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Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (April 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its fourth 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+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for April 2013

First Person Present Tense Narration In Teen Novels by Beth Revis

Teenage Characters And Responsibility In Teen Novels by Elizabeth Wein

Does A Novelist Need An Agent? by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Tools To Develop Productive Novel Writing Habits by April Henry

On Story Ideas And Developing A Novel by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

On The Inspiration For My Teen Novels by Laurie Faria Stolarz

On Joining A Writing Group Or Writing Alone by Paul Volponi

Plotting A Novel Versus Winging It by Diane Lee Wilson

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

Plotting My Teen Historical Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Making Time To Write Your Novel by Lish McBride

Crafting Your Novel’s Plot And Characters To Sustain Story Momentum Throughout The Middle by Sam Hawksmoor

Writing Novels About Teens For Teen Readers by Bernard Beckett

Using 5 Senses In Your Novel Writing by Pauline Francis

Using Characters And Setting To Situate Your Story In Another Culture by Kashmira Sheth

Creating Empathy For Your Characters (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

Characters And Story by Andy Briggs

Developing Characters For My Teen Novels by Kate Forsyth

This month’s articles and writing my teen novel

April Henry wrote: Do you ever find yourself polishing the same paragraph over and over, moving a clause here, changing a verb there and not ever actually adding any new words?
Sometimes even experienced writers have trouble making progress. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Paul Volponi wrote: What gave me the glimmer of hope that I could actually write a novel? Well, while I was working on Rikers Island, I was surrounded by other teachers who were aspiring novelists. They would sit in the computer room before and between classes working on their stories. I turned to one of them one day and said something like, “That’s amazing how you guys can write such big stories with all those characters and plot twists.” The guy replied, “If I can write a few good paragraphs a day, it really adds up.”

Elizabeth Wein wrote: One feature that I feel is characteristic of teen fiction is the divide between young people and adults.  It can show up as a contrast – between the unfinished, dynamic character of a maturing teen and the more static character of adults who are stuck in their prescribed roles.  Or it can show up as a simple lack of understanding between the adults and the teens in the novel.  Where I find this divide most interesting, and probably most disturbing, is when it’s part of a power play.  This is the kind of conflict that I find myself most often describing in my own novels.

Bernard Beckett wrote: When writing a piece of fiction, we try to do something more than achieve an external description of the world. We want to engage with it in a way that feels like a depiction from the inside. We’re digging, if you like, towards that which is essential. If you write about teenage characters for a teenage audience, you are backing yourself to be able to tell them something both fresh and authentic about their own experiences.

Different novelists approach their writing in different ways but it is typically a good idea not to stop and start, breaking off to research or edit, once you start drafting. Most novel writers find it much more productive to familiarise themself with their subject matter, and maybe the general design of their character development and plot, then to write a draft from beginning to end before going back over what they’ve written and revisiting their research to get the finer details right. It’s often not until a writer has finished a full draft that they really understand in detail how they want their story to work, so the best time to spend hours painstakingly polishing the fine details is typically after you have a full draft. Otherwise changes which are necessary to make your story work better could result in having to change or cut large sections that you have rewritten and edited for many hours needlessly. As April wrote, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” when drafting.

As Paul pointed out, writing a little bit regularly adds up. If you ‘wait until you are inspired’ and write 3000 words in a day once per month it will take you two years to write a full draft of a 72,000 word novel. Keep in mind that this is just the first draft, which might be half, a third, a quarter, or less of the work you do before submitting a novel to an agent or publisher (or self-publishing). Then an agent or publisher might only be interested if you do a major rewrite. If you write 500 words a day every day while drafting you will complete the first draft of a 72,000 word novel in 144 days, which is a little under four months. Writing 750 words a day, five days a week, will get a 72,000 done in 96 writing days over 134 days, which is three and a half months. Writing regularly will also help you keep the story together in your head to maintain continuity in your story and consistency in how you’re writing the story.

Many have speculated about what makes teen novels so popular with both teens and adults. One major factor is “the unfinished, dynamic character of a maturing teen and the more static character of adults who are stuck in their prescribed roles” that Elizabeth wrote about in her article. Adults don’t have to get stuck in prescribed roles but many do. Many adults have lost touch with a sense of having an unfinished, dynamic personality – which is the nature of people throughout their whole life, whether they take full advantage of it or not – to a large degree and reading stories about teenagers can help adults rethink their own attitude to life and rediscover the possibilities still available to them.

