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Month In Review (December 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the final month of articles for 2013 from this year’s multi-national line-up of novelists.

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 December 2013

What I Read When I Was A Teenager by Elizabeth Wein

Writing Sociopathic Characters by April Henry

Examining Philosophical Beliefs Through Teen Novels by Bernard Beckett

Bad Habits To Avoid While Writing by Andy Briggs

Handling Feedback About My Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Writing Honest Depictions In Your Novels by Paul Volponi

Writing Good Dialogue For Your Novel by Lish McBride

Creating Characters With Flaws by Kashmira Sheth

Writing What You Know by Beth Revis

The Young Adult Fiction Industry by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

Writing The Opening Lines Of A Novel by Kate Forsyth

How I Became A Writer by Monika Schroder

On Being Nice As A Writer by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Marketing Your Teen Novel On A Medium Sized Budget by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Working With An Editor On A Teen Novel by Diane Lee Wilson

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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

Working With An Editor On A Teen Novel, by Diane Lee Wilson

Having a manuscript accepted for publication is a heady feeling. You’ve arrived! You’re soon to be a published author. The sky’s the limit now! Look out, world.

Congratulations are definitely in order. Simply completing a manuscript is an accomplishment, but to have your work rise from the thousands of submissions and be recognized as worthy of professional publication is truly something to be proud of. Now, don’t let your success go to your head. There’s a lot of work yet to do and a good deal of it is humbling.

Publishing a book is a business. It’s a partnership between you and the publishing house. Don’t be arrogant and assume that your manuscript is the best thing to ever cross an editor’s desk. It’s not. So be prepared to work with your editor to make it better. After happily signing all of the contracts and mentally spending your first advance check, you’ll receive your precious manuscript back in the mail – with handwritten criticism all over it! Here’s where you remind yourself that your editor is working in your best interests; he or she knows the teen market and knows what sort of writing sells. That’s what you want, right? To market – and sell – your best possible work? So read through the comments carefully and as objectively as possible. I recommend arguing the points that you really feel strongly about, but don’t pick fights over little things that don’t really impact your overall story. Your editor prefers a different word here or suggests deleting a sentence or two there? Fine. Trust them to do their job.

One thing I’ve learned is that words are not sacred and that no reader ever misses what isn’t there. When I receive the final galley of a novel for proofreading prior to going to print, I’m always impressed with how smooth the story seems. There is no sign of what has been argued about; nothing appears to be missing or altered. It’s an improved version of what I submitted.

Sometimes the suggested changes are far more than a word here and a sentence there. When I sold my first manuscript, I naively thought I was finished. I did not expect to receive so many criticisms and suggested changes. I was so overwhelmed, in fact, by the scope of what my editor was requesting that I got teary and said to myself, “I can’t do this.” But after reading through the comments again and gearing up for the additional work, I rewrote several chapters, deleted one entire chapter, added some more backstory and altered the ending slightly to account for a character that had disappeared. The revised manuscript, I have to admit, was better. It was tighter, faster-paced and more satisfying.

Each subsequent manuscript has had its own challenges and eventual transformation. In Black Storm Comin’ I was cautioned to delete language that would be deemed offensive by schools and school librarians. I had merely been writing dialogue that seemed typical for tough Western characters but, keeping in mind that I wanted to sell books to schools, I softened the language where suggested.

I’ve often had to change the opening chapter in my novels. I like mysterious and murky beginnings that are often pulled from events in the middle of the story, and I did that in my most recent novel, Tracks. But my editor reminded me once again that these can be too difficult for young teen readers to grasp and that if I want to sell books I had to make the story accessible.

On occasion I’ve stood up for elements of my original manuscript. If I feel very strongly that a character would indeed act as I’ve described or if I very much want to tell the story as a flashback, then I argue my case. I’ve found my editors (I’ve had two wonderful ones) to be very agreeable to my position when I argue it. The key is give and take; I adopt nearly all of their suggestions, holding firm on only a few points.

Ultimately, your editor wants you to have a successful novel and is advising you how to achieve that. I recommend heeding their advice. Publishing, again, is a business. You’re the artist but you need experienced people such as editors, illustrators and marketers to help you earn money from your art.

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

Diane Lee Wilson’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

Raven SpeakTracksI Rode a Horse of Milk White JadeBlack Storm Comin'     The Night She DisappearedTarzan: The Greystoke LegacyHold Me Closer, Necromancer

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Working With My Editor, by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

I had a friend ask me, when I was working on Happyface, if I disliked having an editor. He couldn’t imagine someone telling him what’s good and what’s bad in his writing. I could see where some people would have issues with that. I’m not one of them. It would take a certain level of confidence that I’ve never mustered to assume that what I’ve written is the best it can be. I’ve only had great editors and I consider it an important advantage to my writing.

The books of mine you’ve read would not be the same had I worked on them alone. My editor (Connie) is great at taking what tends to be a rather personal work and finding the broader strokes of it. I’m often amazed at how she takes something I’ve written or pitched, and somehow understands me enough to say “I think THIS is what you’re trying to do here,” in a way that maintains the spirit of my words but also adds a laser focus to it. I see why I chose that, and how to burrow in deeper.

