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Embracing E-Books, by Amy Kathleen Ryan

I know, I know. There’s nothing like the feel of a real book in your hands, the aroma of printer’s ink, the crisp crackle of the spine as you open it, and the weight of it on your lap as you curl up with your tea or cocoa or scotch (or absinthe?) and begin the journey. I get it. I like bookstores too. I like libraries. I LOVE books and I own quite a few of them. I buy them out of principle. They represent an ancient technology that will probably never go out of style completely.

Printed books are not the only way to read anymore. Writers need to deal with the fact that the publishing industry is changing, whatever our feelings about it. Bookstores will become fewer and smaller, libraries will be taken over by even more computers, and the overall market will shrink. I weep about it sometimes, but I can’t change it. So instead, I look for ways to accept it, even embrace it.  Here are a few positives about the rise of the e-book that should get writers on board:

You make more royalties. With e-books, a publisher has a much smaller initial outlay, so they can afford to pay you more for each copy sold. Royalties for print books tend to be around 15% or so, but they run about 20% for e-books. That fives percent can make a lot of difference.

A self-published e-book can provide more mileage. When published only in print form, most self-published writers are able to stock their books only with retailers in their immediate geographic area. But any writer can self publish an e-book for relatively little money and offer it through Amazon and other national outlets.

People can buy your book instantly.  Say you’ve written a series such as, oh, I don’t know, the gripping Sky Chasers series, and your reader gets to the end of your riveting first book, titled, for example, Glow. It is eleven o’clock at night and she can’t get to a bookstore or library to keep reading, but wait! What is that on her nightstand beckoning her? Is that a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad with an account that is conveniently hooked up to her credit card? How fortuitous! She can buy Spark right away and keep reading. Lucky her. And lucky me. There is something to be said for the late night impulse buy, a feature that simply doesn’t exist for a book that isn’t available in electronic form.

Fewer trees bite the dust. We all like forests right?

What about piracy? To this I answer: What about libraries? What about used bookstores? What about the two best friends who get together to trade their latest favorite read? You don’t make royalties when people loan your printed book out, or buy it used. That’s a huge drain on your earnings right there. As for pirates, there will always be some wormlike being somewhere trying to get something for nothing. We can’t change the fact that some people are jerks, so why sweat it?

There are other reasons for writers to like the e-book, and I invite you to mention them in the comments section. I own a Kindle myself, and I really like it, especially when I’m traveling. And I honestly do think about how 20% of my money is going right to the author. That’s cool.

So do not fear the e-book. Make the e-book your friend.

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

Amy Kathleen Ryan’s bio page

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VibesZen and Xander UndoneGlowSpark    Tarzan: The Jungle Warrior: Bk. 2Code Name VerityShades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Month In Review (August 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its eighth month of articles for 2013 from this year’s line-up of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Writing Teen Novels contributor Elizabeth Wein is attached to two novel writing retreats in November, 2014 with Novel Writing Retreats Australia.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Teen Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

Articles for August 2013

Tips For Writing Page-Turning Novels by April Henry

Creating Teenage Characters For Novels by Diane Lee Wilson

My Journey Of Writing And Publishing My First Novel by Mandi Lynn (guest article)

Not Treating Teenage Years Merely As Preparation For Adulthood In Your Novels by Bernard Beckett

The Importance Of An Authentic And Unique Voice In Teen Novels by Monika Schroder

Bringing English 101 To Your Novel by Beth Revis

Should You Self-Publish Your Book? by Paul Volponi

Three Act Structure For Novel Writing by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Characters And Story Development For Novels by Laurie Faria Stolarz

My Writing Process For ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’ by Kate Forsyth

Writing ‘Evil’ Characters In Teen Novels by Elizabeth Wein

Overcoming Writer’s Block by Lish McBride

Writing Dialogue In Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Sustaining A Plot With Obstacles And Sub-Goals (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

Getting Story Ideas And Writing Them Into Novels by Pauline Francis

Writing Stories In Different Formats by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

Comparing Teen Fiction And Adult Fiction by Sam Hawksmoor

The Benefits Of Taking A Break When Writing by Kashmira Sheth

On Age Ranges For Novels by Andy Briggs

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‘Month In Review’ Updates

For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.