Writing my own teen novel, set in 1939 Poland, it has been crucial to do in-depth research before drafting to avoid stopping and starting to do extra research while drafting or writing an under-informed draft which would require major cuts and rewriting later. I find that having an in-depth knowledge of my subject matter and resources at hand to double-check any details I might need to confirm along the way allows me to write with confidence, enjoy the writing process and be inspired by the real-life context of what I’m writing about. Even if you write fantasy novels, and can therefore make up a lot that other writers might need to make sure they get right, some initial research relevant to your story can go a long way to creating a rich, coherent foundation for your novel and tangible real-world details to draw readers into your story-world.

My novel-in-progress is set in a time and place where characters’ plans are disrupted by the outbreak of war and they have to re-invent how they live their lives. As discussed, teenagers tend to do this naturally and many adults would benefit from being more open to re-invention. The ‘unfinished, dynamic character of the maturing teens’ in the novel should carry with it appeal for teenagers who identify with the characters’ personalities, by ‘telling them something both fresh and authentic about their own experiences’, and for adults who remember their own teenage years and the sense of possibility and opportunity that they either still have or have let go of to some degree. The characters face extraordinary circumstances which will hopefully inspire readers to realise that, if the characters are capable of doing what they do in their difficult circumstances, then the reader is also capable of great things without the obstacles faced by the characters.

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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.

You can connect with Steve Rossiter on Facebook or on Google+.

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Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (March 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its third 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 Historical Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for March 2013

Are Teen Novels ‘Genre’ Fiction? by Elizabeth Wein

Using Art In My Teen Novels by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

Writing ‘Unlikable’ Characters In Teen Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Selling Your Teen Novel Manuscript by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Unreliable Narrators In Teen Novels by Beth Revis

My Novel Writing Process by April Henry

Editing A Novel: The Necessary Evil by Lish McBride

The Process Of Writing And Revising My Novels by Monika Schroder

Finding A Good Literary Agent For Your Novels by Paul Volponi

Research For My Teen Historical Novels by Carolyn Meyer

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

What Is At Stake For The Characters In Your Teen Novel?  by Diane Lee Wilson

Voice In My Teen Novels by Kashmira Sheth

Why I Love To Set Novels In British Columbia by Sam Hawksmoor

Setting Up A Suspenseful Plot (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

On Novels That Are For-Teens-By-Accident by Bernard Beckett

Beginning Your Novel With A Great First Chapter by Pauline Francis

Getting An Agent And Publisher For Your Novel by Andy Briggs

This month’s articles and writing my teen novel

Sarah Mussi wrote: A strong opening must promise the reader that something worthwhile is going to happen because this will make the reader feel it is worth carrying on reading. This sounds simple but it’s a bit more tricky than it seems.
Firstly, ‘something worthwhile is going to happen’ should not be confused with curiosity. Mere curiosity, or not knowing something, is not enough to stimulate the interest of the reader over the course of a novel. Secondly, the willful withholding of information in order to ‘arouse interest’ or ‘create a surprise’ can be extremely annoying.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to read a book like this knows the feeling. It’s counter-productive. It’s BOOK DEATH! So you have to be very cunning.

Monika Schroder wrote: 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.

Kashmira Sheth wrote: Our inner world is colored with our outer world. The physical surroundings, including weather, seasons, terrain, plants, animals, and people have a profound impact on how they express themselves. For example, a character living in a desert might use a spiky cactus to describe a prickly personality, while a character living near a rocky beach may compare it to sharp rocks. A character’s profession will also shape the way they talk and think.  A poet may describe a sunset differently than a scientist, even though they are both watching the same sunset at the same time and same place. The metaphors and similes our characters use or don’t use reflect their environment and their backgrounds. This makes up part of their voice.

For my own teen novel in progress, set in 1939 Poland and discussed further in the January and February Month In Review Updates, my approach includes going back to revisit the first chapter as part of the editing and rewriting process to ensure it performs the important role of effectively introducing readers to my main character and drawing them into the story. As Sarah has suggested, there is a difference between skillfully crafting a sense of anticipation and story momentum by raising unanswered questions in readers’ minds as part of a satisfying story experience versus simply withholding information you would otherwise provide in the belief that withholding this information will create suspense.

