What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'Craft of Writing')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Craft of Writing, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 269
1. Joshua David Bellin on Unreliable Narrators, Recycling Characters, and Mashup Pitches

We're thrilled to welcome author Joshua David Bellin to the blog today as our monthly Ask a Pub Pro! Joshua is here to answer your questions on what exactly is an unreliable narrator and how to craft one, how to creatively recycle character types, and the pros and cons of using Book X meets Book Y in pitches. He's also giving away a signed copy of his recent release, SURVIVAL COLONY 9, with the winner also to receive a copy of the sequel, SCAVENGER OF SOULS, when it comes out next year. Be sure to check it out below!

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT gmail.com and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Ask a Pub Pro: on Unreliable Narrators, Recycling Characters, and Mashup Pitches by Joshua David Bellin

Hi readers! I’m thrilled to be here on Adventures in YA Publishing to answer some of your questions. Enjoy, and at the end of the post, check out the cool giveaway I’m offering!

1. I keep seeing agents and editors ask for unreliable narrators. I know a bit about what this is but am not real clear. Can you explain what an unreliable narrator is and why they are so popular?

Unreliable narrators come in all forms, but the basic idea is that they’re narrators the reader can’t fully trust. This might be because the narrator lacks important information: for example, the narrator might be suffering from memory loss. Or the narrator might be a young child whose perceptions of the world are immature. The narrator might have a mental illness that leads her/him to misrepresent reality. And so on.

Read more »

0 Comments on Joshua David Bellin on Unreliable Narrators, Recycling Characters, and Mashup Pitches as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
2. Feminist Storytelling by Elizabeth Hall Magill

You are all in for a real treat today. Elizabeth Hall Magill is here to share a very thoughtful post on how to craft a story with a genuine feminist perspective, which for Elizabeth means getting into the very heart of a character, unvarnished by societal assumptions. I especially loved her point on the rich space between the narrator and character -- the bold there is mine. Welcome Elizabeth!

How to Craft a Story with a Feminist Perspective: A Craft of Writing Post by Elizabeth Hall Magill

Feminist Storytelling

A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, when he won Longwood University’s John Dos Passos prize. Mr. Alexie offered to read the first chapter of my novel, which I was about to revise. I knew my revision would be a feminist one—it would include an awareness of class, race, and gender privilege that reflected my recent work—but I wasn’t sure what shape it would take. Mr. Alexie gave me the perfect place to begin, a line on the sixth page of my manuscript: Seth didn’t hate his father’s money—he just hated his father.

I would never have thought to begin with that line. But when I considered it, I realized the line framed the story perfectly—the novel is about a group of UVA students struggling with loss, grief, and growth. A story that unravels from a fulcrum of white, upper-middle-class privilege. To begin with a line that acknowledges that privilege meant I was off and running with my feminist revision.

But why a feminist revision? And what does that mean, in a practical sense?

In the four years since I’d written the novel, I’d gone from believing the word feminist was tainted with disdain for men and condemnation for women to understanding that it held freedom. Feminist writing taught me why motherhood was harder than it had to be and why I never felt pretty enough. It exposed my own assumptions to me—assumptions I made because I was white and middle-class and hadn’t had to think beyond front-page headlines. It allowed me to find sisters I thought I’d never have and release cultural baggage that weighed me down.

I needed to bring this awakening to my fiction—I needed more characters in my book, from more backgrounds. I needed to cut through the assumptions I’d made unconsciously. I needed my protagonist—a young woman named for a goddess—to fully understand the meaning of self-ownership, and claim it. I needed to help my readers see what I’d seen.

But how to do all that and remain true to good storytelling? No one likes to read a book that feels like a treatise. And many people have unexamined assumptions as a result of living in a patriarchy, just like I did. Exposing these assumptions can be a real-turn off, and painful to boot. Sure, literature is supposed to make us face pain, as well as entertain us and make us think. But how to do that in a story, and let the story lead?

The key is tucked into the space between narrator and character.

In nonfiction, the words are always and only mine. But in fiction, the words sometimes come from the mouths of people who are nothing like me—people who are, and must be, completely separate from me. Regardless of the story’s point of view, the writer is shaping it, making choices about what, where, when, how, and why.