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Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Tips For Writing Page-Turning Novels, by April Henry

Here are some tricks I’ve learned over the years about writing page-turners:

Act first, explain later

Many writers mistakenly think the reader needs to know all the backstory at the beginning of the novel. The problem with this approach is that it makes the real “now” of the story feel less important. Or writers think the reader will like the characters only if they spend a lot of time showing their normal, everyday lives. The problem with this is that the reader feels no urgency to continue. It’s much better if a novel starts on the day that everything changes.

Create a ticking clock

In a mystery or thriller this can be a literal bomb that the reader can’t stop worrying about. It could also be an ultimatum. Other ticking clocks could be the scheduled execution of an innocent man, the day the ship is supposed to land on Mars, the approaching prom, summer ending and the girl going off to college, the hurricane forecast to land in three days, or the lead actress for the big show coming down with mono leaving no one to play the part.

Play on common fears of readers

Common fears include: darkness, wild storms, something crawling on the skin, objects that cover other objects, a small sound when there should be silence, being alone, being helpless or unable to act, something under the bed, closed or partially open doors, hallways or tunnels that lead to the unknown, cramped spaces, basements, attics, heights, crowds, disease, death.

Give characters specific phobias

Give your characters phobias or fears – and then make them face those fears. Afraid of heights? The final confrontation should take place on a rooftop. Afraid of repeating the same terrible mistake? Give them the opportunity to get it right.

End each chapter with an unresolved issue

Have a character open a door, answer the phone, be confronted by someone with a gun, receive a mysterious letter, or make a decision not revealed immediately to the reader.

Cut filler

Look for passages that describe the weather, the landscape, the aftermath, travel, characters eating meals or drinking coffee, a character just sitting and thinking. Then cut them – or at least cut them back.

Hurt a main character

Hurt a main character early so the reader knows no one is off limits. Even better, kill the character – preferably a likable character. Readers will be on the edge of their seats, knowing that anything at all – even something very bad – could happen.

Make choices painful

Force the character to make a choice between two things she wants or to choose the lesser of two evils. Two loves. Two people to save (when only one can be). Addict/temptation. In a relationship/temptation. Maybe the main character knows brother will keep killing, but if she turns him in, he’ll go to death row.

Raise the stakes

Our main character was already nervous about singing in class, but now he has been asked to sing at the stadium. Or for a more mystery-related example, not only will someone die if our main character doesn’t catch the serial killer, but the next victim could be his girlfriend. Or it’s not just a child who will die – it’s a whole kindergarten! Ask yourself, “What could make it worse?” And then make it happen – even if you don’t know how your character will get out of it.

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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     The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)The HuntingProject 17

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Month In Review (June 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its sixth month of articles for 2013 from this year’s line-up of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Teen Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

Articles for June 2013

10 Tips For Becoming A Good Novelist by April Henry

My Novel Writing Process by Carolyn Meyer

How To Find A Literary Agent by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Dealing With Anxieties During The Novel Writing Process by Monika Schroder

Bringing History To Life In Teen Novels by Diane Lee Wilson

Sci Fi Novels For Teens by Beth Revis

Creating A Sense Of Place In A Novel by Kashmira Sheth

A Novelist’s Responsibility To Readers by Elizabeth Wein

Dealing With Reviews And Critics Of Your Teen Novels by Paul Volponi

The Good Thing About Bad Writing by Lish McBride

Why Write Novels? by Bernard Beckett

Creating Life-like Stories For Novels by Kate Forsyth

Developing An Idea Into A Complete Story by Andy Briggs

On Judging A Short Story Competition For School Students by Pauline Francis

Beginning A Story: 10 Things To Consider by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Creating Teen Characters For Dystopian Novels by Sam Hawksmoor

Characters With Goals (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

Creating Conflict For Your Character by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

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‘Month In Review’ Updates

For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.

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Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Editors: Working With You To Make The Best Book Possible, by April Henry

My first book was published in 1999, so I’ve had a lot of experience working with editors. In fact, I’ve had five of them, plus an unknown number of copy editors and proofreaders. The amazing thing is that, in my experience, each editor has a different approach. What one editor is passionate about may not even be on another editor’s radar screen.

