Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Young Adult novelist from the United Kingdom’

Keep Writing: The Importance Of Finishing Stories, by Andy Briggs

I always feel awkward when I meet a budding writer. Most of the time people tell me they have a great idea for a book or, worse, they have started writing a book. Actually started it. What is very rare to hear is the phrase I have written a book. Everybody can start writing a book. Very few people ever finish it.

It sounds like the most obvious advice in the world to finish your story, but it’s difficult. Try it and prove me wrong.

Perhaps you already have proved me wrong and are clutching your precious manuscript in your hands. If so, have you edited it? Have you been through it three or four times and surgically remove chunks that don’t work and fine-tuned the rest?

Much “How To” advises you to let a friend read your manuscript. I never let them do that. Family and friends are the worst critics and will often let things pass that should have been hacked from your manuscript before another soul sets eyes on it. There are also many services that charge you for reading your work and giving you feedback. Personally, I think you should avoid these. Worst case, they are run by people who can’t get themselves published (or editors who can’t get a job with a publisher), best case, they are driven by opinion. They might not like vampire stories so will tear yours apart, whereas an editor in a real publishing company might be waiting for just that idea.

Or, are you one of these people who has reread your work and changed it time-and-time again? You have been rewriting it for the last 10 years. Well done, you have probably destroyed the very thing that made it unique. I know a few people who fall into this hideous rewriting free-fall and never recover. They have polished their idea to death.

So what do you do with your precious manuscript?

In an ideal world, you will lock it away in a draw (in the days of good ol’ paper), or back it up on a hard drive (preferably more than one, just in case). Then forget about it and write something else.

Then repeat the above steps several times.

Now you have four or five manuscripts. Go back and read the first one. Is it anywhere near as good as number five? Probably not. You would have got better and saved yourself a lot of angst when book one kept getting rejected. Or is book one still strong? In which case, send it off, because you have a solid, well-written story.

The more you write the better you will become. The more you write the more stories you have to sell. The more you write the more professional you will become, regardless of whether you ever publish any of the books.

More importantly, the more stories you write the more you have finished. Finishing the story is the real battle every writer, amateur or professional, has to face.

***

Andy Briggs’s author website: www.andybriggs.co.uk

Andy Briggs’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

Tarzan: The Greystoke LegacyTarzan: The Jungle Warrior: Bk. 2Tarzan: The Savage Lands     In Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's StoryCode Name VerityAcross the Universe

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Who Buys (And Who Reads) Teen Novels, by Elizabeth Wein

The headline of an article published on September 13, 2012 in the Los Angeles Times announces, Most Young Adult Book Buyers Are Not Young Adults.

My kneejerk reaction to this was, ‘WELL, DUH.’

When I was a teen I never had any money.  I got all my books out of the public library and the school library.  Every now and then I would love a book so much that after I’d read it about, oh, five times, I’d beg my grownup caretakers (my grandparents) to buy it for me.  Occasionally a new book would be released in a series or by a favourite author which I desperately wanted as soon as it came out, and then I’d have to ask for it for Christmas or my birthday or something.  Or, if I really couldn’t wait, I’d buy it and not go out for lunch for three weeks.

My teenage daughter is caught in the same bind, except that I have more money to spend on books than my grandparents did, and my daughter doesn’t have to wait for her birthday or go without lunch.

If you read beyond the headline of the LA Times article, you’ll see that the statistics say 55% of buyers of books aimed at 12 to 17 year olds are 18 years or older.  Of these, 78% claim to be buying the books for themselves.  Let’s twist these statistics another way.  Out of 100 sample shoppers buying YA books, 45 are between 12 and 17.  Another 12 are buying books for their children or grandchildren.  45 plus 12 makes 57… So in fact most young adult books bought in retail ARE actually bought for young adults.  Maybe ‘most young adult book buyers are not young adults,’ but it looks like most young adult book readers are.

The thing that astonishes me is that 45% of people buying books aimed at 12 to 17 year olds are 12 to 17 year olds.  Nearly half of all printed YA books purchased in retail stores are bought by this disenfranchised segment of the market?  That seems like good news to me.

The other good news here is that adults are reading teen books, too.

Patricia McCormick, in a New York Times blog post defending the power of young adult literature, points out why adults might be interested in reading books aimed at teens.

McCormick comments that YA fiction is innovative and risky, and points to some of the more exciting literature to come out in the past ten years – in addition to the obvious (such as the Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games series).

As a reader who never stopped reading books aimed at teens, even after I stopped being a teen, I kind of wonder what all the fuss is about.  As a writer who is constantly badgered with the question, ‘But why are your books young adult?’, I am proud and honoured to be part of this risky business, where the pay is lower, the stakes are higher, the audience is fickle and the bar for excellence is constantly being raised.

***Write with New York Times bestselling novelist Elizabeth Wein in Hobart, Australia in November 2014

Elizabeth Wein’s author website: www.elizabethwein.com

Elizabeth Wein’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

Code Name VerityA Coalition of LionsThe Empty Kingdom     GlowThe Girl Who Was Supposed to DieWinter Town

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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

I’ve been judging short story competitions for many years now, both national ones and for local literary festivals. Entering writing competitions is fun and a good way of testing your writing skills.

So – what makes a good short story?

Well, a story to begin with. Morris Gleitzman recently visited a local school and talked about the short story. He said that there must be a problem. You can begin the story with the problem and show how it’s resolved during the story or you can hint mysteriously at the problem and build up the tension until it’s revealed – perhaps with a twist – nearer the end of the story.

I’ve judged some brilliant stories and reluctantly not chosen some that had great potential. Why didn’t they win? Almost always, the writer had a brilliant idea but failed to carry it out.

