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Posts tagged ‘American YA novelist’

Writing A Good First Sentence For A Teen Novel, by Diane Lee Wilson

Composing the first sentence of your novel can elicit screams of agony. It can be a difficult task because so much depends upon those few words. Will a prospective teen reader, already distracted by a myriad of electronic devices and entertainments, glance at this sentence, yawn and set your book down? How do you manage to entice such a fickle reader along to a second sentence and then a third?

As a practical matter, I have always liked starting my novels in the middle of a highly charged scene, ideally with one short sentence that hints at intrigue: “On the morning of September 16, 1860, my pa shot me.” “The little thumbnail moon gave no light at all; a friend to the thief.” “Better that you’d never been born.” Homicide, thievery, banishment – all themes that hint at an exciting tale.

In venturing to the local library, I found strong openings of varying lengths in many critically acclaimed teen novels. Robert Cormier’s classic, The Chocolate War begins simply, “They murdered him.” Laura McNeal introduces a mysterious character in the very first words of her lyrical Dark Water: “You wouldn’t have noticed me before the fire unless you saw that my eyes, like a pair of socks chosen in the dark, don’t match.” Then there’s Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, which starkly states, “Here is a small fact: You are going to die.” (Okay, those aren’t the exact first words but they’re in bold type and centered on the page so that’s where your eyes go.)

With a first sentence as strong as any one of these, a prospective reader (and innately curious human) simply cannot resist continuing to the second sentence and then a third. Now he or she is like a fish following the bait. So you keep writing, keep tossing out interesting tidbits, not yet revealing the whole story. Remember that most teens have short attention spans – at least until they’re hooked! – so you’ve got to move things along briskly. Think of this challenge as crafting one sentence that leads to the next sentence that leads to the next sentence that leads to the next paragraph.

Admittedly, there are times when I can’t think of a good opening for a novel I’m starting, so for inspiration I’ll revisit favorite books that have hooked me early on. I’ll scan the first few paragraphs and try to decipher just how the author pulled me in. Was the protagonist in immediate danger? Was there an unusual setting? Was there an urgent problem to be solved? On occasion, the unique tone of a book or the author’s voice will pull me in. I highly recommend studying those authors that have mastered the art of the “tease”.

If I continue to be stuck on my opening, however, rather than yank out my hair and switch careers, I attack the book from a different direction. I just start elsewhere in the chapter. I pick a scene that I am passionate about and that I can easily visualize, and I write it. Sometimes I get all the way to the end of the first chapter without having created a strong beginning. Sometimes I get all the way to the end of the novel. What I’ve learned though, is that a strong beginning often reveals itself only upon the book’s completion. Once you’ve spent time with your story, once you’ve come to understand and love your characters, you’ll know how to begin their story in the strongest way possible.

So, in composing the first sentence of your teen novel, keep your teen reader firmly in mind. You’ve only a brief period to hook him, so rely on novelty and human curiosity. You’ll soon find yourself writing with confidence, with readers fully engaged.

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

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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

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Language In Teen Novels, by Diane Lee Wilson

Early in my career I regularly participated in read-and-critique groups. Each of us took a turn reading aloud from one of our own newly completed chapters and then accepted verbal comments from the other aspiring novelists. More than once someone would tell me that my vocabulary was too difficult for my teen audience. It was suggested that I use simpler words.

I bridled at that and still do. I firmly believe that authors of teen novels can use rich, complex language if done in context and with purpose. It is not necessary to “write down” to readers. My goal is to produce the best writing I can, and if a reader is unfamiliar with the occasional word (even though I’ve used it in context) then I expect them to look it up in a dictionary, be it one from a bookshelf or an electronic one on a computer or phone.

Nurturing language has never been more important now that we have the widespread use of electronic communication – texting, tweeting, tagging – where minimal space takes precedence over clarity, a great number of teens are allowing their writing and reading skills to diminish.

A professor of communications at Pennsylvania State University recently warned that rampant texting is exacting “compromises on traditional, cultural writing” abilities of today’s teens. “Routine use of textual adaptations by current and future generations of 13-17-year-olds,” says S. Shyam Sundar, “may serve to create the impression that this is normal and accepted use of the language and rob this age group of a fundamental understanding of standard English grammar.” Teens who took the professor’s grammar test, for example, couldn’t discern the difference between “lose” and “loose” or “accept” and “except”.