Meetings with Connie can also be like therapy. We’ve had very long conversations about my work (who else is going to listen to me talk about my fantasy lands for 3 or 4 hours?) where she can take away all the excess, all the extraneous ideas and pieces and really get at the core of what it is that I care about, what the story really is, taking it all apart and rebuilding it from the scraps.

Sometimes it’s rough. Sometimes I get pages of notes that pick apart every other sentence, she wants to cut half of the stuff I just know is good but it doesn’t fit. The truth hurts but she’s always right. Sometimes it takes me a day or two to realize it.

Stephen Emond - Lemons comic

My first draft of something can see  close to half of it cut. Essentially saying “THIS stuff is good, this stuff over here is just okay. Let’s cut that stuff and make it as good as the best parts.”

More than a few times, I’ve gotten notes like “Ew! This part is creepy!” or “Definitely cut this section.” I flush red for a few seconds and start deleting, glad those parts didn’t get any further.

When you’re writing 60,000+ words it gets very hard to see things objectively. At some point it all blends together, the good and the bad, and it just exists in it’s own world. There are times I just have to rely on someone else to read it and be honest with me. Connie reads my words over and over and over, always making interesting notes and comments. Sometimes she just knows the right questions to ask to get my mind rolling: “Why did you choose this setting? Why is this character here?”

Of course, not everyone has an editor at a big publisher to lean on. Find someone you can trust who can really be truthful and conversational and elevate your work, and who won’t butter you up and say the nice things you secretly or not-so-secretly want to hear. A good editor is completely indispensable.

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Stephen Emond’s author website: www.stephenemond.com

Stephen Emond’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

HappyfaceWinter Town     GlowShades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Month In Review (July 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its seventh 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 July 2013

Why I Write About Children In Times Of  War by Monika Schroder

Plot Is The Backbone Of All Page-Turners by April Henry

Writing Teen Novels With Timeless Appeal by Diane Lee Wilson

Writing Suspenseful Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Handling Novel Writing Deadlines by Paul Volponi

Mistakes I’ve Made As A Novelist by Bernard Beckett

Writing Teen Novels About Pilots And Flying by Elizabeth Wein

Techniques For Overcoming Writer’s Block by Beth Revis

Finding The Right “Voice” For Your Novel by Carolyn Meyer

Pacing A Novel by Lish McBride

Creating A Realistic Story World by Andy Briggs

Plotting A Novel by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Working On My Novel With My Editor by Sam Hawksmoor

Narrating Your Story In A Lean Style by Kashmira Sheth

Writing Prophecies In Fantasy Novels by Kate Forsyth

Structuring Novel Chapters by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

Researching For My Teen Historical Novels by Pauline Francis

Maintaining Suspense Throughout Your Plot (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

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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

Month In Review (May 2013)

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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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United States (and beyond)

   

United Kingdom (and beyond)

   

Australia (and beyond)

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

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Fiction Editor Aimee Salter Interviewed by SM Johnston

Professional manuscript editor Aimee Salter has stopped by to answer some questions that will help aspiring young adult writers tighten their manuscripts up and make them stand out from the slush pile.

What signs can writers look for that indicates they’re “telling” instead of “showing” in their manuscript?

In the bigger picture, this is a really difficult question to answer. “Telling” is one of those things you learn to identify with time and experience. But there is one form of telling that I can clearly define:

You’re telling when the point-of-view character explains to the reader what another character is thinking, feeling, or intending.

In real life we interpret other people’s actions through their tone and body language. As readers we do the same with characters. If the POV character tells the reader something that contradicts their natural understanding of what is shown, then they’re confused. If the POV character is just re-iterating what the reader already understood, it’s redundant. Either way, it shouldn’t be there.

Feelings need to be shown to the reader through dialogue, body-language, and tone in voice and the writing. If you’re using the names of feelings, or words like “as if” or the various forms of “seem”, then you might be telling.

(Hint: A good tool to help show character motivation/emotion is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi).

What are some clichés that writers should avoid?

That’s an interesting question. If you want to talk about actual writing clichés, the list is endless.

I couldn’t tell you the number of manuscripts I’ve seen dealt a fatal blow by leaning too heavily on the bad boy premise. The author wants to see all hell break loose, when really they’re just doing it by the book. When it comes to describing characters, they put in everything but the kitchen sink. Most of those details the reader sees day in and day out. The author should figure out what’s unique about their premise or character and yell that from the rooftops. It’s as easy a falling off a log: Only tell the reader something they haven’t heard before – especially when you’re just getting the ball rolling.

See what I mean? It’s way too easy to let cliché’s become part of your narration. The good news is, most of us know what those clichés look like and as soon as we know we need to look for them, we can. Worst case scenario, an editor can ferret them out.

The clichés that are truly worrying are the characters or plot-points we’ve all seen a million times.

