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Posts tagged ‘American teen novel author’

Inexpensive Ways To Market Your Novels, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Author-driven marketing efforts are more accessible than ever – and you don’t even need to break the bank.  The next few posts on marketing were taken from a marketing packet that fellow author Lara Zeises and I prepared for a conference.

See what you can do for free:

Freebie Marketing:

Design a free Web site.  Try Google Pages or Yahoo! Pages for a sophisticated looking site that’s easy to produce (if you know how to type in Word, you can master this software).  THERE IS NO MORE IMPORTANT MARKETING TOOL THAN A WEB SITE.

Learn to love social media.  Whether you choose to establish yourself on Facebook, LiveJournal, Blogger, Twitter or all of the above, these social media sites are almost as important as web sites these days.  Bonus points if your blog serves a function or has a distinct personality.

Post to listserves/message boards.  It’s a great way to meet other authors and network outside of your local circle.  Be sure to put your web and blog addresses, as well as info about your upcoming releases, in your e-mail ‘signature’.

Work the online bookstores.  Create an Amazon.com “plog” (their version of a blog), or ask friends and fans to post positive reviews on BarnesandNoble.com. Don’t forget Booksense.com, the online presence for indie stores.

Create and send your own email newsletter.  What better way to let everyone know what you’re up to?

Introduce yourself to booksellers and librarians.  They can be your biggest advocates.

Sign stock.  Don’t forget to do this when you travel as well.

Arrange readings/signings.  Your publicist may be able to help with this, but if not, make an appointment to see a community relations rep or local owner where you’d like to do a reading/signing.  Even if two people show up, you’ve forged a connection.

Attend free literary events.  PEN New England’s Children’s Caucus offers awesome opportunities to hear other authors speak in my local area. Also, find out which authors are coming to your local libraries.

Volunteer at conferences.  Often donating your time will grant you access to the conference at a reduced rate.  So not only are you actively involved and meeting new people, you’re reaping the benefits of the conference itself.

Create reading/teacher guides for your book and offer them for download on your web site.  Better yet, seek out a young librarian or new teacher to do the work for you as a portfolio builder.

Donate your goods/services for an auction or charity.  Whether it’s a 10-page critique or signed copies of your book, you’re giving something back and getting your name out there at the same time.

Send a press release to local publications of interest – and don’t forget your alumni magazines.  Often you can get your publicist to send you their version, which you can then tailor for each publication.  Colleges especially love to brag about alumni accomplishments, and you never know who’ll be reading.

Open up an online store on CaféPress.com or Spreadshirt.com.  It doesn’t take a lot of tech savvy to design these promo items.  Get permission to use your book’s cover art, or have an artist pal whip up a logo for the fictional high school in your novel, or use royalty-free clip art. 

Volunteer to speak at a school, library or conference.  It’s a great way to try out new things.

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Laurie Faria Stolarz’s author website: www.lauriestolarz.com

Laurie Faria Stolarz’s bio page

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Writing Teen Novels
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Where My Ideas For Novels Come From, by Beth Revis

Probably one of the most asked questions I have at events is, “where do your ideas come from?”

Honestly? I don’t know.

The ideas for my novels tend to come from a wide variety of places – but mostly a combination of real-life oddities and excellent books and movies.

Really, I guess the answer is: my inspiration tends to come from two words. The two most important words to a writer: “What if?”

I was recently at a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. There are several of these across America. I happened to be in the one in San Antonio. It was filled with lots of weird, true-life things. Every single thing in that museum has a story. When I can’t get to a wacky museum like Ripley’s, I tend to search online – Cracked.com and io9.com are both good places to go for weird-but-true stories. Wikipedia can sometimes also give me the fun info I need, even when I’m not actively searching for a new idea to write, I go to these places and websites and cram as much knowledge into my brain as possible – you never know when you can use a random tidbit or detail to make an existing story better. In my latest novel, Shades of Earth, I used info from my elementary school history class as a reference.