At a writing camp held at the University of Central Florida, another professor also bemoaned the negative effect that instant communication is having on writing skills. “Social media takes out all the imaginative threads, descriptions and interesting parts of a language,” said Terry Thaxton. “I find that troubling.”

The argument can be made that language is dynamic, always evolving (or for the cynical, devolving) and that teens are communicating in a language that they understand. Today’s teens will not always be talking among themselves. They will be speaking with future employers, potential partners, perhaps world leaders. They will need to understand the difference between “nonplussed” and “nonchalant”. From “accepting your proposition” to “taking exception to your proposition”. They can begin to master language painlessly and even pleasurably in a well-written novel with a rich vocabulary.

No, teen readers do not have to limit themselves to “serious books” only. Just as there is always room for a little “junk food” in one’s diet, there’s a place for the “summer beach read”, the “guilty pleasure” or the book that “everyone’s talking about”. But these stories will never be as satisfying as time spent with a complex fictional character in a colorfully drawn world.

Tweets and texts are fine – and fun – in day-to-day life. Instant communication can bring us closer as a society. However, language is what defines our society and I urge every writer to access its riches.

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

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Plotting A Novel, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

When people first begin a story, they usually get inspired by one of two things: character or plot.  There’s no one right way.  Both approaches have their benefits and drawbacks.

I often get email from aspiring novelists seeking advice when they’ve hit a roadblock in their works-in-progress.  They tell me that they were initially so excited about their stories but then, when they got to a certain point, they lost steam.  When I ask those same people what it is their character wants, what keeps that character from getting it, and what the character needs to learn in order to get it, these writers often don’t have the answers.

Perhaps a little plotting is in order.  I’ll discuss more about character in the next post.

Plotting 101:

Come up with an idea.  You want to figure out the driving force of your story.  For example, perhaps you want to write about a girl who drops out of high school to pursue her dream of becoming a Hollywood actress.  Or maybe you prefer writing about a boy who gets involved in a gang and ends up stealing from his own parents.

Choose the basics of your character. This is stuff like gender, age, situation in life, or whatever helps you picture them enough to get your plot going.  In Blue is for Nightmares, Stacey is a 16-year-old practicing Wiccan at boarding school.

Introduce your character to an initial action/problem.  This is the first event/ problem in the story that pushes the reader forward.  For example, maybe      your 15-year-old bully of a character learns that her parents are getting      divorced and she’ll have to move and start over at a new school. In Blue is for Nightmares, Stacey starts having nightmares that her roommate is going to be killed within four days’ time.

Decide what it is your character wants.  This drive will influence most if not all of your character’s decisions and actions.  It’s your character’s motivation.  In Blue is for Nightmares, Stacey wants to save her roommate before it’s too      late.  She also wants to forgive herself for ignoring nightmares that she had three years ago, because a little girl died as a result.

Decide what keeps your character from getting what s/he wants.  There are usually one or more obstacles that keep(s) your character from getting what s/he wants.  In Blue is for Nightmares, Stacey’s obstacles are many: she fears she won’t be able to stop the killer (self doubt); she has botched spells; she relies too heavily on spells and not enough on herself (lack of confidence); she failed to save someone in the past and fears it will happen again.

Have your character learn a lesson.  This lesson is usually a real turning point for your character.  Having learned this lesson, they can better achieve what they want.  In Blue is for Nightmares, Stacey learns that she is more powerful than her spells, that her spells do indeed aid her, but it’s the will and power inside her that’s most important.

Climax. this is usually the highest point of tension in the story, the place where most of your action or drama will take place.  This may be the point where your character faces his or her biggest obstacle.  In Blue is for Nightmares, Stacey figures out who the killer is and confronts him.

Resolution. this is the tying up of loose ends.  It’s also where subplots get tied up (note: a subplot is any minor plot in the novel.  For example, even though Stacey is trying to save her roommate, she’s also battling the crush she has on her best friend’s boyfriend.)  Having stopped the killer and saved her roommate, Stacey now goes away with a healthier sense of self.  We also learn whether or not she gets the boy.

If all else fails, think of plot in terms of the stuck up a tree approach.  In other words, put a someone up in a tree then throw rocks at them to get them down.

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

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Young Adult Novels Versus Adult Novels, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Opinions range widely on this topic of young adult novels versus adult novels. Some believe that certain subjects are simply off limits in young adult literature. That may have been the case in years past, but more and more young adult literature is crossing into what some may consider to be adult and/or controversial material: four-letter words, drugs and drinking, sex and sexuality, religion… you name it. There aren’t many topics that you can’t find in young adult literature these days. So, then circling back to the question: What’s the difference between adult and young adult literature?