In this space between narrator and character, the writer can show the reader characters and events from a perspective that the characters don’t have. This is the perfect place to play with ways to bring a feminist consciousness to the story. And I’ve found a few strategies that work well:

Expose Assumptions

A patriarchy is full of assumptions about people—poor people are lazy, no one group of people is more privileged than another, and all women experience sexism in the same way, to name a few. These assumptions are a form of bias, shaping our perceptions of each other on an unconscious level.

By allowing characters to be fully themselves within the context of their daily lives—a bisexual woman after a breakup, a black teenage boy out for a walk—you can expose the harmful assumptions of patriarchy. The feminist term for living daily life while dealing with whatever patriarchy sends your way is lived experience. And fiction is great at depicting lived experience.

You can also allow a character to demonstrate an assumption and then counter it directly, either through the character’s growth or through other characters. Alexie does this at several points in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian—Junior is constantly realizing what assumptions he’s made about the white kids at his new school, and exposing the ones they’ve made about him.

Play Against Stereotype

Stereotypes are an insidious form of bias, and they’re prevalent in our media. Stereotypes reinforce the assumptions of patriarchy—the dumb blonde, the asexual Asian man and the compliant Asian woman, the hypersexual angry black woman and the stoic black housekeeper—our culture has a ton of them, and they all negatively impact the people they claim to portray. So play against them—create characters that don’t fit into their stereotypical boxes.

The writers for the movie Big Hero 6 have this one down-pat: each of the main characters plays against stereotype while poking fun at it. You can play against stereotype in subtle ways, and with minor characters, as well: in my revision, I needed a surgeon, and she became a black woman rather than the usual older white man. Another character has shown up, a male theater major—maybe he’ll be straight, or bi. Maybe someone will think he’s gay, and he’ll have fun with the assumption.

Teach, Don’t Preach

This is just another way of saying show, don’t tell. Your readers don’t want a feminist lecture—they want a story with a heartbeat. So give them one. One of my favorite ways to teach feminist consciousness is by showing female desire.

The sexual perspective—in movies, in advertisements, in books, in short stories, in poems—is overwhelmingly heterosexual and male. So mix it up—make a woman’s heart beat fast as she is near someone she’s attracted to. Describe the gut-wrenching lust, the biceps or breasts, the gorgeous eyes, the sunlight on hair. Let desire be human, and centered in the female.

I’ve done this in my own work, describing my protagonist’s reaction when she meets her future boyfriend. And I love the way Martina Boone portrays female desire in Compulsion—our experience of Eight is firmly rooted in Barrie’s physical reactions. When we see feminist principles—the female gaze, and female self-love and self-ownership—in action, they become normalized.

This is the beauty of feminist fiction: it exposes us to ourselves while telling us a story we can’t put down. It gives us—all of us—back to ourselves. And it does so not by lecturing, but by using the space between narrator and character—a space that, like everything about storytelling, is part logic and part magic.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Hall Magill has been blogging about feminist issues at Yo Mama since 2011–posts have been featured on BlogHer (Spotlight BlogHer) and Miss Representation’s Sexy or Sexism campaign. Her essay "Jesus and Sophia" appears in the anthology Whatever Works, edited by Trista Hendren and Pat Daly, and her work has appeared in Role Reboot and on the news site .Mic.

In addition to revising her novel and writing short fiction, Elizabeth is currently researching and writing a nonfiction book entitled American Sexism: Questions and Answers. You can find her blog on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @LizHallMagill.

-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers

0 Comments on Feminist Storytelling by Elizabeth Hall Magill as of 11/20/2015 6:28:00 AM
Add a Comment
3. Go Where It's Scary - Into the Abyss of the Hero's Journey: A Friday the 13th Craft Post by S.P. Sipal

Happy Friday the 13th! But we usually don't think of this date as a happy one, do we? No, we associate Friday the 13th with dark places and scary events. And that darkness and fear is a very necessary part of being human...and telling a story.

Years ago, whenever I was creatively procrastinating upon a tough job at work, or doing my best to avoid a task that involved conflict, a guy in my office would give me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten in life: Go where it’s scary.

The only way to work through the problem, to get to the other side, is to face it head-on. Whimping out and avoiding it, as I liked to do, truly didn’t do me any good. It just prolonged the pain.