Another great place to go for inspiration is books. I read the types of books I want to write. Not every author agrees with this idea, but I live by it. Do you want to write fantasy? Read fantasy. Do you want to write romance? Read romance. When you read something you love, think about why you love it. You shouldn’t emulate it. You should find the heart of what you like. If you read something you don’t like, think of what would make it better. One of my best short stories happened because I didn’t like the end of a book I’d read – so I rewrote a story that did what I would have done in the ending.

There is no one source of inspiration. A writer doesn’t just turn the inspiration on and off. Instead, constantly seek inspiration. Find out as much as you can about everything that interests you. Stories arise from a fertile mind, nurtured with real life.

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

Beth Revis’s bio page

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Writing Teen Novels
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Writing Dialogue In Teen Novels, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

I love writing dialogue and spend a great deal of time trying to get it right to make my characters sound like real teens.  I watch TV shows targeted to teens, eavesdrop on their conversations, read teen books and magazines, listen to the audio version of teen books, etc. – all in an effort to perfect the art of teen-speak.  While teen-speech (or any speech, for that matter) can be sloppy – people leave out words, compress phases into single words, use contractions and habitual phrases, make mistakes, etc., etc. – dialogue is highly planned.  Every line must have purpose and reason.  Just like a film gives the illusion of motion, dialogue gives the illusion of conversation, but it isn’t real.  It appears spontaneous, but it’s planned.  It appears chaotic and unexpected, but it’s reasoned and highly controlled.  Characters must have a reason for talking.  We may have to put up with real people who talk about nothing, but we don’t have to put up with characters who do the same.  I used to teach an online workshop with fellow author Lara Zeises.  Here are some of the dialogue rules that we created.

Dialogue should fulfill the following roles in the manuscript:

1) advance the plot

2) reveal character

3) reveal motivation

4) substitute narrative and

5) establish tone or mood.

If the dialogue doesn’t fill one of these criteria, then it probably can be removed without adversely affecting the story.

Some common mistakes

1. Overusing synonyms for the word “said” (cried, howled, bellowed, whispered, stated, replied, voiced, expressed, vented, responded, uttered, shouted, vocalized, asserted, declared…) – most readers don’t register the word “said”, so when you do use a special tag like “whispered” it really stands out.

2. Being too true to the way people speak (adding “um”, “like”, etc.) – unless adding an occasion or two of “like” really fits the character’s voice in a particular situation.

3. Using too much dialect.

4. Sounding too stilted or formal.

5. Using people’s names too often in conversations.

6. Losing track of who said what (that’s what speech tags are for!).

7. Unclear pronoun references (If there are three men in a room and you say “he,” which “he” are you referring to?).

8. Conversations where characters tell each other what they already know.

9. Having a character talk about things they wouldn’t normally discuss.

10. Long, boring speeches to provide information to the reader.  Show versus tell applies to dialogue as well as narrative.  Having a character tell something is still telling.

11. Busywork (when a character answers the phone, don’t have them say, “Hello”, “How are you?” etc – jump into the meat of the conversation.

12. Making all characters sound alike (or worse, making all of the characters sound just like YOU).

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Laurie Faria Stolarz’s author website: www.lauriestolarz.com

Laurie Faria Stolarz’s bio page

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Writing Teen Novels
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Should You Self-Publish Your Book? by Paul Volponi

I’m probably asked over 50 times a year by writers who have met with nothing but frustration when it comes to getting published through traditional avenues, “Should I self-publish?” Well, I don’t really have the answer. Just an opinion. That opinion is, “It all depends.”

Perhaps you are a cook who does many cooking demonstrations over the course of a year in front of a live audience and you have a passion to write a cook book. Maybe your audience has already asked you for one, saying how they’d love to own something like that as a resource. However, no publisher wants to back you in such a project. In that case, not only do I think that self-publishing (actually printing the book yourself without a vanity publishing company) is the way to go, I’d highly recommend it. Why? You already have the audience. Why shouldn’t you make all the profit after printing costs, which can be surprisingly small per book? Also, I presume the book would have a long shelf-life, allowing you to sell that first print-run for years to come.