In 2013, I’m going to be a Writer-in-Residence in another local school and the students entering the programme have just been chosen by me from their short stories. I met some of the students who had just missed out and all of them admitted to writing the story and handing it in without checking and re-drafting. With more care, they could have won a place on my programme.

Short stories are difficult. But they’re the most used form of competition because they can be written, read and judged in a shorter space of time.

These are the main faults which put a story into my reject pile:

  1. Too many characters for the length.
  2. Not enough conflict.
  3. Too long a time span – unless its genre is time-slip.
  4. Slow beginning.
  5. A cheat ending (it was all a dream)
  6. No – or poor – dialogue.
  7. An ordinary theme which never lifts beyond that.
  8. Weak language.

So, let’s suppose you’re going to enter a short story competition and you have about a month to write it. Try to get your idea or main character straight away, if you can. It must really engage you personally if it’s to engage the reader. What do you want to tell the reader? What is the most important thing?

Here are a few tips.

  1. Plan the story so that you don’t spend too much room setting up the story then rush at the end, leaving the reader puzzled, cheated or let-down.
  2. You need lots of tension so that your reader’s mind might be guessing at more than one possible ending.
  3.  What attracts you to a good novel is also true of a good short story: a strong voice and a strong plot. Many writers of short stories seem to forget that and tend to leave their stories unstructured, sometimes without paragraphs.
  4. Consider using more than one narrator.
  5. Consider using time-slips, or another method of showing dates or times.
  6. Consider using other formats: letters, blogs, emails, texts.
  7. Use dialogue. Of course, like a picture in a picture book, it must move the story along.
  8. Ask the reader a question. ‘How did my life end up like this? What can I do? Did you know that it’s impossible to…?’
  9. Leave questions in your reader’s mind, so they want more. You don’t have to tie up all the ends.
  10. Does a human being have to narrate your story? Why don’t you make it a horse or dog or a bird? But be sure you can make a believable story hang onto it.

Most feature a big dramatic event because they have fewer words to make an impact. There must be enough tension to hold your reader’s attention. Stories about happy people only work if they’re in conflict with somebody or something.

If you have an idea NOW as you’re reading this, write it down before you forget it. Then plan with my suggestions above in mind.

When I’m down to the shortlist for a short story competition, I always read the stories aloud. It quickly highlights lack of tension and poor language. I like students to vary the length of their sentences because it adds power to the story.

For the Writer-in-Residence programme, the students will be writing a short story on the theme of what home means to them, because the college has a great many international students.

I’ll have a follow-up article about this later in the year.

***

Paulines Francis’s author website: www.paulinefrancis.co.uk

Pauline Francis bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

The Raven QueenA World AwayThe Traitor's Kiss     The RepossessionRaven SpeakSaraswati's Way

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

On The Process Of Plotting And Writing A Novel, by Sam Hawksmoor

Patrick Ness told me that he always begins by writing the last line first.  I could never do that.  I like the voyage of discovery in the writing process too much to prescribe an ending.  I like an element of surprise.  After all, I am putting my characters through the mill and during this they will develop and change and sometimes surprise you with their reactions to events.

Nevertheless if you want to interest an editor or agent you need a plot.  I have recently submitted a detailed six-page plot outline to my publisher for a sequel. However, it’s a plot outline with no flesh on the bones: a character may do something horrid to someone and they will react but, until I write it, I don’t necessarily know quite how the character will react.  An editor doesn’t need to know that. They need to know if it will be exciting and different (but not too different). They will want to know where there will be action or emotion and how the story will be resolved.  You will have to work al that out before you pitch, even if you start your pitch with a simple  ‘Boy meets girl, girl prefers another boy… who claims to be a alien.’ (No, I’m not actually writing this.)

The idea is that you are dealing with consequences.  The boy will seek to disprove the other boy is an alien and the more he does that the more the girl will like the alien…

A good editor will be one step ahead of you and ask detailed questions: Where is the alien from?  What are his characteristics?  What makes him so special?  Why does the girl prefer him? Don’t pitch until you are ready with the answers.  The last thing you need is to have the editor interested at the beginning and then feel deflated because you don’t know how it all will turn out.

I love character interplay and the mechanics of a relationship.  It’s also imperative to let characters fail. Take risks. A reader might be disappointed but then will be rewarded when your character picks themselves up and tries again.

Plots are pathways to a resolution but the strength of a good plot comes from the characters: readers like the characters so much they want them to succeed, and care less about where the characters are going than being able to go with them.

Sometimes when writing you can trap yourself in a corner.  Do you go back and rewrite or do you write on?  Raymond Chandler always knew what to do: have someone kick down the door with a gun in their hand.  Don’t worry if things get difficult.  Rescue is at hand, even if it’s a ‘Sorry, wrong door.’  I think creating difficulties for yourself is good for the writing. The reader is doubly rewarded when you finally figure it out.

What point in your story should you begin your novel?

The most obvious answer is ‘the beginning’ but sometimes it’s good to start half way in:
Your character is trapped in a cave, fire is blocking the entrance and something is approaching that means to kill him.  He wishes he hadn’t left home at all because any moment now he is going to have to fight to the death, and death is the easy way out.  Now you can go back to the beginning.  Last Tuesday.  It’s raining and your character gets a text that simply says, ‘Help me. If you love me at all, you will come’.

Readers will have the patience to go along until your character is standing in that burning cave facing the prospect of death.  Let’s hope your character knows how to survive.

***

Sam Hawksmoor’s author website: www.samhawksmoor.com

Sam Hawksmoor’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

The RepossessionThe Hunting     The Door of No ReturnCode Name VerityWinter TownNo AlarmsGirl, Stolen

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 185 other followers

%d bloggers like this: