something I was working on, and she said she’d be willing to look at my work. I sent her my novel and she accepted me as her client. The nice thing about finding an agent this way is that most writing conferences aren’t going to invite bum agents to their gig. They want only reputable agents from competitive agencies, so you can be fairly certain that an agent at a conference like this is going to be a real professional. (This isn’t an excuse not to do research of your own, though!)

3. Go through a writer friend you know. If your friend has a good agent and doesn’t mind sharing, you can ask him/her to put in a good word for you. Then write an excellent query letter, and send in a fabulous piece of writing that doesn’t make your friend look bad to her agent. The only problem with this approach is that it can be really hard to get turned down by a friend’s agent, and unless you are super-cool about it, your friendship can be affected.

4. Sell your first novel yourself, then hire an agent to negotiate the contract for you and represent you thereafter. I know two different writers who found their agents this way, but I think this is getting harder to do these days and fewer publishing houses accept un-agented manuscripts.

Finding an agent can be time consuming and difficult, and the task is so daunting that some beginning writers want to skip this step. They do so at their own peril, because if they can’t find an agent who wants to represent their book, they’re going to have an even harder time finding an editor who wants to publish it. In other words, if your work isn’t good enough for an agent, it’s definitely not good enough for an editor. Yet. So if you’re going to put in all that work to make your book good enough, you might as well find someone who can be your business partner and defender. It’s tough out there; it’s good to have someone you can rely to always be on your side.

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Amy Kathleen Ryan’s author website: www.amykathleenryan.com

Amy Kathleen Ryan’s bio page

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GlowSparkVibesZen and Xander Undone    The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-AntoinetteDeadly Little Voices (a Touch Novel) (Touch Novels)Shock Point

Writing Teen Novels
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How To Tell Good Literary Agents From Bad Literary Agents, by Amy Kathleen Ryan

In my previous post, I discussed why a novelist should have an agent. What follows is a step by step process for how to tell the good agents from the bad.

A good agent doesn’t ask for money up front. Every book and magazine on being a writer will tell you this. Everything agents earn from you comes out of sales of your work. Most agents make about 15% on domestic sales and 20% on international sales. I’ve heard some agents are asking for a bit more but this is the basic guideline. Many good agents will also deduct some expenses from your take home pay, for example any travel, postage and long distance costs that were incurred during the sale of your manuscript. My agent does this and I’m okay with it. If someone asks for a “reading fee” or charges you for their editing services up front, I’d be very wary.

A good agent has a list of recent sales to reputable publishers and is capable of landing a decent advance. Most agents will list their clients on their website and you can check there for recent sales but the best way to determine an agent’s negotiating prowess is to buy an inexpensive subscription to The Literary Marketplace, where almost every sale to a publisher is trumpeted with a little code key for how much money the author landed for his/her manuscript. If an agent has gotten a “Significant Deal” or a “Major Deal” for a client within the last few years, you know this agent is capable of successfully running a bidding war. This doesn’t guarantee a bidding war for your work but at least you’ll know it’s a possibility.

A good agent gets good reviews from their clients. Before signing an agency contract, you can ask for references for your agent. I believe most agents are very willing to have current clients speak with prospective clients. You might want to ask things like how long it takes for the agent returns the author’s phone calls and emails, how long the author had to wait for the agent to submit their first book, and how the author would describe the agent’s communication style. I would caution you not to be too stringent with the way you evaluate these answers. A good agent will have a lot of clients and can get very busy, and might not always return calls/emails as promptly as you might wish. Also, I had to wait about six months for my agent to submit the first book I sold with her but I’ve never had to wait that long since. In other words, sometimes a good agent is worth waiting for. Only you can decide how long you’re willing to spend waiting for your agent to get around to you.

But how do you get an agent in the first place? My next post will answer that question. Stay tuned!

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Amy Kathleen Ryan’s author website: www.amykathleenryan.com

Amy Kathleen Ryan’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

   

United Kingdom (and beyond)

   

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Zen and Xander UndoneVibesGlowSpark    The CircleShades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)Code Name Verity

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

What I Did Wrong And What I Did Right On The Way To Becoming A New York Times Bestselling Novelist, by Beth Revis

As some of you know, I wrote ten novels, over the course of ten years, before I wrote Across The Universe, the book that started my career as an author and changed my life. They were…not good. I had to learn how to write, and then I had to learn how to edit and rewrite. And I’m a slow study.

But by the time I got to my tenth novel – the one before Across The Universe – I figured I’d learned enough. I’d been writing professionally for a decade. I’d joined SCBWI. I’d been to conferences, paid for critiques, did everything right. And by God, I was going to get published.

The first thing I did was study the market. I was well read in the genre. I knew what sold. I needed a love triangle. I needed magic. Not vampires – I decided to write witches. And it’s always good to set the story in school, right? Everything I did with that novel was calculated. I needed a mythical creature – not dragons, that was overdone. A chimera, then. I was clever.

Too clever.

That book was the book I wrote with the intent of doing everything right—and the result was that I did it all wrong. That book had no soul. I made the whole thing in an effort to write to the market, to make the perfect book—the book that would sell millions. I did everything right. And that was the worst possible thing I could have done.

After that, I queried the novel. And it was rejected soundly. So I sat down and decided to write something else. Something different. I didn’t care AT ALL about whether it was right or wrong. I only wanted to write the thing that I cared about writing.

I wrote a sci fi novel. It was weird. I wrote in first person present—a POV/tense structure I’d never written before. That was weird, too. And in the end, I realized that I had zero chance of selling this book. There was no market for a weird sci fi. By all accounts and purposes—by my own careful analysis of the market—I’d done everything wrong.

And that ended up being the best possible thing I could do.

That was the book that sold. That was the story that changed my life.

If I can only say one thing to you, it’s this: make mistakes. Do the things you fear. Don’t try to be like everyone else. Care more about the story than the market. Okay, that’s a lot of things. But it all comes down to this: be true to yourself.

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Beth Revis’s author website: www.bethrevis.com

Beth Revis’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

   

United Kingdom (and beyond)

   

Australia (and beyond)

Across the UniverseA Million Suns (Across the Universe)Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)    Deadly Little Secret: A Touch NovelGlowThe Night She DisappearedHold Me Closer, Necromancer

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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