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Posts tagged ‘teen novel blog’

Does A Novelist Need An Agent? by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Beginning writers often ask me if they really need an agent, and my answer is this: “Unless you’re really great at promoting yourself, and you’re willing to spend hours learning contract law, and you’re very good at negotiating for more money… you definitely need an agent.” There are very few writers who represent themselves successfully. I’ve heard too many horror stories about writers who were willing to sign any contract thrown at them, with very little knowledge of the business, and ended up regretting it years later. Believe it: A bad contract can have financial implications for you that can last a lifetime. Unless a person has a lot of experience analyzing lots of publishing contracts they can, and probably will, miss the little things that can add up BIG TIME.

I look at some of the stuff my agent does for me and I am amazed and incredibly humbled and grateful that I found her. She is a brilliant negotiator. She’s managed to get publishers to quadruple their initial offers mostly because, I say with humility, she believes in me as a writer. If she gets a whiff that my publisher is about to give my book short shrift as far as marketing goes, she’s on the phone with them straight away convincing them of why they need to rethink their strategy. Somehow, she almost always gets what she wants. She is my champion. Compared to her gladiatorial level arbitration, I’d be Oliver Twist holding out my bowl of porridge and saying in a meek little voice, “Please sir, can I have some more?” I know in my heart of hearts that I could never do what she does, on my own behalf or on the behalf of anyone else.  Few could.

Not only that but whenever I am out in the world hobnobbing with editors and they ask me who my agent is, I tell them and they often raise their eyebrows and say, “Oh! Well tell her to submit your work to me.” That’s because even if these editors don’t know who I am, they do know who my agent is. They know she has a reputation for excellent taste and they assume by association that they’re going to like my writing.

So yes, you need an agent – but you need a good one. My next article will be about how to find a good agent.

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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)

Zen and Xander UndoneVibesGlowSpark    The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots (Young Royals Books (Hardcover))TorchedRise of the Heroes (Hero.Com)

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Developing The Story For My Novel ‘The Puzzle Ring’, by Kate Forsyth

One idea is not enough to begin writing a novel. I usually find you need three which seem to have some kind of electrical charge between them.

I got the first idea for my book The Puzzle Ring while flicking through a jewellery catalogue while waiting in a doctor’s surgery. At the back of the magazine was a brief article about the first ever puzzle ring. The story went something like:

‘Long ago, there lived an Arabian king who was madly in love with his young and beautiful wife, and tormented by jealousy she might be unfaithful to him. He challenged the court jeweller to make a wedding ring that would show if the ring was ever taken off his wife’s finger. After many attempts, the jeweller invented a ring that would fall apart into separate loops if removed from the finger, and could only be put back together again if you knew the secret of the puzzle. Of course, the wife did take the ring off one day… and was promptly killed by her enraged husband.’

I thought at once, in an idle sort of a way, what a great thematic device this would be for a quest story… a desperate search for a puzzle ring that had fallen apart. When I got home, I wrote down a few simple words in my ideas book – ‘Quest for a broken puzzle ring’ – which eventually became a novel of 100,000 words.

I would continue to wonder about it in idle moments. Who would be searching for a puzzle ring? Why?

Questions lead to wondering, which lead to imagining, which lead to story.

One day, sometime later, I was browsing in a second-hand bookstore and discovered an old book called The Book of Curses. When I sat down to look through it, the page fell open, of its own volition, at a chapter about the famous Scottish curse ‘The Seaforth Doom’. This is a very chilling and creepy story about a warlock called Kenneth the Enchanter who was burnt to death in the 16th century by a jealous and vengeful woman, Isabella Mackenzie, the Countess of Seaforth.

Kenneth had a magical fairy stone, or hag-stone, and the countess had asked him to look through his hag-stone and tell him what her husband was doing. Kenneth had laughed, and then told her “Fear not for your Lord. He is safe and sound, well and hearty, merry and happy”.

Angrily she demanded to know why he had laughed and, when he would not tell her, threatened him with a terrible death. At last he confessed he had seen her husband on his knees before another woman, kissing her hand.

The countess was so furious that she ordered Kenneth to be thrust headfirst into a barrel of boiling tar. As he was led out to his execution, the warlock lifted his hag-stone to his eye and cast a terrible curse on the Mackenzies of Seaforth.