Of course, while the first chapter of a novel holds a special place as readers’ entry point into a novel, it is not just the first chapter that can benefit from being re-shaped with the benefit of the big picture context gained from of a complete draft of the novel. With this big picture context in mind, the essence of each scene and the contribution it makes to the story (eg. revealing character and dynamics between characters, and showing character-change and changing dynamics between characters) can be fine-tuned so the components of the story work in unison to more effectively convey a satisfying reading experience.

Kashmira’s point that ‘our inner world is coloured by our outer world’ is something I have considered, and continue to consider, in relation to my novel. My main character, as a teenager in 1939 Poland, does not have day-to-day familiarity with contemporary things like computers or the internet, television, rock music, mobile phones (or even widespread access to home phones) and other electronic or communications devices, passenger aircraft, widespread access to motor vehicles, widespread commercial use of plastics, the United Nations, the Holocaust, the outcome of WW2, nuclear weapons, the Cold War, satellites, space travel, and whether there was intelligent life and societies on neighbouring planets. This means many concepts which could come to mind for a contemporary character cannot come to mind for my character in 1939 Poland. Day-to-day concepts which come to his mind may have more to do with things like agriculture, livestock, horses and horse-drawn carts, railway travel, communicating by posting letters, the outcome of WW1, instrumental music, folk songs, books and paintings. Contrasting a contemporary character with one from the past provides a clear example of how a character’s ‘inner world is coloured by their outer world’, but this applies equally to different characters within the setting of a novel. Each character in a setting does not experience the absolute entirety of that setting, just as no person experiences the absolute entirety of the planet, country, region, state, city, street or even the house where they live, due to the physical limitations of only being in one place at a time. Each character will experience different parts of their setting and have different thoughts than other characters, which will influences which parts of the setting they subsequently experience and what they then think, and so on, building up in each character a unique ‘inner world coloured by their outer world’.

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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.

You can connect with Steve Rossiter on Facebook or on Google+.

***

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (February 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its second 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 Historical Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for February 2013

5 Things Writers Of Teen Novels Should Know by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Plot, Character And Hooptedoodle In Teen Novels by Elizabeth Wein

Setting In Teen Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Markus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’ And What Makes A Good Teen Novel by Beth Revis

Writing Personal Stories For Teens by Stephen Emond

Writing Novels For Teens Versus For Adults by April Henry

Writing Series Fiction, by Anne Cassidy (guest article)

Writing My Novel ‘The Gypsy Crown’ by Kate Forsyth

Are Teen Novels Literature?  by Bernard Beckett

The Novel Writing Process by Lish McBride

What Makes Great Young Adult Fiction?  by Sam Hawksmoor

Writing Characters In Historical Novels For Teens by Carolyn Meyer

In Praise Of Copy Editors: Masters Of Accuracy by Monika Schroder

Using Imagery In Your Novel Writing by Kashmira Sheth

Coarse Language in Teen Novels by Paul Volponi

Underdog Characters In Teen Novels by Diane Lee Wilson

Choosing And Voicing Characters For My Teen Historical Novels by Pauline Francis

Overcoming Writer’s Block by Andy Briggs

Narrative Drive Is Not Related To Literary Merit (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

This months articles and writing my teen novel

Bernard Beckett wrote: To write for teenagers is to be classified as a genre writer: to dwell on that small, slightly shabby shelf, near the back of the store. From this vantage point there is a question that naturally arises: are we writing literature? […]But is such a distinction valid, and how effective a filter is the genre/literature divide?

Amy Kathleen Ryan wrote: Setting isn’t just a place and time. Let’s imagine that Jane Austen and Stephen King have both visited the same Georgian era house, and both felt inspired to set a scene in the attic. In addition to the quaint sewing table and a smoky fireplace, Austen’s setting would include a rigid set of expected manners, an even more rigid English class system, and probably a whole regiment of charming rogues out to ruin the honor of vulnerable yet spunky young women. King’s setting might include a chainsaw with a bit of human hair caught in the gears, a menacing creeping mist, and a universe of bizarre magical beings just waiting for our blue collar hero to prick the membrane between our world and theirs.

Diane Lee Wilson wrote: To be an appealing character, an underdog simply cannot be miserable all of the time. Readers want to hear a story of a person overcoming a difficult situation. She doesn’t have to gleefully sing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” on every other page, but she must vibrate with an inner strength.

