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Posts tagged ‘American writer of teen novels’

Marketing Your Teen Novel On A Small Budget, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

If you read my post last month on inexpensive ways to market your novel you learned how you can promote your work for free.  If you have a promotional budget set aside – even a smallish one – here are some options for how you can stretch your marketing dollar.

$100:

Order some business cards.  They’re cheap and worth every penny.

Bookmarks.  Some authors swear by them.  If you’re especially savvy, you’ll print part of a reading group guide on the back.

Speaking of guides …. Print up some copies of your teacher and reading group guides and mail/distribute where appropriate.

Bookplates: You can purchase inexpensive sticky labels from the business supply store and design some with the included software.  Great for school visits and responding to fan mail.

Bring candy to signings.  Nothing encourages Q&A more than a sugary treat.

$250:

Beef up your website.  Purchase some economical do-it-yourself software and register your domain name.

Join SCBWI and attend regional conference.  See, you’re ahead of the game!

Make up press kits and mail as needed.  Carry extras with you – they come in handy!

Order postcards and send to indie booksellers, librarians, reviewers, etc.  This can potentially blow your budget, so always ask your publisher if they’d mind paying for postage.  You get the added benefit of their mailing list!

Create speaking brochures and mail to schools and libraries.  Speaking gigs get your name out, help sell books and (ideally) act as supplemental income.

$500:

Throw a launch party for your book.  You’ll definitely need to keep it on a shoestring budget, but this is a great opportunity to get the word out about your new book.  Ask an indie bookseller to work the event (or provide the space) and be sure to invite any teachers and librarians you’ve befriended.

Take some influential people to lunch.  Identify some of the kid-lit leaders in your community.  Ask them if they’d mind letting you pick their brain for ideas of how to be more involved.  Once you both start talking shop, you never know what opportunities can become available for you and your work.

Make your own creative book-themed giveaway.  Take them to your events, and make sure to send some to your editor.

Commission a book trailer.  This is the hottest new promotional tool, and it costs way less than you think (hint: with the right software, you can even make it yourself!).  Upload the clip to MySpace and YouTube.  Announce its launch on listservs and blogs.

Create a podcast.  Buy a microphone for your computer and record away!  Podcasts can be uploaded to iTunes for free and are another way to beef up your web content.

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

Laurie Faria Stolarz’s bio page

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Deadly Little SecretDeadly Little Voices (a Touch Novel) (Touch Novels)Project 17Silver is for Secrets     Saraswati's WayRikers High

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Using Varied Narrative Styles And Formats In A Novel, by Paul Volponi

Choosing a type of narration is always interesting for a novelist. I usually have my characters tell their story in the first-person. I feel it brings intimacy to a novel. After all, the main character will be able to describe every sensation himself or herself in a very personal, and hopefully moving, way. I think you need a certain comfort level with your story to attempt this. For fledgling teen novel writers, a first-person narration may provide a better shot at publication. Why? Consider this: We are used to telling our own stories to people in conversation. We’ve had a lot of practice at it over the course of our lives. So maybe we are the most naturally polished at first-person narration.

In Rikers High, I have Martin Stokes, a.k.a. Forty (named after his bed number) narrate in the first-person so he can describe the fear and anger of a teen stuck in a school inside the world’s largest jail. When I wrote Black and White, however, the story of two best friends who commit a crime together and experience different legal outcomes, I needed two people to feel things first-hand. So I decided on two first-person narrators telling their story in alternating chapters. Several years later, I wrote The Final Four, which centers on the lives of four basketball players in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. There, four first-person narrators would have been too much, so I needed to establish a new third-person voice for myself. Also, by this time, I had slowly started to experiment with other types of narrative devices, including the interjection of newspaper articles within my novels, along with dialogue scenes written in play format. In relation to this, I decided to write The Final Four as if the reader was not only riding shotgun over our players’ shoulders, but also hearing the game on radio, getting TV updates, seeing player interviews, and reading that day’s newspaper preview articles about a game that was taking place in the moment.

My advice? Don’t be afraid to create your own mixed bag of narration. Don’t ever feel boxed-in. Use your judgment as to whether your narration, no matter which style you choose, might be enhanced by mixing styles of narration. This might provide the reader with a fresh perspective and interesting breaks before going back to the novel’s main format.