Now, let’s look at the question from a very different angle. Let’s say you write teen novels or poetry and are wondering about going the self-publishing route. I would be very much against it. For one, you probably don’t have an audience yet. No matter what an unsavory vanity publishing company promises you about promotion (usually sending out postcards for an upcoming release), they won’t find you an audience. Also, librarians and teachers around the country won’t consider buying your book because they won’t know about it. Yes, there are stories about authors who self-published, arranged their own book signings and sold copies out of the trunks of their cars to cultivate an audience. Then, those grassroots sales (along with some very good writing, I presume) got a publisher’s attention, brining them a deal for their next book. I also understand that some lottery tickets bought do win, but trying to become a success story can be a heavy load for a writer to be burdened with.

I think this is the real question for novelists and poets to ask themselves before considering self-publishing: “Why do I want to be published?” If the answer is that you want a personal record of what you have created to be bound for your friends and family, I would never argue against it. If your ultimate goal is to cultivate an audience and draw attention to your good work, then self-publishing is almost certainly not the way to go.

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Paul Volponi’s author website: www.paulvolponibooks.com

Paul Volponi’s bio page

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Writing Teen Novels
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Writing Teen Novels With Timeless Appeal, by Diane Lee Wilson

Lists of “favorite teen novels” usually include several “hot” titles that will only be lukewarm in another few years and may eventually drop off new favourite lists completely. Yet decades can go by and one finds that certain teen titles continue to claim a spot on these lists of favorites. What makes a teen novel timeless rather than trendy?

I’m fortunate to be good friends with Patty Campbell, a career librarian, author, and critic, and well-known champion of young adult literature. She is the 2001 recipient of the ALAN award given by the National Council of Teachers of English for “outstanding contributions to the field of adolescent literature” and the 1989 recipient of the Grolier award given by the American Library Association for “distinguished service to young adults and reading.” I decided to seek her opinion on what makes certain teen novels transcend time.

Her initial answer to my question was, “A timeless young adult novel is one that is in touch with the times; it’s the right book for the time.” She mentioned Forever by Judy Blume as a novel that meets those criteria. Published in 1975, Blume’s novel deals quite openly with teen sexuality, and some 35 years later is still a target of censorship. “With the sexual awakening that was taking place in America in the 70s,” says Patty, “the book was perfect for opening that taboo topic to teens. It got them talking. I think that’s another characteristic of a timeless novel: it marks a significant change in history.”

Campbell went on to ponder the possibility that a teen novel of sufficient literary quality and critical praise will enshrine it for posterity, and concludes otherwise. While she agreed that skillful writing is preferable to the opposite, she believes that, “Literary quality alone is not necessarily enough, nor is winning awards.” She laughed then, adding, “And teacher acceptance is certainly not an indicator of a classic,” mentioning a few “teacher’s favorite” titles and shaking her head. “Awful.”

Ultimately, she said, a timeless teen novel “has to have that quality that kids take to their hearts.” She brought up S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, published back in 1967. Upon its 40th anniversary, a review in the New York Times by author Dale Peck acknowledged the book’s “sometimes workmanlike prose” but went on to say that not only did The Outsiders change the way young adult fiction was written, it “changed the way teenagers read as well, empowering a generation to demand stories that reflected their realities.” Patty concurred. “Although it was published so many years ago, this book resonates with kids even today. My own grandson fell in love with it and couldn’t wait to talk about it with me. A timeless book seems to be a rite of passage for its readers; it marks a certain level of maturity, a broader understanding of how the world works.”

I know my own daughter encountered that novel only a few years ago and was moved by it. Having missed it during my own adolescence, I sat down to read it, too, and enjoyed it, finding it fast-paced and believable. The story definitely had an authenticity to it, which is understandable since the author was still in her teens when she wrote it.