My own family heritage is Scottish; my grandmother’s grandmother was called Ellen Mackenzie. And so this famous curse seemed almost as if it was directed against my own family. And I thought to myself, what would you do if you found out your family was cursed? Wouldn’t you set out to break the curse? But how?

Perhaps, I thought, you’d need to find and fix a broken puzzle ring…

And so I got the first two ideas for my novel The Puzzle Ring.

The next idea came fast on the heels of the second idea. Because my own family was Scottish, and I’d been inspired by a famous Scottish curse, I decided to set the story in Scotland.

A modern-day girl called Hannah discovers her family is cursed, and so persuades her mother to visit their ancestral home in Scotland in the hope of breaking the curse. Once in the Highlands of Scotland, she makes friends with three local kids … and they soon discover the only way to break the curse was to travel back in time to the dangerous days of Mary, Queen of Scots…

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Kate Forsyth’s author website: www.kateforsyth.com.au

Kate Forsyth’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

The Puzzle Ring   

United Kingdom (and beyond)

   

Australia (and beyond)

The Puzzle RingThe Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)The Starthorn TreeThe Tower of Ravens (Rhiannon's Ride)     The Empty KingdomThe Forgotten PearlA World Away

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Writing My Novel ‘The Gypsy Crown’, by Kate Forsyth

The idea for The Gypsy Crown came out of the blue like a lightning bolt. This is how it happened.

When I was a little girl, I used to go and visit my Great-Aunt Bobby, an elderly and rather eccentric lady who always gave us tea out of fine bone china cups with violets on them.  She had an old charm bracelet, passed down through the family for generations, and I used to like to look at all the charms and hear the stories behind them. Some of the charms were very old. The oldest of all was nothing but a small brown pebble, smooth from years of being rubbed for luck. It had been picked up from the banks of the River Thames by my great-great-great-great-grandmother, before she left England to travel the long and dangerous journey to Australia. I loved to hear this story, and wanted a charm bracelet of my own, one in which each charm had a story behind it.

Many years later, my great-aunt died and the charm bracelet was inherited by my mother. I remember having lunch with her, and she showed me the beautiful old bracelet, heavy with charms, and I remembered how much I had loved it as a little girl.

Then I thought to myself, imagine if a bracelet like this was broken and someone had to go on a quest to find all the lost charms. What an amazing quest story it would make.

Each charm could have some kind of meaning … each could be won only after some kind of adventure, the overcoming of obstacles, the payment of some kind of cost …

All the hairs rose on my arms. I felt a jolt of electricity run down my spine. It was a good idea, I knew it at once.

But who and where and when and why?

These are the key questions I always ask myself when a story idea comes to me. Sometimes it takes a long time to answer those questions. But in the case of The Gypsy Crown, the solution came to me at once, in a flash.

I had always wanted to be a Gypsy, ever since my grandmother had told me – perhaps jokingly – that there was Gypsy blood in our family. As a girl, I used to pretend to be a Gypsy all the time. I’d dress in a long, layered skirt in all different fabrics and a white embroidered blouse with puffed sleeves, and put on lots of gold bangles, and imagine I was travelling the roads of the world, barefoot and fancy-free . Sometimes on the weekend, in summer, my mother used to let my sister and brother and me light a campfire in our back garden and we’d camp out under the stars and cook sausages on sticks.  I pretended I could play the violin so people could not help but dance, and that I had a pet monkey that caused all kinds of mischief.

I remembered this childhood fascination of mine, in what felt like less than a second after thinking of writing a story about a quest for a charm bracelet. Gypsies used to believe in charms and talismans, I thought. Surely they wore charm bracelets?

In my mind’s eye, I saw at once two Romany children – a boy and a girl – with flashing dark eyes and black curly hair, dressed in ragged, bright, old-fashioned clothes. The girl was laughing and dancing and clapping her hands, tattered skirts swirling about her dirty bare feet. The boy was playing a violin, a tiny monkey passing around her hat for coins. A grumpy old dancing bear danced too, a ring through her nose. From the shadows, a man with a sword watched, meaning them harm …

I wrote the first book, or section, of The Gypsy Crown in only three weeks, the fastest I’ve ever written a book. It just seemed to leap from my fingers.