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

Paul Volponi’s bio page

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Rikers HighRooftopBlack and WhiteHurricane Song     Deadly Little Voices (a Touch Novel) (Touch Novels)The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)Raven Speak

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Developing Good Writing Habits, by Kashmira Sheth

Unless we are fortunate enough to write full time, finding time to do can be as elusive as catching a dream with a butterfly net. I remember talking about writing for many years before I actually sat down and did it. Something or another was always more important to do than my writing. There was taking care of my children, cooking, cleaning and gardening, so everyday I told myself, I will write tomorrow. For a long time that tomorrow never came.

My writing is important to me. I knew that even before I wrote my first story, because I kept thinking about it. One morning I decided that unless I wrote 500 words I wasn’t going to do anything else that day. I wasn’t even going to shower. Writing had to be a sacred duty that had to be performed before I could do anything else. That idea really helped me get started.

Here are some suggestions for finding writing time that have worked well for me.

Start with a word count

Decide how many words you can write per day and stick to it. For me, the 500-word rule has worked well. 500 words fill up 2 pages and no matter how busy I am I can find time to write those pages. If starting to write was difficult, keeping up with 500 words has been easier. The word-count rule is better than committing to write for two hours. In those two hours you may answer your email, surf the internet, talk on the phone, and still feel like you have fulfilled your two hours.  In contrast, the word count is results-oriented.

Stop in the middle

One trick that I have heard other writers use, and have used myself, is to end the day’s writing in the middle of a scene. That way it is easy to pick up and finish the scene the next day, and then start a new scene. If the scene is long, it can even take a few days to complete.

Try to write at the same time each day

If you keep some kind of writing schedule it makes it easy to get to your writing. When you are making other appointments, commitments or social plans, you know that between 10 and 12:00 it won’t work.  This rule makes it easy to keep writing time special, and to remember to write every day.

Disconnect from everything else

Turn off your internet, phones, and other devices: This is easier said than done, but if you don’t check your email and answer your phone during your writing time you can reach your goal of 500 or even a 1,000 words much faster.

Get up to walk or stretch

This may seem like it’s working against writing but it is good to get up and move about a bit. Sometimes, just throwing a load of laundry in the washer or vacuuming a room can help move the blood in your body. In the spring I like to take a walk in my yard for a few minutes to see what is coming up in the garden.

No rules against writing more

If you find that you are on a roll, keep on writing. There is no rule against writing more than your daily word quota.

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Kashmira Sheth’s author website: www.kashmirasheth.com

Kashmira Sheth’s bio page

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Keeping CornerBoys without Names     Hold Me Closer, NecromancerRooftopDeadly Little Secret

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Research For Writing Novels, by April Henry

It bothers me when I read something in a book that I know is wrong. Wrong and able to be Googled by readers. I started writing before the internet, or at least before a widely available internet, when it was not quite so easy to check things out. Fifteen years ago, I felt more comfortable just guessing or making stuff up. No longer.

So in the last few days I have spent time finding out:

• Do red-tailed hawks eat road kill? (If fresh, yes).

• Does Oregon pay for braces for kids in foster care? (No.)

• What time are trial advocacy classes at the University of Washington? (Late afternoon.)

• What testimony did the original grand jury hear in the Phoebe Prince case? (Actually, I couldn’t find that, which makes sense. Grand jury testimony is sealed. Still I would like to know more.)

One of the absolute best parts about my job as a mystery and thriller writer is doing research. In the last year, I’ve:

• Pulled out everything from underneath my kitchen sink, crawled into the space and taken a picture to prove to one of my editors that yes, a body would fit under there.

• Asked my kajukenbo instructor to drag me across the room, his hands underneath my arms, so that together we could figure out how a character could fight and get away. (You can see what happens in The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die.)

• Talked to a bioweapons expert about how my bad guys might infect hundreds of people with hantavirus. (Again, for The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die.)

• Faced down armed muggers, home invaders, crazy people and robbers – all while armed with a modified Glock that uses lasers instead of real bullets. I did this at a firearms training simulator facility (the only one like it in the world that is open to civilians) which, lucky me, is just 20 minutes from my home. You interact with life-sized scenarios filmed in HD. The scenarios change depending on what you say (for example, “Hands in the air!”) and where your shots hit (a shot that disables versus one that injures). Meanwhile, the bad guys are shooting back. If you choose – and I do – you can wear a belt that gives you a shock if you’re shot. The facility even offers a simulation that is nearly 360 degrees, so you feel like you are standing in the middle of, say, the convenience store or the parking lot. This teaches you to look behind you for that second or third bad guy.