“A timeless novel,” said Patty at the end of our conversation,“is all about making that connection with the reader. It’s about fine writing and touching something in kids, reaching the young adult heart.”

Here’s to writing that novel that resonates with the teens of today… and tomorrow!

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Diane Lee Wilson’s author website: www.dianeleewilson.com

Diane Lee Wilson’s bio page

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Writing Teen Novels
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Plotting A Novel Versus Winging It, by Diane Lee Wilson

I began my first novel not really knowing what I was doing. In a burst of inspiration, I scribbled a few opening sentences on a piece of paper and gradually turned that into a short first chapter. Then I started a second chapter. And it went on from there. Whenever I finished a chapter I would ask myself: What has to happen next? I was never quite sure. I wanted to move the story along and I had a vague idea where I wanted the story to end up, but the middle was unknown territory.

Did that work? Yes, I’m happy to say that it did. With the help of my agent I sold that novel to a respected publishing house. Soon after, about the time I was doing my rewriting based on my newly assigned editor’s comments, I came across a book entitled The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters by Christopher Vogler. In this book, Vogler mapped each stage of a well-constructed novel or film. Oh, no. What if I’d done it all wrong?

I read the book cover to cover and loved it, happy to find that I’d intuitively followed the basic structure for good storytelling. And I recommend this book to aspiring novelists. It shed new understanding on the roles played by archetypal characters and explained the different “acts” inherent in most stories. I also adopted a few tips for making future stories stronger.

But here’s where I slipped: When I began my second novel I didn’t follow my intuition. I used Vogler’s outline to create a “perfect” story arc. I sat on my living room floor and, with an idea in my head, filled out 3”x5” cards with sequential segments of the story. I then slavishly followed those cards to write my story. And when this novel was completed I felt it was somewhat lifeless. In my opinion, it lacked the spark that arises from seat-of-your-pants inspiration.

Each of my subsequent novels has been conceived and written like my first one. I’m aware of classic story structure and the archetypes that appear in most stories, but I rely more on my intuition to keep my reader turning the pages. At times, if I’m stuck in my progress, I might pick up The Writer’s Journey for a little inspiration. I’ll be reminded of the tension created when a hero fails a few times, or the suspense lent by a “shapeshifter” character. Then I’ll set the book down and return to my writing.

I’ve spoken to authors who have found success writing from a detailed outline but that doesn’t work for me. I simply begin each novel introducing a teen character with a problem. I know where he or she needs to end up; I just don’t know how that will happen. I also don’t know how much the character will change or develop over the course of the story – and that’s part of the fun of writing without a map: I wake up in the morning wondering what will happen in the story today!

So my words of advice would be: familiarize yourself with good storytelling, whether that’s through studying manuals or just reading the works of accomplished authors, but then sit down and tell your story YOUR way, the way you see it in your head. That’s when the magic happens.

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Diane Lee Wilson’s author website: www.dianeleewilson.com

Diane Lee Wilson’s bio page

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Writing Teen Novels
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Editing A Novel: The Necessary Evil, by Lish McBride

If you have ever read any interview I’ve done or any blog post I’ve written before, then I’m positive that you’ve heard me whine about editing.

I hate it.

I hate it so much that I want to stab things.

With spoons.

Then I want to rub salt into the wounds and deny them antibiotics when the wounds become infected.

Last time I complained on Twitter about editing my friend, and author, John Connolly (we’re friends, John, whether you like it or not) said, “What I admire most is your stoicism.” (Or something like that.) John’s little way of telling me to stop whining, because really I was being a big baby. Editing is part of my job and I need to suck it up.

But that’s what editing does – it reduces me to a tantrum-throwing child. Why does it do this, you ask? Is it because I disagree with my editor or think my novel is perfect? Absolutely not. I have been blessed with amazing editors. Not only have they been kind and gentle folk but they have also been really good at their job.