My five editors

My first editor loved characters who were quirky, whacky or eccentric – and if she felt they weren’t quirky, whacky or eccentric enough, she often asked for them to be enhanced. Sometimes her comments were cryptic. I still remember staring at one notation scribbled in a margin. It said, “Pump up the mystery!” I had no idea how to do that and I was too scared to call her. I’ve since learned that just as an email sometimes lacks the emotional nuance that would allow you to completely understand a message, so too can editorial letters and hand-written notes. A simple phone call can go a long way toward making things clear for both writer and editor.

My second editor was a legend in the business. She was in her 80s and everyone loved the idea that she was still working full-time. Dozens of famous authors had been edited by her over the course of her long career. I think she worked right up until she died. Her editing was much more broad-based and she wasn’t nearly as much of a detail person as my first editor was.

My third editor was famous for being able to write an 11-page editorial letter for a 12-page picture book. He used brown stickies to mark changes he had pencilled in green on the manuscript. One draft I got back bristled with so many stickies it looked like a porcupine. For Christmas that year, I gave him a brand new green pencil, figuring he had used one up on my manuscript. One thing I learned from him was that sometimes when an editor asks for a specific change, he or she may be right that something is wrong. However, the writer can often make a different sort of fix than the editor requested and still come away with both parties happy.

My fourth editor writes thoughtful editorial letters that I dread. Why? Because she is skilled at finding flaws I haven’t noticed. Flaws that require lots and lots of thought before I can fix them.

My fifth editor is both a big picture editor and someone who notices the smallest details. She’s pointed out words I tend to overuse - words I wasn’t aware of until she had checkmarked three or four uses of the same word in a single page. Once or twice, she has questioned the veracity of things I write, asking if it’s really true or possible. I welcome that. So much fiction, especially mysteries and thrillers, is riddled with errors about police procedure, weapons or investigative techniques.

The process of editing

Editing used to take place on paper, and you, the editor and your agent would send bulky manuscripts back and forth. I still have some unused manuscript boxes in my basement. They fold up neatly and have a little tab you insert into a slot. It’s probably the equivalent to holding onto a buggy whip. Now manuscripts get emailed as attachments, to be read by agents and editors on e-readers, and to be edited by line and copy editors on computers and then emailed to you with tracked changes. Many editors will still print out a paper copy and mark that up, at least to a degree, although I wonder if that will change as a generation who started on paper retires.

Line editors may make suggestions as to how to burnish the story and are big picture people. Copyeditors are more focused on the details. For example, they make sure that a character who has blue eyes on page 19 does not have gray eyes on page 319. They know the difference between flout and flaunt. They do a certain amount of fact-checking, making sure that, for example, you don’t spell Cheez-Its incorrectly. Oddly, I have had the same freelance copyeditor work on several of my YA books even though they were put out by different publishers. In a further twist of fate, she grew up in Portland, where I base most of my stories.

Both main editors and copy editors have saved my bacon many times. It’s hard to see your story clearly: you always need at least one more set of eyes.

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

April Henry’s bio page

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The Girl Who Was Supposed to DieGirl, StolenShock PointThe Night She Disappeared    ResponseHappyfaceA Coalition of Lions

Writing Teen Novels
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The Process Of Writing My Novel ‘My Brother’s Shadow’, by Monika Schroder

It has been said that there are those writers who plan and those who “fly by the seats of their pants.” I am part of the second group and before I began working on my novel, My Brother’s Shadow, I only had a rough idea of who Moritz, the main character, was and what would happen in the story. I encountered a surprise in the first few pages. Moritz was telling his story in first person and used the present tense. Hadn’t I read in many books about writing that the first person, present tense point-of-view was difficult to write? My first two novels were told in the voice of third person omniscient narrators reflecting on past events, and I had no intention of changing from what I knew by writing in first person and in present tense.