Monika Schroder wrote: Copy editors must surely be patient and just a bit wise. I am sure that they often shake their heads at mistakes we writers make. These people who work through a manuscript with such thorough attention to detail have my full admiration. It is thanks to them that a clean and accurate manuscript finds its way to the printer.

Writing my teen historical novel, set in 1939 Poland (and discussed in my January Month In Review post), is a matter of creating a compelling story which is also the product of in-depth research. A teen novel in which storytelling takes a backseat to the historical setting is not going to cut it with a lot of teen readers and a historical novel in which in-depth knowledge takes a backseat to plot is not going to cut it with a lot of historical novel readers. The secret to managing this balance well cannot be fully explained in the space of this article. It requires a range of storytelling components to work together to create an overall story experience, which has to work in different ways for different readers.

The answer to Bernard’s question about whether teen fiction is literature depends on the definition of literature being used. If you take literature to encompass all written fiction then teen fiction (that is,  fiction intended primarily for teenage readers or with one or more prominent teenage characters, that is age-appropriate for people aged 13-19 years) then of course teen fiction is literature. Various people will differ in exactly what they mean when they say teen fiction or Young Adult fiction, and many people may not have thought much about some of the finer details of what does or does not fall under the term in the sense that they use it. If literature is taken to mean quality fiction, then I think most people would agree that some teen fiction will match that description and some teen fiction will not. However, the problem would then become deciding what is quality fiction and what is not.

Writing a novel suited to teenage readers does not automatically make it any more or any less worthy than one suited to adult readers – and there is plenty of crossover readership between each kind of novel. As Amy and Diane demonstrate, the nuances of setting, character, and so on, and how they are conveyed to readers is something that authors of teen novels and authors of adult novels consider and work into their writing. As Monika discussed, teen novels also benefit from the input of copy editors – as well as general editors and other publishing professionals – to arrive at the book readers will experience . As with adult novels, different novels will receive different levels of attention from skilled publishing professionals.

The 1939 Poland setting is an important aspect of my novel-in-progress but, as Amy touched on, more important is how I handle the setting in telling the story of my characters. My main character could be considered an underdog, as a teenage boy in the city of Bydgoszcz in western Poland at the time of the German invasion and occupation, but more important than the obstacles standing in his way is what he does in the face of such obstacles. All the storytelling components must come together and work in unison to create a good novel; from the big picture concept to copyediting to the subtleties of characters’ personalities and relationships.

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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.

You can connect with Steve Rossiter on Facebook or on Google+.

***

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Are Teen Novels Literature? by Bernard Beckett

To write for teenagers is to be classified as a genre writer: to dwell on that small, slightly shabby shelf, near the back of the store.  From this vantage point there is a question that naturally arises: are we writing literature? We ask this self-consciously, perhaps defensively, worried that somewhere out there real writers are looking down their noses at us, or worse still, not looking at us at all. Such paranoia is not without fuel. Consider the way our work is treated in schools. It is not uncommon for a senior student to be told that a certain book isn’t ‘challenging enough’ to warrant their attention. The subtext is clear. Some books are light relief, a form of entertainment and nothing more, while others have a more worthy purpose. Real books dig beneath the surface, expose us to thoughts and feelings that would have otherwise eluded us, they expand our horizons, add colour to our palette. And, as a helpful short cut, genre fiction, be it romance, crime, fantasy or YA, is lumped together in the diverting-but-shallow category. But is such a distinction valid, and how effective a filter is the genre/literature divide?

Actually, in terms of YA, I think the filter works pretty well. I certainly wouldn’t argue that teen fiction can’t be great literature (I have my favourite counter-examples), but I would argue that mostly it isn’t. What’s more, I think this is perfectly predictable, and shouldn’t be viewed as some sort of failing on behalf of the YA writer. Indeed, a case might be made that the opposite is true – teen fiction authors self-consciously attempting to create great literature would be doing their readers a grave disservice.