My current editor, Noa Wheeler, has always been great about reminding me that I can always argue with her, but the thing is I generally never want to. Sometimes I’ll come up with a different solution to a narrative problem that’s been voiced, but that’s about it. Every draft that my editor touches gets better. She’s good at her job and she’s amazing at seeing what I want to do. If she doesn’t immediately get what I’m going for, she asks me questions until she does. So no, I have no beef with my editor. I’m also lucky enough to have a hands on agent who does revisions with me as well.  (And I’m sure the idea of my producing a perfect and clean manuscript has him howling. He likes to point out all my typos and errors.)

And I most certainly pretty much never think my books are perfect. I work on them until none of us can look at them anymore and then we send them out into the world. Most writers would continue to fiddle with their books until the end of time if given the option, and publishers just can’t wait that long.

Editing is totally necessary. My books would be bad without it. So why do I hate it so much, then? I think it’s mostly because editing frustrates me. I don’t get the same sort of emotional exercise or whatever I get when I’m writing. For whatever reason, writing acts as a mood stabilizer for me. If I don’t write for a few weeks my family is basically shoving me back to my laptop. I become a huge, high-strung jerk. Believe me, it’s not pretty.

When I edit, that stabilizing effect doesn’t happen and it adds to my frustration of working on the same page over and over again and knowing that I’m not getting it quite right. I write another project while I’m editing, if I can, but that isn’t always an option.

There are some writers who love editing. They reserve the joy I have for first drafts for the editing process. They all seem like nice, well-adjusted people, so I feel like I shouldn’t tell them that they’re wrong, even if I think deep down that they are. When I tell them that editing, to me, feels like running in wet sand – a whole lot of energy expended and very little movement – they look at me funny. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

No matter what kind of writer you are, though, editing is always necessary. No one writes a perfect first draft. No one. So buck up, little camper, because you’re in for the long haul. I’ll give you a little example of how things work for me when writing and editing a novel:

  • Write draft.
  • Send to agent. He sends me edits. I rewrite draft. (Repeat process 3-5 times)
  • Cry. (Not really. Usually I just growl and complain, but most people cry, I think.)
  • Both of you throw up your hands and send it to your editor.
  • Editor calls you and you discuss the changes necessary and come up with a plan of action. (This stage is also generally repeated several times.)
  • Finally, you can move on to the next stage—hard copy of your book with notes from editor and copy editor. This stage is also repeated.
  • Manuscript is accepted for copyediting! Do a dance of happiness! Try not to think about the fact that you’ll have a few rounds of copyediting to do. Just dance instead.
  • Book has been formatted and looks great. Now copyedit it.  Again. And possibly, again.
  • Suppress urge to burn your novel.
  • The book is done! And if you’re like me, you’ll probably never want to read it again. You’ll just want to look at the shiny cover.

The stage where I edit with my agent might just be your own editing or editing with a group of beta readers. Also, my last book got kicked out of copyediting by marketing, which I didn’t know could happen, and so I had to repeat a few steps. All in all, I usually do 8-10 drafts of a novel. I’m a sloppy writer, though. You might take less. You might need more. It takes as many as it takes. I suggest getting one of those little stress balls. And maybe you should start jogging or something. You’re going to need it.

Homework: Look up your favorite authors and see what they have to say about editing. (Holly Black has a great blog post where she shows you a page diary of a book that she’s working on and it shows you how many times she deleted her work. It’s strangely comforting.) Many of them will talk about the drafting process and how hard it can be – and how necessary. Hearing other people’s stories can give you hope when facing your own editing woes. You’re not alone, friend. They might offer great tips as well. They might also tell you when you need to say no to an editor. I have a sweet deal with mine – we’re in sync, but that isn’t always the case. A poorly matched editor can do more damage than good on a manuscript, so keep that in mind. That being said, just because you don’t agree with an editing note it doesn’t mean it isn’t right. My agent likes to point this out to me all the time when I finally realize that he’s right about something. He’s nice about it, though.

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Lish McBride’s author website: www.lishmcbride.com

Lish McBride’s bio page

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