I rewrote the beginning in past tense but couldn’t force Moritz to tell his story in hindsight, so I stuck to the immediacy of present tense. The story is set in 1918 Berlin. I needed to convey a lot of background information. It seemed such a daunting task to introduce the reader to starvation and despair in Berlin as well as the anticipation of military defeat without the omniscient perspective of third person POV. In the first chapter I needed to set the stage, let Moritz introduce himself and his family, and find an intriguing ending to the chapter that would entice readers to go on. Moritz came to my rescue. As an apprentice in a print shop of a Berlin newspaper he could read the headlines of the paper he just helped print and thereby inform the readers of my novel of the state of affairs in Germany in October 1918.  The newspaper became a vehicle to disseminate information about the setting without interrupting the flow of the narrative. In the first page of the novel, Moritz reads an official war report knowing that the government is not allowing the truth to come out. He also meets Herr Goldman, a journalist with the paper who takes a liking to Moritz and ultimately helps him to fulfil his dream to become a reporter.  Moritz is able to tell the reader about the most pressing and newsworthy current events through his conversations with Herr Goldman. Apparently there was a way for me to write in first person, present tense and still give the reader a sense of the setting.

About half way in, the story took an unexpected turn and once again I had trouble letting myself deviate from my original plan. Moritz had met a girl who had completely flummoxed him with her wit. Granted, it was not so unlikely that a 16-year old boy would take an interest in a girl but I had not anticipated a romance.

I had never expected to write about young love. Now here was Rebecca, the smart daughter of a Jewish bookseller who attended the same political meetings as Moritz’s mother and sister. After their first encounter on the train, it was clear that they had to meet again. Yet the book takes place in 1918, so they wouldn’t go “all the way.” I was able to braid his discovery of love together with the story of Moritz’s relationship with his brother, who returns from the trenches a maimed and bitter veteran. Rebecca’s presence even gave me the opportunity for a hopeful conclusion to leave readers satisfied after Moritz’s intense final confrontation with his brother.

Writing My Brother’s Shadow has taught me to trust the process along the way. A quote by E. L. Doctorow showed me that I am not alone with this approach: “Writing is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

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

Monika Schroder’s bio page

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The Dog in the WoodMy Brother's ShadowSaraswati's Way     Code Name VerityAuslanderIn Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's StoryTracks

Writing Teen Novels
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To Be, Or Not To Be (Likable)? by Jack Heath

It’s sometimes hard to decide whether your protagonist should be likable or interesting.

The heroes of many YA novels are not so much heroes as they are observers, or even victims. Harry Potter and Bella Swan are largely passive participants in their own lives. The advantage of this strategy is that the characters are usually likeable and sympathetic, since everyone knows what it’s like to feel powerless (especially teenagers).

Other books have protagonists who do things, rather than having things done to them. John Cleaver, Tally Youngblood; these characters are more entertaining to read about, but harder to identify with. This may be because all stories require conflict, so if the protagonist is driving the plot, they’re probably making things difficult for the other characters.

I’ve tried both methods – in The Lab, Agent Six’s superpowers are mainly used in self-defence, making him a passive character rather than an active one. Meanwhile, Ashley Arthur sets off the action herself in Money Run when she decides to steal $200 million from a tax cheat. Agent Six is a more sympathetic character, but Money Run is a better story. Perhaps this is one of the repercussions of the passive/active protagonist choice. Imagine, for a moment, the Harry Potter series if the narrative had followed Snape. The plot may have worked better, but would Snape have charmed as many readers as Harry?

Most successful novels fall somewhere between the two extremes. Katniss Everdeen and Alex Rider are never in control of their own lives, but each of them volunteered (albeit under difficult circumstances). The risk, or course, is that the hero will plummet into the canyon in the middle, neither identifiable nor intriguing.

Other books split the active protagonist and the passive protagonist into two separate characters, which works surprisingly well. We empathise with Ishmael, we’re interested in Ahab. Holmes fascinates the readers, while Watson wins them over.

Ultimately, the kind of hero you have will be dictated by the kind of story you are trying to tell. The only advice that I can offer is this: work out what the protagonist wants. Even the most passive characters are hungry for something.

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Jack Heath bio page
Money RunThe LabHit ListUgliesMockingjay (Hunger Games Trilogy)Mr. MonsterMoby Dick (Wordsworth Classics)

Cheer Up, Emo Kid: Humour in Young Adult Fiction, by Nansi Kunze

When I was sixteen, I grew my fringe to cover one eye, slouched around in a black jumper and eyeliner and listened to The Cure.

