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Posts tagged ‘New York Times bestselling teen novelist’

10 Tips For Becoming A Good Novelist, by April Henry

1. Read, read, read. Try well-reviewed books in genres you wouldn’t normally read – fantasy, historical novels, even westerns. Don’t be afraid to put something aside if it’s not working for you – but first try to pinpoint why it’s not working.

2. You don’t have to write what you know. Write what interests you. Do I know much about kidnappings, murders, drug dealers, being blind or assuming a dead girl’s identity? No. But I’ve written books that have gotten starred reviews, awards and have hit the New York Times bestseller list.

3. You can write a book in as little as 20 minutes a day. I know because I’ve done it. Make writing a habit. Don’t wait for inspiration. Once you are published, you’ll need to make deadlines. Write every day or, at minimum, every weekend. If you don’t know what to write about, start by getting a book with writing prompts, like Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg or What If by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.

4. You can always edit crap. You can’t edit nothing. Sometimes you have to force yourself to write. Sometimes you’ll find your back against the wall when you need a solution or a resolution to the story. Make yourself write something. Anything. And often what you come up with turns out to be surprisingly good.

5. You don’t have to outline – but you can. If you don’t plot in advance, just keep raising the stakes for your characters. Set up initial goals, throw some obstacles in the way, and see if your characters sink or swim. If your characters do swim, send a few sharks after them!

6. Tenacity is as important as talent. Many fine writers have given up after getting a few rejections from agents. I still think about Jane and Tom, people I took a writing class with about a decade ago. They were the stars of our class, far better writers than I was. I was just one of the drones. Both Jane and Tom gave up after getting a few rejections from agents. If they had persevered, I think they would have been published.

7. Show vs. tell is something most writers struggles with. In movies and on TV they can’t tell you anything – at least without on-screen text or voice over. Everything is audio-visual, which means they have to show you. How do you know someone is upset, angry, happy, sad, frustrated, etc.? Watch movies and TV and write down facial expressions, movements, actions, gestures, etc. Use these to describe your own characters when you’re writing. This is a good way to learn how to show emotion instead of telling it.

8. Revision has gotten a bad rap. It can actually be the most fun. Most of the hard work is done – so you just polish things up, cut things down to size, make characters a little larger than life, and reorder your ideas. The best way to start a revision is to let the book lie fallow for at least a week. A month is better. Six months would be ideal.

9. To really see what needs fixing, read it aloud. Yes, all of it. It’s even better if you can read it to someone, even if it’s a toddler or your cat. Or imagine an editor or agent is listening.

10. Go to readings at bookstores. You’ll learn something from every writer you hear. You’ll see that published writers aren’t some exotic species. And they’ll be glad to see you even if you don’t buy a book.


April Henry’s author website:

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The Girl Who Was Supposed to DieGirl, StolenThe Night She DisappearedShock Point    A World AwayThe Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)

Writing Teen Novels

Why I Write For Young Adults, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

As a child, before I knew how to write – before I could even put pen to paper – I loved telling stories.  I’d go out into the neighborhood and tell the other kids about the time I went into the meadow and battled with a mountain lion.  And the time I wrestled a boa constrictor from around my neck in the fields behind our house.  My stories, of course, were lies, but I didn’t hesitate passing them off as truth.  I got a bigger reaction that way, which encouraged me to create more vivid details to heighten the tension and up the stakes.

When I got a little older and actually could write, I’d draft scripts for my Barbies and have them star in my plays and movies.  In elementary school, whenever I was asked to write about my summer or holiday vacations, I never thought that my own life was interesting enough, and so again I made things up.

You’d think that because I loved writing so much, I’d naturally enjoy reading.  But the opposite couldn’t have been truer.  I remember being in elementary school, reading pages and pages of text, and nothing sinking in.  As soon as I got slightly bored, my mind would wander and I’d have to start all over again.  I remember getting assigned to read certain novels in junior high and high school, staying up late at night, trying to absorb the words on the page.  But, so often, even though I was physically doing the assignment, mentally I was someplace else.  My eyes would scan the words, I’d flip the pages at the appropriate time, but by the end of a chapter, I’d have retained very little.

This reading phenomenon followed me to college, where I’d be assigned to read textbooks on things like microeconomics and statistical analysis.  So anxious that I wouldn’t be able to grasp what I was reading, I’d stop myself at the end of every paragraph and then summarize that paragraph in my own words (in writing), in the margin.  If you looked at any of my college textbooks now, you’d see that the margins are full of my ink.

When I graduated college with a degree in Business (because Business was “safe”), I knew that I wanted to give my dream of becoming a writer a try.  I ended up pursuing a graduate degree in Creative Writing with the full intention of writing for young people.  Those years of young adulthood are full of such angst: emotions are heightened and life is exciting and miserable at the same time.  I knew that there was so much opportunity for a writer.  But, even beyond that, 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.

I remember the second week of graduate school;  I was in a class called “Writing the Young Adult Novel” and we had to go around the room and discuss what our first novel was going to be about.  Students in the class had these amazing, ground-breaking ideas for young adult literature.  But, when it got to my turn, I only knew one thing.  “I want my novel to be juicy,” I told the class.  And juicy to me meant I wanted my character to be relatable.  She couldn’t be the prettiest, the most popular, or the smartest.  She had to have drama with her friends and a rocky relationship with her parents.  I knew I wanted her to be in love with her best friend’s boyfriend (juicy). She had to have a lot of secrets (super-juicy).  And (the juiciest) the novel had to have a stalker, thus propelling it into the suspense/mystery genre, which is what I tended to gravitate toward as a young person when given the choice about reading.  And so I wrote a novel for my teen-self.  Blue is for Nightmares was the product; it was my graduate thesis, and so far it’s been my best seller, spawning a five-book series, a publishing imprint, and a potential TV series.  It’s also been translated into numerous different languages and has appeared on many different award lists, including the Top Ten Teen Pick List and the Quick Pick List for Reluctant Readers, both through the American Library Association.  But, even after all of the novel’s success, the thing that excites me most is when a young person writes to me saying that he or she used to hate reading, but that my work has since inspired him or her to read, because that is exactly what I set out to do.  I feel so grateful to be able to do this for work.


Laurie Faria Stolarz’s author website:

Laurie Faria Stolarz’s bio page


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Blue is for NightmaresWhite is for MagicSilver is for SecretsRed is for Remembrance    Shock PointCleopatra ConfessesCode Name Verity

Writing Teen Novels


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