I’ve attended the Writers Police Academy, which is held once a year in North Carolina at a real police academy. I also graduated from the FBI’s Citizen Academy, which is taught by real FBI agents and included a stint at a real gun range where I shot a submachine gun. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and my local chapter has experts speak every month (the blood spatter expert was particularly interesting). I’m also an online member of Crime Scene Writers, which has lots of retired or even active law enforcement personnel who answer questions.

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April Henry’s author website: www.aprilhenrymysteries.com

April Henry’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

    

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The Girl Who Was Supposed to DieGirl, StolenThe Night She DisappearedShock Point     Boys without NamesHappyfaceDeadly Little Voices (a Touch Novel) (Touch Novels)

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Overcoming Writer’s Block, by Lish McBride

I feel like a jerk saying I don’t believe in writer’s block. It might be a serious issue that you have to deal with. In saying that I don’t believe in it I might be making light of your experience. That being said, in my own realm of personal experience it’s not something that I believe in.

For me, there’s never been a time when I couldn’t write at all. There was a short time after the hurricane when I couldn’t write anything that was good, and there have been times when I have been stuck on certain projects, but neither kept me from actually writing.

When I have a problem writing, it’s usually due to an external cause. After the hurricane I was distracted. I was anxious, nervous, and staying in a small town in Mississippi where I didn’t know anyone and I was spending a lot of time alone with my toddler. There were a lot of things up in the air, and my attention was highly fragmented. So sitting down to write things that didn’t suck was extremely difficult. I did write things as I was still in school in a temporarily online fashion and I had stories due. They just weren’t my best work. These kinds of things happen. Life happens. At that time I wasn’t going to produce anything decent until I dealt with the cause of my anxiety, and that was going to take time.

When I get stuck in a story, it’s usually because I haven’t figured out what’s happening next. I got really frustrated writing Necromancing the Stone because it was coming along so slowly. At times I was lucky to get a few pages. I was under a lot of pressure and that was being compounded by my frustration at my slow pace.

A very wise friend told me to go and write something else for a few days. I argued saying that I had a deadline and I had to be responsible. She argued that obviously slogging away wasn’t working and I needed a break. She was right. I spent a few days working on something else and it worked. What I had needed was to feel a few days of actual movement – something where the pages were flying. It was a great pressure release and easy for me to understand in hindsight. I work best when I’m hopping about like that. If I had thought about it, I would have realized that was what I was doing during the first book. I had still been in school, so besides working on my novel I had to produce short stories, script pages, and work on the school journal, so I realized that I function much better in that kind of environment.

When you feel like you’re stuck, I wouldn’t focus on the stuck part. There’s nothing wrong with your ability to write. That doesn’t just go away. Have faith in that part of yourself. Instead, think about what might be causing your “blockage.” Are you stressed out? Do you need a few days of rest? When’s the last time you read something? You have to remember to feed your brain.

Try writing something else. Alternatively, try writing a different way. If you’re a laptop writer, swap to pencil or pen. Switch locations. Try some free writing or some exercises. Write a scene with your character in it that has nothing to do with the book. Background material is very helpful even if it doesn’t make it into the novel. Storyboard or outline – this generally doesn’t work for me, but it has for friends. Move your outline around. Change tenses or POVs. Play with your characters and your story. Talk it out with a friend. Every time I get stuck, I bounce things off some of my pals. Usually by the time I finish explaining what my problem is, I’ve figured it out.

Go do something else. Sometimes you have to go clear your head. Go on a walk and think about your problem. Or go on a walk and don’t think about it at all. Sometimes I will clean things because it is nice to do something and see an immediate result.

Write something crappy just to get yourself started. I feel like a lot of writer’s block is actually fear of the page. Blank pages are scary. So make them not blank. Get some words on that page! It doesn’t matter if they’re crap. That’s what editing is for. What’s important is just getting the story going. Sometimes imagining the whole project can be overwhelming. I often don’t think of the whole story when I’m writing. I write by scene. It’s more of a, “Okay, my character is here, and now I need him to get here” sort of thing than a, “I need to write 300 pages now!” sort of thing. Break it up into manageable pieces.

Homework: Think about something you’re stuck on. Try one of the above suggestions or read other author blogs to see what they suggest and try that. Trust me, most of us have broached this topic at least once in our blogs.

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

Lish McBride’s bio page

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Hold Me Closer, NecromancerNecromancing the Stone     The Empty KingdomShades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)GenesisZen and Xander Undone The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Characters And Story Development For Novels, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

There are several benefits to beginning the story development process with character.  First, it helps the writer avoid the temptation of over-plotting – of creating twists and turns that could collectively make up ten novels, never mind just one.  Beginning with character also gives the story room to grow organically.

A drawback, however, is that the writer could end up with a lack of plot – a story that doesn’t really go anywhere.  This can leave the writer feeling stuck and losing steam.  The story could also end up spiralling out of control, leaving the writer with a draft that needs to be extensively gutted.  When I first drafted Blue is for Nightmares, for example, I didn’t pre-plot at all.  In the end, a lot of what I’d written was extraneous and needed to be cut.  I threw away almost 200 pages, not  because they were poorly written but because they didn’t serve the story I was telling.

What’s best is to begin with both plot and character in mind.  Here are some questions to keep in mind as you do that:

1. What does your character want?

2. What is the conflict?  In other words, what is keeping the character from getting what he wants?  Conflict can be found in an opposing character, or it can be found within your character, i.e. if your main character wants to be loved, a lack of self-esteem may be keeping him from getting loved.

3. What aspects of character are going to affect action?  For example, if your character is lonely or feels ignored at home, she might seek attention in dangerous places.

4. What about your character’s background led to conflict with his opponent?  What need is he or she fulfilling?  What made him feel as though he/she needed to take this sort of control over someone?  You may or may not be answering these questions directly in a story, but it’s important to know the answers.

5. What is the climax of the story?  In other words, what is the highest point of tension?  Why have you chosen it?

6. Does your character finally get what she wants?  Why or why not?

7. How does your character grow?  What does he learn by the end of your story?

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

Laurie Faria Stolarz’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

      

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Deadly Little SecretDeadly Little LiesDeadly Little GamesDeadly Little Voices (a Touch Novel) (Touch Novels)     The Dog in the WoodSparkThe Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Three Act Structure For Novel Writing, by Amy Kathleen Ryan

In my last blog post about writing page turning novels, I touted the use of the three act structure as a useful device some writers use to help create dramatic tension in their stories. I’ve written entire novels myself without realizing I was employing it. Later, I’d look at the story and realize that every element of the three-act structure has been subconsciously inserted into my story. I think this happens because so many stories I’ve read before have followed it. I’ll even go out on a limb to suggest that three act structure existed before anyone knew it existed. It’s a narrative arc that has been deeply embedded in the human psyche since the time before people were writing stories down, when the tales told were legend and myth.

Before I describe the structure, let me clarify one thing that some of you iconoclasts might be thinking: a structure is not the same thing as a formula. A structure creates a framework wherein your characters move within their story. There are some out there who write outside of the common story arc, but most writers, even the great ones, adhere to this ancient narrative form.

Many variations of three act structure can be found on the web, and I encourage you to do some research of your own, but here is a brief outline:

1. The first act sets up your world and your characters. It shows how life is before your inciting incident, which sets your protagonist in motion. Your protagonist, when dealing with this new problem, will be hesitant in some way, but will finally confront a point of no return, where she has committed herself and has no choice but to stay the course.

2. This begins your second act, your rising action, comprised of points and counterpoints between your hero and your antagonist. The second act ends when the absolute worst happens, and all is lost.

3. But wait! Your hero uses her ingenuity and courage, rallies her dwindling resources to do something completely unexpected, and somehow wins the day. This is your climax. Loose ends are tied up, but hopefully not too perfectly, and the reader can finish reading your book then hurry to the bookstore to find more titles by you.

Part of what makes this structure so useful is that it helps the writer keep her characters in charge of the story. You are free to employ the vicissitudes of fate in your plot, but the main pivot points of your story remain in your characters’ hands. This helps hold your reader’s interest, because, in the final analysis, random chance isn’t very interesting. It’s what people do with their circumstances, their choices and their mistakes that makes fiction, and life, interesting.

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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)

   

Australia (and beyond)

VibesZen and Xander UndoneGlowSpark    The Girl Who Was Supposed to DieAcross the UniverseTracks

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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