The easy answer to that question is that young adult literature has young adult characters. Teen characters are very present in teen books. Makes sense, right? Teens want to read about people their age.

The more complicated answer concerns the way in which “controversial” topics are covered. In young adult fiction, for example, the main character usually comes full circle as a result of overcoming obstacles and learning a lesson – one that often involves one or more “adult” issues. In adult literature, on the other hand, there isn’t as much of a need – if any need at all – for the main character to have learned such a lesson. The adult character does not necessarily need to have grown by the end, nor does he or she need to have solved his problem. The writer doesn’t have to address or even acknowledge the “controversial” issue. In other words, there isn’t as much of an overriding “moral to the story” as one might see in young adult material.

When I wrote my novel Bleed (Disney/Hyperion 2006), there was no doubt in my mind that I was writing it for adults. I’d just written a couple of books in the Blue Is For Nightmares series and I wanted to try something new, exploring edgier topics without censoring myself in any way, including the liberal use of the four-letter words and controversial topics. But by the time I went to sell it the young adult market had opened so much that Bleed was published for young adults.

Bleed is told from ten different points of view – all young adult characters. I really wanted to explore how the decisions we make everyday, even the smaller ones, can affect others in ways we may never even consider. The decision whether or not to pick up the phone or let the machine get it; the decision of walking to someone’s house versus taking the bus; or of taking a walk by a cemetery rather than at the beach - how the outcome of those decisions can have a domino effect, affecting other people’s lives… even the lives of people we may not even know. The book takes place over the course of a single day, and starts out with one girl grappling with the decision of whether or not to betray her best friend by going after her best friend’s boyfriend while the best friend is away. We see how the effect of that decision plays out, affecting all the other characters in the book.

As I was editing Bleed, I spent a great deal of time making sure that while some of the characters’ plights couldn’t possibly be solved in the course of one day, there was a glimmer of light, enabling the characters to see the way out of the holes in which they’d dug for themselves. Each character was able to learn something as a result of his or her decision, which I think is also customary of young adult literature.

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

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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

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Finding A Good Literary Agent For Your Novels, by Paul Volponi

Fledgling Young Adult novelists come up to me all the time and ask, “Hey, I’ve written something great. Can you hook me up with your agent?” I’ve even had a very nice librarian ask me that question, on behalf of her sister-in-law, as she was walking me to the podium to give a talk in her library.

I’m never really annoyed at this stuff. I understand that writers are looking for a way in, and think that I can help them. But there are some huge negatives in leaning on a friend or another writer to get you an agent.

What if my agent doesn’t like your work, but it’s good? What if my agent doesn’t like that particular genre (for making sales)? What if my agent is too busy and doesn’t give it the appropriate time? What if my agent doesn’t even return your email?

In my opinion, providing a single agent name as a contact is clearly a disservice to a beginning writer. Instead, I try to teach new writers techniques to canvass multiple agents. When I was in need of an agent I went to resources such as Writer’s Market and found maybe a dozen agents who represented the kind of manuscript I’d written. I emailed all of them, waiting to see who would respond in a reasonable time, or who would even reply at all. I did that over and over again, until I found an agent with whom I shared some common ground. Of course, we all know that a writer can send out 100 queries and get just a single reply, leading us to want to sign with that one agent.

I’ve had three agents in my writing career. The first two dumped me. I’m sure they found me too annoying in wanting to succeed and always keeping the pressure on them. Neither could sell my first two novels, Black and White (which eventually won a slew of IRA and ALA awards) and Rikers High (a Top 10 ALA winner inspiring non-readers to read, and even achieved a New York Times review).

Then I found the right agent through an email (she was just another name in a book to me) and then a follow up phone call. She read Black and White and said, “I’m sending it out to eight major houses tomorrow. A few of them will probably want it very badly.” She was right. Within a month, I was a professional writer with a two-book deal from Viking/Penguin.

So my best advice is to keep searching yourself for that agent. Understand how to do it. Refine your own personal techniques. It will make you more self-sufficient and ultimately more powerful as a writer. It can be a long haul until you find an agent who works as hard as you do in promoting your ideas. But it is certainly worth the journey.