Now, before you begin to imagine that I was in any way cool, let me point out that I wasn’t a proper goth. The fringe idea was partly just to cover my terrible acne. The eyeliner was the only goth makeup I owned, since I lived hours away from any shop that would stock a lipstick darker than Saucy Plum. And if I’d thought I might be able to dress in an impressively subcultural way, I was soon disabused of that notion; the first time I went out in public in ripped jeans I got told off for ‘lowering the tone of the district’. In my own dorky way, however, I was an angst-ridden teenager, complete with existential thoughts, a penchant for depressing music and a tendency to have Anna Karenina recommended to me by librarians.

What the librarians didn’t realise, though, was that what I really liked to read wasn’t dark and gloomy at all. Oh, I read Anna Karenina – after all, who wouldn’t be impressed by half a kilo of confusing Russian names in small print and a cover plastered with dudes in fur hats? But I didn’t enjoy it. I much preferred books by Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett. Books that were funny. Yes, you read that right. I liked humour … and what’s more, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one. In fact, moody, black-lipstick-wearing teenagers the world over love fiction that incorporates humorous elements.

‘Nonsense!’ I hear someone say (hopefully a reader who’s about 102 years old and has stumbled on this blog by mistake). ‘Everyone knows YA fiction is all about the angst. Look at Twilight! Look at all those dark, creepy book covers! Teenagers don’t want funny stuff – they want vampires and werewolves, gore and tragedy!’ Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, Pops, but you’re wrong on a couple of counts there.

Teenagers don’t just want paranormal fiction … but even if they did, that wouldn’t preclude the use of humour in YA writing. Ever hear of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Some of the very best and most beloved paranormal paradigms are peppered with humour. There are good reasons for this – the most obvious being that nothing throws a dark situation into sharp relief like a light-hearted moment. A self-deprecating quip or a little banter can add dimension to any character, alive or undead. And it’s worth remembering, too, that even those readers who seek out the bleakest dystopias to immerse themselves in need to come up for air every so often. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the presence of humour somehow belittles any serious themes you’re trying to address in your writing; anyone who tells you that wouldn’t know a good novel if it came up and bit them in the neck.

So how do you go about using this wonderful technique called comedy? Well, like any other writing skill, it’s partly practice and partly learning from the masters: write lots and read lots. Another method I find helpful, however, is to examine the way humour is used in other forms of storytelling. TV shows are especially good at illustrating how dialogue can be used to great effect; you can totally justify sitting in front of an entire season of Buffy or Angel for this purpose. Want to know how humour can enliven your mystery writing? Watch a little Sherlock. Feel your sci-fi needs more funny business? Get out your Dr Who collection! And remember that, hidden behind their fringes, even emo kids laugh sometimes.

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Nansi Kunze bio page

MishapsDangerously PlacedThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThe Bromeliad: The Dead Days OmnibusBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7 Angel: Season 5

Writing A Novel That’s More Interesting Than Facebook, by Jack Heath

The greatest strength of the novel is also its greatest weakness: it’s very, very old.

The novel was there to watch – and often comment on – the infancy of almost every other medium, from photography to cinema to television to video games. The few art forms which preceded it, such as painting, sculpture and theatre, are now mostly appreciated by a wealthy and educated few. The novel, meanwhile remains enjoyable to anyone who can read.

It could be that the novel is so ancient that we’ve forgotten its admittedly forgettable origin; a time-killing device, used by those on long voyages or trapped inside on rainy days. The only burden placed upon the first novelists was that their words had to be more interesting than whatever was taking place outside the reader’s window. It was under these circumstances that 900,000-word epics such as Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson, were published.

Modern authors fight a different battle. As boredom is gradually eradicated from our society (fewer and fewer people are walking around without the internet in their pockets, and many of us now use earphones not to enjoy our own music but to block out someone else’s) the market for the time-killer novel has dwindled. If you find yourself waiting ten minutes for a train, will you open a copy of War and Peace, or will you pull out your iPhone and update your Facebook status?

The most fiercely-contested territory in this war is the teenage brain. Pre-teens are forced by their parents to read, and most people aged 25 and up have already developed healthy reading habits. But teenagers are old enough to make their own choices, and young enough to prefer new media to old.