To make this case, first it’s necessary to establish that the notion of literature is itself meaningful. Some argue that the very term is nothing but a code word for elitism: a small, culturally self-referencing clique, define literature against their own tastes, needs and prejudices, and then impose this definition upon a bewildered public, primarily as a means of exclusion. The bored schoolboy struggling through Passage to India on a hot afternoon might have some sympathy for this view. However, I think it’s too easy a dismissal. When I consider the books I have read, some simply passed the time in a pleasant manner: entertaining, intriguing, manipulating me, spinning stories. Others did something else. They deepened my understanding of the human experience. There were moments of clarity, of insight, indeed wisdom. Now of course this is an individual response, what counts as insightful will depend upon the state of the reader’s current model of the world (whereas an adult reader might treat The Da Vinci Code as a bit of escapist fun, a twelve year old reader might be ‘blown away by the ideas’). Furthermore, many books that aspire to insight, expose us only to the limitations of the author’s world, and are almost unreadable. The definition of literature is always going to be slippery with subjectivism, but I’m not sure we should do away with it altogether.  Some reading experiences are intellectually richer than others, just as some writing is poetic, while in other cases it’s purely functional. To deny that some books are primarily in the business of entertaining, while others strive to create art, seems to miss something important.

But to say it makes sense to speak of literature, is only to build half a case. Why should we expect literature to respect genre boundaries? Why shouldn’t we expect to find beautiful, wise writing in teen fiction or romcoms? The answer, I think, is that it is tremendously difficult to serve two masters. If you want to construct a thriller, then the primary goal must be to, well, thrill. And, at the point where we accept the thriller challenge, we are faced with psychological constraints, and these  constraints in turn determine the way our story will be built. We are thrilled when the character we care for is in jeopardy, when all appears lost, when every move only makes things worse, and all the while the deadly clock ticks on. The more our righteous indignation is fired, the more intense the thrill. It’s not just that our guy is running away, it’s that our guy is essentially good, and the folk he’s running away from aren’t.  We yearn for his survival both on an empathetic, and a theological level. So immediately, we can see that moral ambiguity has a tendency to work against the thriller element. Yet it is precisely this ambiguity that challenges our sense of the world, asks us to view our circumstances from a new perspective. Here then, we see the demands of literature and entertainment pulling in opposite directions. There are ways around this, of course, and the freakishly gifted writer will find them, producing both compelling narratives and deeply challenging works. For most of us though, what we’ll produce is a thriller that doesn’t thrill.

Like the thriller, the teen novel has its own imperatives (although as the readers reach the older end of the spectrum, this is less the case, and it’s here the chances of finding genuine literature improve). One of the great joys of being a teenager is the intensity with which one lives, an intensity that is never matched. To love a new song at fifteen is to love it in a way no functional adult can reach for.  So too it goes for fearing rejection, anticipating glory, or surfing the crest of a hormonal wave. Life is full of fresh first times, the existing template is tantalisingly inadequate, and the ride is at once terrifying, thrilling, elevating, and crushing; a mess of confusion and contradictions. Teenagers are in the business of trying out their new toys: their new bodies, their new intellectual capacities, their new level of access to adult society. They are fearsome advocates, gobsmacking risk takers, both loyal and fickle, tribal and fiercely independent. They don’t seek ambiguity, but rather clash. Their instinct isn’t for contemplation, it’s for engagement. These are the fast food years. One doesn’t linger and savour; one consumes, in great, joyous mouthfuls. And this wonderful creation, the modern teen, is the master the YA writer must serve.

This unique audience provides us with special opportunities, along with a peculiar set of constraints. It is the nature of these constraints, I would argue, that mean that the work we produce often isn’t literature. There are exceptions of course; glorious, inspiring exceptions, that simultaneously provoke jealousy and ambition. For the rest of us, with our stories to tell, engaging the audience is a lofty enough goal.

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Bernard Beckett’s author website: www.bernardbeckett.org

Bernard Beckett’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

GenesisAugustNo AlarmsLester     Prison Ship: Adventures of a Young SailorWhere the Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann ParkerJohnny Tremain

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (January 2013)

The Writing Teen Novels 2013 line-up was launched on January 1st with a diverse range of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand as monthly contributors. Each monthly contributor now has their first Writing Teen Novels article online.