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

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The Process Of Writing And Revising My Novels, by Monika Schroder

I like to revise. Truth be told, I prefer revising to writing the first draft. I do not belong to a writers’ critique group, nor do I employ ‘beta readers.’ But every writer needs another pair of eyes to read her manuscript to provide feedback. My husband is always my first reader. As a former high school English teacher he provides me with valuable feedback, and he is honest. I usually give him a first draft when I am about two-thirds into the book. At that stage in the process I like to hear what works and what doesn’t. Also, as I am about to draft the climax and ending of the story it is good to know if the story stands on solid legs.

Once I have finished a full draft it goes through numerous revisions and each of these revisions focuses on a different aspect of the manuscript. In an early stage when I revise for plot I tweak and streamline the events along the story’s arc. I cut scenes or write them more tightly. Another revision focuses on the character development, making sure that I have kept his or her development clear and the character’s traits are consistent throughout the story.

After the larger structural problems are fixed it is time to improve syntax and word choice. Here I also rely on my husband’s keen eye. He combs through the manuscript and notes suggestions for improvement on the margin.

My last book has many characters and many different settings. When describing the interior of a room I placed a chair “under the window” in several scenes. Apparently, whenever I imagined a scene that took place in a room I placed one piece of furniture under the window. The same happened in my description of men’s clothing. Frequently, I dressed them in dark suits causing my husband to write, “too many dark suits!” on the margins of my manuscript.I appreciate my husband’s attention to these details and hope to avoid these repetitions in the future.

Mark Twain said: “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

I know that I should avoid most adverbs but I really need to cut back on my use of the word “quickly.” I cut it 35 times in my last manuscript and have pledged not to use it again. If Joe walks somewhere or stuffs something in his pocket the reader doesn’t need the speed of the action accelerated by adding ‘quickly.’ It is always better to pick a strong verb and let it express the action precisely and speak for itself.

In the unrevised drafts I also use the adverbs ‘cheerfully’ or ‘disdainfully’ too often. An example: “I don’t think I can do this,” Joe said disdainfully. If Joe says something full of disdain it has to come out directly in his words or the circumstances of the situation. I need to clear up those adverbial taglines, quickly.

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Monika Schroder’s author website: www.monikaschroeder.com

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Writing Novels For Teens Versus For Adults, by April Henry

I had published five books for adults before my first teen book came out. In fact, when I wrote it I thought it was a novel for adults that just happened to have a 16-year-old main character. But my agent, who represents a lot of Young Adult writers, broke the news to me: I had written a Young Adult book.

Since then, I’ve had a foot in both worlds. Every year, I usually write one book for adults and one book for teens. So what’s differente and what’s the same?

Writing

Teens

• All POV (point of view) characters must be kids (unless a very short walk on, like

the cop in Hoot).

• Parents or teachers cannot save the day; teens must. This is why you will so often find kids who are orphans, or who have a dead mom or non-functioning parents.

• YA lit has great built-in obstacles: cliques, coming of age, finding out who you are, peer pressure, family dynamics, dealing with parents divorce, prom, homecoming, falling in love for the first time, etc.

• Many YA books are in the first person, to help the reader more readily identify with the character.

• The books usually take place over a shorter period of time, usually no longer than a year.

• Books are typically much shorter- 50,000 words is common, versus say, 80,000 to 90,000 for adults (although fantasy is often longer).

• It’s okay to have swearing or fairly graphic sex, but it might limit how many teachers will assign your book to readers in your intended age group, or the age group you can appeal to, in hardcover (when kids don’t usually buy their own books). Graphic violence may even be a harder sell.

• An “issue-oriented” book, like a book about being a teen-aged father, or a book about having a sibling with leukemia, may garner a lot of librarian support. And librarian support is key to success in the YA world.

Adults

Pretty much anything goes.

Getting published

Kids

• You don’t necessarily need an agent, especially with books for younger readers.

This is more common for older writers who have developed relationships with editors.

• Editors still accept things from people they meet at conferences

• It’s tougher to get into children’s magazines, and there are fewer of them than magazines for adults.

• And in order to get a short story in a children’s anthology, you pretty much have to have published elsewhere.

Adults

• You have to have an agent for fiction.

• It’s possible to not be agented for non-fiction.

• There’s a great deal more opportunity for poems and short stories to be published in literary journals for adults.

Fans

Teens

• Your readership changes every few years as the readers grow up. They read your books only for a brief time period, say middle school, then move on to adult books. When these teens reache adulthood, they might not care about your next YA novel. That makes it very hard to develop a following. That’s one more reason why librarians are so important, because if they like your books, they will recommend them to each new wave of kids.