I read a book recently by a clearly talented author that spent so much time focused on the “Good girl/Bad boy” narration, the characters were never actually developed into their stereotypes before they were rescued from them. The Good Girl appeared on the page wanting to be bad. And the Bad Boy appeared on the page wanting to be good enough for the Good Girl. It didn’t matter that the writing was good – the foundational elements of the story weren’t new. There was nothing there to hold my interest because I’d seen it all before.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to create your own version of something that’s gone before. But if you’re going to do that, it’s vital that you have something unique in your story, and that you bring that unique element to the reader’s (or agent’s/editor’s) attention immediately. Otherwise you’ll get feedback about ‘cardboard plots’ or ‘stock-characters’.

What tips do you have for aspiring authors to make their writing more active?

I have a bunch, actually. There’s a self-editing series on my website that gives several lists of commonly overused words and phrases, along with suggested replacements.

But the single most common passivity I see is the “were/was” and “ing” construction:

“We were going to the pool.” Should actually be “We went to the pool.”

“He was holding my hand.” Should be, “He held my hand.”

In present tense: “Tony is walking next to me.” Should be “Tony walks next to me.”

In a single sentence you’re only dropping a word or two but, over the course of an 80,000 word manuscript, you might be stunned how many times that construction is used. The problem is, not only does it create an extra word or two every time, it also slows the pace of the read and distances the reader from the action.

On my website, “was” is one of the first “seek and destroy” missions of the self-editing tips because it’s the most commonly used and is (often, but not always) unnecessary.

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You can read more from Aimee Salter with SM Johnston at Down Under Wonderings and YAtopia.

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SM Johnston bio page

Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and FilmPsychonarratology: Foundations for the Empirical Study of Literary ResponseGotham Writers' Workshop Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing SchoolRevision and Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Finished Novel (Write Great Fiction)Pandemonium (Delirium (Hardcover))Cleopatra ConfessesKingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark

Rewriting and its Strange Parallel to Project Runway, by Alane Ferguson

Okay, I admit it. I LOVE Project Runway, especially when they require their poor contestants to make an outfit out of some ungodly product, like lettuce or garbage or maybe chicken soup.  For the uninitiated, Project Runway showcases up-and-coming designers who have yet to break into the fashion world.  The show begins with a dozen or so designers/contestants, and week by week the judges whittle that number down to a lucky three.  The final trio goes on to compete in the very prestigious New York Fashion Week, after which the judges crown an ecstatic winner.  So how does this relate to me as a writer and the act of revision?  Believe it or not, the parallel is a strong one.  I’m thinking in particular of the infamous ‘the-clothes-off-your-back’ challenge, which consists of the contestants removing their jeans, skirts, shirts, jackets – whatever they happened to have on when the challenge was announced – and then remake those materials into something new and amazing.  It’s hard, painful work, and yet, when they are finished and their models walk down the runway, the transformations are incredible!  The new creations are almost always better than the original.  And that reminds me an awful lot of something that is the backbone of what we writers do: revision.

Right now, I am deep into a revision for The Dead Giveaway, the fifth book in my forensic series.  With my editor’s notes at my side, I’ve spent day after day with the equivalent of a seam ripper, that small, pointed tool that cuts through a garment’s threads.  Like the Project Runway contestants, I take my metaphorical ‘ripper’ and unstitch scenes I’ve previously sewn together, line by line, word by word.  My chapters are like pieces of fabric scattered across the floor, just waiting to be re-stitched into something better.  Sometimes, scenes end up getting tossed completely.  As an example, I just (sob) cut an entire chapter out of my novel because I found it to be redundant. So far, in this revision, a new character has been introduced, forty-plus scenes have been rearranged, and a new ending has been sewn (I mean, written) in.  Do I like this part of the writing process?  Honestly, in a word, no.  But it is essential, because it is my job as an author to listen to my editor, who has a fresh eye, and then make my work the best that it can be.

It’s a given that my writing makes sense to me, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into clarity for my reader.  All professional writers know and accept this.  So I weigh my editor’s words very carefully.  Most suggestions are incorporated, some are not, but a revision always takes place.  Like the Project Runway designers, I take the individual pieces of my novel and re-form them into something tighter, and, hopefully, something better.  It’s exactly like the ‘clothes-off-your-back’ challenge, except that mine consists of scenes instead of cloth, words instead of thread.  When I send my novel down the proverbial runway, I always hold my breath with the hope that the judges (in this case, my readers) will like the finished product.  The published novel represents a lot of work, lost sleep, and creative blood.  To all of you who would like to write your own novel someday, remember that this, too, will be part of your job.  When you face the daunting task of reworking your words, don’t despair.  Take a look at ‘the-clothes-off-your-back’ challenge and see the possibilities.  Then roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath, and get to work!

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Alane Ferguson bio page

The Christopher KillerThe Circle of BloodThe Angel of DeathWolf Stalker: A Mystery in Yellowstone National ParkFear: 13 Stories of Suspense and HorrorThe Broken BladePandemonium (Delirium (Hardcover))

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