An elderly person, raised on radio, may well choose to read Tolstoy. A middle-aged person might not, but if the book were Raymond Chandler’sThe Little Sister, which was written to compete with cinema, they might. Teenagers, meanwhile, need a book to be more interesting than video games or social media before they will open it. They need novels which are entertaining, rather than merely diverting.

It is telling that the most successful young-adult series of the last few years – The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Alex Rider and others – are lacking some elements commonly found in classic novels. They have no lengthy passages about the weather, the shape of the land or the genealogy of the characters. They focus instead on the plots that the TV can’t articulate, sensations that video games can’t convey, and spectacle that Hollywood has no budget for (unless, of course, the film is based on a novel which was already a best-seller).

When I was writing Hit List, I paused after every paragraph to ask myself if a teenage reader would prefer to find out what happens next, or log in to Facebook. I would advise all my fellow young-adult authors to do the same.

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Jack Heath bio page

Hit ListMoney RunThe LabThe Hunger Games (Hunger Games Trilogy)Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneStormbreakerThe Invisible Assassin

To Meme Or Not To Meme? by Nansi Kunze

Ah, memes. Those delightful little concepts that spread through a culture like a fashionable form of the plague: lolcats and First World problems, epic fails and Rickrolling. For many people, internet memes and pop culture references are the markers of cool; at the very least, knowing them is a sign of being connected, of being technologically capable. Of being young.

So it’s no surprise that YA authors who write contemporary fiction are expected to know them too. Readers over 30 often ask how we ‘keep up’ with teenagers and their newfangled ways, while younger readers have even been known to criticise the lack of memes in some YA novels. Memes and their slightly duller cousin, branding, are seen as a key element in writing for young adults. Which means that aspiring YA writers need to either be teenagers themselves or able to fake teenagehood so well that no one would know the difference, right?

Uh, no, actually. For one thing, that kind of thinking doesn’t take into account the fact that teenagers aren’t all the same. Shocking as this may sound to some, teenagers aren’t one big homogenous mass of compulsive-texting, iPod-wearing adolescence. Feverishly studying magazines and websites to find out what memes and brands encapsulate the youth of today isn’t going to make your writing speak to a wide range of young adult readers. Assuming that because you’re a teenager your audience will understand all the subcultural references you make isn’t necessarily true either; walk into any classroom and you’ll probably see kids whose interests and experiences differ wildly from your own. Memes can even be regionally distinct – no big problem for a book that’s only going to be read locally, but a potential barrier to overseas publishing opportunities.

What’s even more important to remember, however, is that memes are transient. A handful of them, like lolcats, have already been around for quite some time and don’t look like disappearing in the near future (because, frankly, it’s hard to imagine a world so grim that feline facial expressions and wacky spelling wouldn’t cheer up its inhabitants). On the other hand, the time is not far off when no one will know why you’d own a t-shirt that says ‘Bazinga!’ The world of publishing moves slowly; if you’re lucky, your newly-accepted novel might get published in a year’s time. Not everyone will buy it on its release day, either. Another year or two down the track when a reader picks it up, the choices you’ve made for your characters – what to dress them in, which songs to have them listen to, what movies to make them watch – can make their lives believable and relevant, or jarringly dated. It’s up to you.

So how can you avoid this Trap of Transient Trending, you ask? Well, you’ve got three choices, as I see it. The first option, which I use myself, is to make your own trends. Think up your own brands of clothing, your own movie titles, your own celebrity gossip or your own advertising catchphrases. Not only will they be perfectly tailored to your characters, but, when combined with deliberately vague descriptions of things that are likely to change even more rapidly (such as mobile phones and gaming systems) they can help your writing stay current for much longer. The second option is to pick a year to set your story in, point it out early in the piece and then stick with the memes that belonged to that time, understanding that this will make your writing a kind of historical piece. And the third option? Write fantasy instead. Trust me: if there’s one meme that’s not going out of style, it’s the one about how an orphan apprentice will always have incredible hidden powers and a really huge sword.

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Nansi Kunze bio page

MishapsDangerously PlacedBlood Song (Lharmell)Quillblade: Bk. 1 (Voyages of the Flying Dragon)The Meme MachineGuerrilla Creativity: Make Your Message Irresistible with the Power of MemesConsciousness Explained

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