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

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for January 2013

What I Did Wrong And What I Did Right On The Way To Becoming A New York Times Bestselling Novelist by Beth Revis

Some Themes For Teen Novels by Elizabeth Wein

Why I Write Mysteries And Thrillers – And Read Them, Too by April Henry

I Was A Teenage Artist by Stephen Emond

Voice In Teen Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Why I Write For Young Adults by Laurie Faria Stolarz

On Finding Story Ideas by Kate Forsyth

On Story Development by Andy Briggs

Teen Fiction: A Definition? by Bernard Beckett

Getting ‘Great Ideas’ For Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Combining Personal Experience And Imagination For Writing Novels by Kashmira Sheth

Why I Write Young Adult Novels by Lish McBride

What Is The Appeal Of Teen Dystopian Novels? by Sam Hawksmoor

How Reading Berlin Newspapers From The Fall Of 1918 Helped Me Write ‘My Brother’s Shadow’ by Monika Schroder

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

On Creating Conflict (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

Choosing The Right Story For Your Teen Novel by Paul Volponi

Historical Teen Novels: Fact, Fiction And Friction by Pauline Francis

Writing Narrative Point Of View In Teen Novels by Diane Lee Wilson

Approaching the writing of teen novels

Beth Revis wrote: “Do the things you fear. Don’t try to be like everyone else. Care more about the story than the market.”

Elizabeth Wein wrote: “I don’t write teen novels. Most of my novels are about teens, but I have never once in my life set out to write a ‘teen novel’.”

Guest contributor Catherine Ryan Hyde: “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.”

Laurie Faria Stolarz wrote: “I knew that I wanted to target readers that were like me as a young person – those who found themselves getting discouraged by reading, whose minds tended to wander as soon as they got bored on the page. I wanted to create high concept, page-turning books that would grab the reluctant reader and get them excited about reading.”

Lish McBride wrote: “The writing coming out of Young Adult and Middle Grade sections makes my imagination burn and my heart glow with pure, unabashed joy. There have always been writers and editors that take writing for kids seriously, but now they’re being let onto the playing field. It makes me happier than you can ever know to be part of that team.”

Paul Volponi wrote: “After having written 10 novels for young adults, I believe that the most challenging aspect of writing a YA novel is choosing the right story. Why? You’re probably going to live with that story every day for a long while. In my case, it usually takes me anywhere from 10 months to a year to complete a novel. Then, following the initial writing process, there will probably be several more months of working with the editor representing the publishing company, making modifications on the novel. So there is little doubt that you need to choose a story that inspires you.”

I am currently writing a teen historical novel set in western Poland in 1939. The basic premise is that a teenage boy living with his family in Bydgoszcz in western Poland discovers at the outbreak of WW2 that he was adopted and his biological parents want to take him to Berlin, but he has different ideas. The story follows him as he tries to bring his family in Bydgoszcz back together amidst the German invasion and occupation.

I live in Australia and, like Beth Revis recommends, I’m not being like everyone else; writing a teen historical novel set in wartime Poland is not an attempt to hitch onto market trends and be just like the current bestsellers. It has originality but can also fit firmly into genres such as teen novels, historical novels and wartime novels. Like Elizabeth Wein, I am writing about a teenage main character but not necessarily writing a ‘teen’ novel in the sense of following criteria to fit a specific idea of what ‘teen’ novels should be. The novel I’m writing is intended for teenage readers and adult readers. The subject matter means I would not be actively promoting the novel to pre-teen children, given the setting in the opening months of WW2 Poland and being written for teen-adult readers in mind, but, as Catherine Ryan Hyde indicated, many young readers read above the recommended age-range. I first read one of Stephen King’s adult horror novels when I was 9 and enjoyed it because it didn’t talk down and overly simplify things like many of the novels I had read that were recommended for my age. Whereas Laurie Faria Stolarz has an emphasis on catering for reluctant readers, my natural emphasis for teen readers is probably more toward creating something which will entertain and intellectually stimulate Honour Roll students and intelligent adults, while still being accessible and emotionally engaging for more reluctant readers. As Lish McBride pointed out, there is a lot of sophisticated and entertaining fiction available to teen readers now. My approach to my novel-in-progress is not to focus on a simplistic action-adventure approach to war, nor a simplistic anti-war morality tale, or something similar, but a story about things like family, friendship, courage, responsibility, joy, sorrow and striving against adversity. Another key aspect of my approach for this novel is in-depth research; I want my depiction of the setting to stand up to expert scrutiny as well as the story being entertaining and intellectually stimulating for teen and adult readers. All this amounts to a story I am happy to write, revise and edit over a long timeframe then discuss with people over an even longer timeframe.

Teen readers deserve novels which are not a simplified version of adult novels but sophisticated and entertaining novels created with as much effort and attention to detail as adult novels.

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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

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