I’ve always remembered my colleague’s advice, and that phrase, “Go where it’s scary,” comes to mind whenever I find myself dragging toward something I dread but know I must do. This is especially true with my writing. Being the polite Southern girl that I am, I often hesitate to inflict conflict upon my characters, or even worse, have them confront and deal with their innermost pains and fears.

As in life, confronting and traveling through our fears is an essential part of being human, it’s even more so with our characters, our heroes. And no part of story construction addresses “go where it’s scary” more directly than the approach to the innermost cave of the Hero’s Journey.

The Hero's Journey

The Hero’s Journey and its Abyss, or Inmost Cave, is a concept described within Joseph Campbell’s groundbreaking The Hero With a Thousand Faces. A comparative mythologist, Campbell studied myths separated by continents, centuries, and cultures and discovered that most shared a basic framework, the hero’s quest, which he broke down into 17 steps. Christopher Vogler, a scriptwriter and film producer, simplified Campbell’s work into 12 steps in The Writer’s Journey, making it more accessible to writers and the film industry. Campbell’s and Vogler’s Journey have been used in storytelling in everything from Star Wars to About a Boy to Harry Potter to insertyourowntitlehere.

At the heart of the Hero’s Journey is the sending forth of the hero from his home clan to begin a series of trials and temptations that lead to his victory over their adversaries, which culminates in his triumphant return with a reward that enriches the clan as a whole. You can see why this basic story structure would have primordial appeal to the human psyche — it is how any human unit, whether that unit be a clan, a family, or a nation — has survived and prospered throughout millennia.

The Abyss:

The Abyss is the point in this journey where the heroine approaches her most intense conflict, her Ordeal. It is in the innermost cave that she must face and conquer both her outward foe and her own personal demons. Cave analogy harkens back to our days when the darkest places we had to fear held deadly creatures that often lurked deep in the places we called our homes. The abyss, or underworld, was the place of loss, where all bodies must eventually travel…that final, unknowable journey.

Whether in the underground, snake-filled “Well of Souls” where Indiana Jones recovers the ark but loses it to the Nazis, or the lonely, cave-like home of Will Freeman in About a Boy where Will must confront the emptiness of his life, to the underground chamber beneath Hogwarts where Harry confronts Voldemort and the loss of his parents in Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone — modern storytellers are still going underground/deep into their cave to set their Ordeal.

In the abyss, the hero meets death and triumphs over his deepest fears, which symbolizes his death to his old life and resurrection to the new. Victory is won — whether that triumph is achieved through vanquishing the antagonist or through atonement with his Shadow. Or, as Joseph Campbell said, “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

Real Life:

And if our hero can do it in a story, then we can do it in real life. We live vicariously through our hero’s success. If done well, when the book is closed or the movie concluded, we then feel equipped to go back into our life and confront our own demons and monsters. This is the heart of catharsis, and this is why the bestselling books and best remembered movies are those where the hero triumphs over a tremendous obstacle with deep, personal ramifications. It does not matter whether those obstacles are pitched on the intensely personal level or the high-stakes world-wide scale.

As writers, we must remember to send our heroine into the heart of fear. She must go where it’s scariest for her to venture, face those fears head-on, triumph and be forever changed. Only in this way can she return to her world to enrich her clan and ultimately we the writer and our reader.

What abyss have you or your character recently faced and conquered?

Picture credits: National Geographic, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces and Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

About the Author:

S.P. Sipal

Born and raised in North Carolina, Susan Sipal had to travel halfway across the world and return home to embrace her father and grandfather’s penchant for telling a tall tale. After having lived with her husband in his homeland of Turkey for many years, she suddenly saw the world with new eyes and had to write about it.

Perhaps it was the emptiness of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus that cried out to be refilled, or the myths surrounding the ancient Temple of Artemis, but she’s been writing stories filled with myth and mystery ever since.

Website | Twitter | Amazon

0 Comments on Go Where It's Scary - Into the Abyss of the Hero's Journey: A Friday the 13th Craft Post by S.P. Sipal as of 11/13/2015 6:42:00 AM
Add a Comment
4. Three Steps for Nailing Your Author and Character Voice

I’m starting a new WIP, which is really exciting for me. I finally have the story nailed down, and now I’m writing actual pages. That’s both exhilarating and terrifying. I’ve been writing Barrie’s voice for so long that I wasn’t sure how hard it would be to slip into a new character’s head and speak in her words.