• At the same time, if you have a lot of books out there, kids will devour them and not care if they were published this year or five years ago.

• Kids have big emotions about everything, and their feelings about writers are no exception. They will pour out their stories to you, friend you on Facebook (and think you are really friends), hand you poems they wrote and ask what you think, and even ask you to sign their hands.

• Teens ask what adults secretly want to know “How much do you make?”

Adults

• When you write for adults, each book that is released supposedly increases your readership. If readers like your work, they will buy all your future books and your career builds on itself. A fan may stick with you for thirty years.

• Some adults will come to signings just to get your signature, because they see your book as collectible.

• Adults are cool and dispassionate.

Success of a book

Teens

• For children’s literature, there are more “professional” review options, like Hornbook or VOYA, than there are for adult books.

• Reviews trickle in for months after the book is published.

• Librarians are vital to success.

• There are many more opportunities for promotion in YA – libraries, schools, conferences, online, etc – opportunities that aren’t necessarily available to writers of adult books.

• Your publisher gives you a longer time to prove yourself via sales.

• It’s not unheard of for a picture book to be in print for 15 or more years.

• Your book might be named to one of the important library lists a year after publication (such as YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers)

• Your book might be named to a state list years later (states like Texas can result in tons of sales)

• Either of the above can mean the sale of many copies over time.

• There’s a better chance you can actually make a living.

Adults

• Reviews come in much sooner for adult books.

• You have about 6-8 weeks to show success in hardcover.

• After that, most of your books are returned for credit and the new hard covers take their place.

• Librarians aren’t as important to the cycle.

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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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Girl, StolenThe Night She DisappearedShock PointTorched    Rikers HighBecoming ChloeThe Raven Queen

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Combining Personal Experience And Imagination For Writing Novels, by Kashmira Sheth

Often, the first book many authors write is semi-autobiographical. This is not as strange as it sounds. Writing from something we have experienced, physically as well as emotionally, is a good place to begin. When we know the internal and external landscape well it is easy to fictionalize it and make it deeply touching.

The emphasis here is on fictionalizing. It is difficult to take all of our experiences (for example, of our sophomore year of high school) and put them in our story. What is needed is to trim all the extraneous, unrelated events, then add scenes from our imagination to make the plot more exciting and gripping and to give our story an arc.

It is also important to have characters that are unique and interesting to the readers. In high school one may have many friends and even more acquaintances but in the novel one must replace them with a few unique characters that move the plot forward, the ones that matter to the story. It is also important to make sure that none of the people that you actually knew twenty years ago can identify themselves when they read the story, and that they cannot be identified when other people read it. Instead, take different attributes from people, add your own imagination to give them unique personalities and traits, and flesh them out in the story. At once they become your own, and yet they are truly believable, multi-dimensional characters to whom readers can relate.

The physical space where the story takes place can also be constructed from your experience as well as from your imagination. Again, if you add a small, secluded courtyard to the red brick building of your high school it might make the space more vivid and interesting. Whatever you add can be used in setting scenes that are unique to that space, further enriching your story.

The emotional growth of your characters is one place where you can use your own experiences much more deeply. If you are writing about the summer between sophomore and junior year, then you can go back to your emotional state of that summer. Was it the summer of heartbreak, angst, rebellion, disappointment, or sorrow?  How did you survive and persist? How did your emotions manifest themselves in your interactions with others?  What did you learn? How did that one pivotal summer make you grow and change? These emotional nuggets can be taken from your own personal journey. While writing a story you may be surprised to discover you gain a deeper understanding of the emotions you felt during that time.  This will help create characters that are not only believable, but also with whom your readers will empathize.

I believe this emotional dimension is why many authors’ first book is semi-autobiographical. When you write from your emotional core it feels solid and real. As a writer we may be capable of writing an intriguing story, imagining many scenes and settings, and inventing colorful and unique characters. Still, the emotional integrity of the story is sometimes hard to get right. Writing a story from our own emotional experience creates resonance and depth that make readers fall in love with our characters, and with our story.

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

Kashmira Sheth’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

    

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Keeping CornerBoys without Names     Saraswati's WayPrison Ship: Adventures of a Young SailorThe Traitor's KissThe Night She DisappearedA Coalition of Lions

Writing Teen Novels
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