(In Australia, The Gypsy Crown is the first in a series of 6 books. In the UK & the US and other territories, the series was published in a condensed version as one single book).

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Kate Forsyth’s author website: www.kateforsyth.com.au

Kate Forsyth’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

   

United Kingdom (and beyond)

   

Australia (and beyond)

The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)The Starthorn TreeThe Tower of Ravens (Rhiannon's Ride)The Shining City (Rhiannon's Ride)    GlowAcross the UniverseProject 17

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Why I Made The Switch To Writing Young Adult Novels, by Catherine Ryan Hyde (guest article)

I made the switch to Young Adult fiction before it was popular to do so. Before YA was seen as the last great frontier for fiction authors. The gold rush had not yet begun.

The most common question I was asked: “Why?” In a rather incredulous tone, as if I had just given myself a demotion. Just a couple of years later a tactless acquaintance asked if I was writing YA because my agent had told me to. It had already become that popular for authors to switch. But that’s not why I did.

I was looking for something that a woman in a bookstore once labeled, “The freedom to be sincere.” It was part of a search for where my writing truly belongs…which leads me to look more deeply into how much I know about where my writing belongs. That’s not a negative statement. It’s an acknowledgment of the simple fact that readers will determine who my readers will be. It’s not really my call.

Another question I’m often asked is, “How do you know what’s YA and what isn’t?” My answer? “In most instances, I don’t.”

Case in point, my novel Becoming Chloe was written for adults. And it had plenty of adult material in it, too. Only later, when I had written other YA novels, did I consider it might work for a younger audience. So I shortened it. I took out a couple of subplots that made it move at more of an adult pace. I did not make other changes. I didn’t remove the adult content, because it was not removable. It was essential to the story. (And I got very few complaints about it from the grownups who oversee YA fiction. Probably because it was essential to the story.) I didn’t change the tone or reading level, because, in my opinion, there’s no discernable difference between an adult and a teen reader in terms of reading level or sophistication. The difference seems to rest in issues of what themes are relevant to teen lives.

It helps to remind myself that when I was 14, my favorite book and movie was Midnight Cowboy, though my parents didn’t know it. That’s how I assess the reading level of a teen.

Perhaps an even better example of how little I/we know about the subject is my novel Chasing Windmills. I wrote it as YA, and presented it to my editor at Knopf Books for Young Readers. She liked it a lot. But she didn’t think it was YA. So I lengthened it by creating a second character viewpoint, that of Maria. Maria is 23, has two children, and lives (lived) with an abusive boyfriend. I figured going into her point of view would make the novel cleanly, undeniably adult. I presented it to my adult editor at Doubleday. Doubleday purchased and published the novel…which immediately crossed over to YA with a glowing review in School Library Journal. They labeled it High School through Adult.

So much for knowing the difference. But again, I don’t say that in a negative way. It’s taught me something. In general, we will always be a bunch of adults sitting around deciding what teens want to read. As such, we will often miss the mark. Even if the person reading this is a teen, you’re only one teen. Not every teen. And we all know that no two readers are alike.

The novel I just finished is probably coming-of-age literature for adults (though of course I could be wrong) despite the fact that my protagonist is 14 when the story begins, 17 when it ends. Her older friend is teaching her to fish, and he tells her that sometimes the fish are biting, other times they’re not. She wants to know how you judge the difference. He says, “By casting a baited hook into the water and seeing if they bite it. If there was a way of knowing before you left the house, and I knew it, I wouldn’t have had to work in a bank all my life. I’d have bottled the secret and sold it to fishermen all over the world. I’d be a rich man indeed.”

My suggestion is that, rather than sitting in the (figurative) house and deciding what teens want to – and should – read, we might give them access to tons of great literature. When we see what they pick up in large numbers, we’ll have our answer. And when we see what any teens pick up, no matter how small the numbers, we’ll have a broader answer that encompasses more than just your average teen.

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Catherine Ryan Hyde’s author website: www.catherineryanhyde.com

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of many novels, including the internationally bestselling Pay It Forward which became a film starring Haley Joel Osment, Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.

Guest Articles

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United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

Becoming ChloeWhen You Were OlderDon't Let Me GoPay it Forward     Girl, StolenVibesThe Final Four

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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