I’ve had a number of people ask me about “finding their voice,” so maybe it’s time to visit that question again.

The first thing that I have to say is that there is a difference between author voice and character voice. The author voice is something that expresses itself unconsciously across multiple works. It’s what enables someone to recognize an author’s work regardless of what they’re writing about. That’s not a bad thing. It’s similar to the way that we can identify the voice of a friend on the telephone. Author voice is unique and largely unconscious. It comes from your life, education, and point of view, and it includes:

Read more »

0 Comments on Three Steps for Nailing Your Author and Character Voice as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
5. A Brilliant One Stop Resource for Writers of All Levels and a Sneak Peak at Persuasion

Something AMAZING is about to happen, and if you are a writer, it's going to make your life much easier.

One of the VERY first posts that I wrote for Adventures in YA Publishing way back in 2010 when this blog was new was about an incredible website that I had found with an incredible tool for writers to help create richer, more realistic stories: The Emotion Thesaurus. It was this brilliant resource that let you choose an emotion and find the right body language, visceral response, or internal reaction to help express what a character was feeling or doing in response to a particular situation. Then the site owners, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, added to the site to make it better and better. They added a Setting Thesaurus, a Character Thesaurus, a Weather Thesaurus, and a whole collection of helpful tools.

Fast forward a couple more years. Angela and Becca published the Emotion Thesaurus in book form. Then they added two volumes of the Character Thesaurus. They racked up awards and sales so fast you'd have said it wasn't believable if you hadn't seen it. And now, working with one of the developers behind SCRIVENER, tomorrow they will unleash One Stop For Writers™, a brand new website. It will not only have The Emotion Thesaurus fully realized and searchable online, but all the other thesaurus as well. All in one place. Here's what you get:

Read more »

0 Comments on A Brilliant One Stop Resource for Writers of All Levels and a Sneak Peak at Persuasion as of 10/6/2015 8:08:00 AM
Add a Comment
6. Put Your Setting to Work by C.C. Hunter

We're thrilled to welcome New York Times Best Selling Author C.C. Hunter to the blog today. She's here to share with us some wonderful insight into how to fully utilize your setting. Be sure to check below for her upcoming release in the Shadow Falls series: Unspoken!

Put Your Setting to Work: A Craft of Writing Post by C.C. Hunter

Setting. It’s just things, just the backdrop, just descriptions to prevent the reader from feeling like they are in a blank room, right? Wrong. If you aren’t putting your setting to work, then you are missing out on a great opportunity to add layers of richness to your work.

Where we are and what surrounds us helps define who we are. The same goes for your characters. Setting shows character. Our homes are supposed to be decorated in a way that expresses our unique style and personality. For sure, it expresses our incomes. What does your character’s home say about them? The clothes we wear are reflections of our personalities and even our moods. What do your heroine’s clothes say about her?

Let’s say you are writing a scene, and you show your character sitting down at a table, and she pushes something aside to make room for her glass of tea. Wait, is she drinking tea, or is she drinking a beer? Or is it hot green tea with a touch of mint? Or is it a glass of expensive red wine? Maybe a glass of wine that she just poured out of a box container? Or is it a Mason jar filled to the brim with Jack Daniels? Now, what does she push aside to make room for this drink? Is it her to-do list? Her Smartphone that her job requires she keep close at all times? Is it a stack of unpaid bills? A stack of romance novels? A gardening magazine? A magazine article on how to please a man in bed? Pictures of the cruise she just returned from? Her unsigned divorce papers? An unopened letter from her mother she hasn’t heard from in twenty years? Or is it a Colt .45?

Read more »

0 Comments on Put Your Setting to Work by C.C. Hunter as of 10/16/2015 7:58:00 AM
Add a Comment
7. The Flows of Inspiration by Jennifer Donnelly

One of the questions authors are most often asked is "Where do you get your ideas from?" If you're like me, it's easier to answer where you DON'T get inspiration. Ideas shoot out at me from everywhere I go and everyone I see. Which is why I try to always have a notepad of some sort, whether paper or electrical, with me always. And my kids have made a joke of rolling their eyes and groaning every time they hear me say, "that would make a good story!"

I believe that, as writers, we have trained our minds, opened them, widened them, attuned them, to be receptive to these ideas that flutter about in the aether. Inspiration is there for one and all, but we creatives are the ones who notice and care. However, sometimes the trick is knowing which idea is fluttering by to catch our attention, and which should be released back into the wild for another writer. Not every idea I've had is my story to write. It's taken me several ears as a writer, developing and honing my voice and themes, to know which ideas to cherish and which to pat on their head and send them back on their way.

New York Times Best Selling Author Jennifer Donnelly is here with us today to share some of the ideas she captured and coaxed into a story that became her newest release in the WaterFire Sage - Dark Tide. Be sure to check it out at the end of the post. And please share in the comments how you corral all your inspirations!

The Flows of Inspiration: A Craft of Writing Post by Jennifer Donnelly

Inspiration for DARK TIDE, and the entire WaterFire Saga, comes from some pretty strange places.

As anyone who’s been to one of my readings knows, one of the biggest was the work of the designer Alexander McQueen, but another mad genius who has also been a huge source of ideas is Rene Redzepi, the chef behind NOMA in Copenhagen, one of the world’s best and most out-there restaurants.

Read more »

0 Comments on The Flows of Inspiration by Jennifer Donnelly as of 10/23/2015 7:29:00 AM
Add a Comment
8. Win a Copy of Paper Hearts - A New Writing Guide Series from Beth Revis

We are absolutely thrilled to welcome New York Times Bestselling Author Beth Revis to the blog today. Beth is here to share some exciting news -- she's celebrating the release of the first book in her three-volume series of writing advice. Paper Hearts includes hard-earned insight into writing, publishing, and marketing. Not only is Beth sharing a giveaway with our readers today, but she's got some good advice on working with and as a critique partner.

DON'T MISS OUT ON THE GIVEAWAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST! And remember all orders of Paper Hearts made before November 15 from Malaprops will come with a special gift--more details below! 

Paper Hearts by Beth Revis

You can win a journal with this cover!
I wrote Paper Hearts for the writer I used to be. The questions I used to have plagued me when I was starting this career path. How do I get to the end? What's the proper way to structure a novel--is there even a proper way? How do I make my book stand out from all the other ones on sub?

Now, fifteen years, eleven unpublished books, three New York Times bestsellers, one self published book, and countless hours working on craft and working with other professionals, I think I finally have the answers that I needed way back then.

Unfortunately, I can't travel back in time.

But what I can do is try to help others. I've been compiling articles on the things I've learned about writing, publishing, and marketing for years, first informally on blog posts, then more collectively on Wattpad. After hitting 100000 reads, I realized that I should take Paper Hearts more seriously...and that I had not one book, but three.

Fully revised and expanded, the Paper Hearts series will feature three volumes, one each on writing, publishing, and marketing. Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice will be out on November 1, with the other two following in December and January.

Preorder it now from: Independent Bookstore ~ Amazon ~ BN ~  Kobo ~ Smashwords


Your enemy is the blank page. When it comes to writing, there's no wrong way to get words on paper. But it's not always easy to make the ink flow. Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice won't make writing any simpler, but it may help spark your imagination and get your hands back on the keyboard.

Practical Advice Meets Real Experience

With information that takes you from common mistakes in grammar to detailed charts on story structure, Paper Hearts describes:
  • How to Develop Character, Plot, and World
  • What Common Advice You Should Ignore
  • What Advice Actually Helps
  • How to Develop a Novel
  • The Basics of Grammar, Style, and Tone 
  • Four Practical Methods of Charting Story Structure
  • How to Get Critiques and Revise Your Novel
  • How to Deal with Failure
  • And much more!

BONUS! More than 25 "What to do if" scenarios to help writers navigate problems in writing from a New York Times Bestselling author who's written more than 2 million words of fiction.


Remember: if you pre-order the print copy from my local indie bookstore, Malaprops, you'll also get a chapbook of the best writing advice from 12 beloved and bestselling YA authors included in your order for free!



When you’re working with critique partners, remember: it’s a relationship. It’s give and take. You read someone else’s manuscript and they read yours. 
A lot of times, people are primarily focused on getting their own notes back. You want to find out what to do to fix your manuscript. All you care about is getting your notes back. 
That is not how this works. A critique partner requires the give and take. First, it’s rude to expect free editing from a writing buddy without giving anything in return. But also? You will learn just as much by giving notes than getting them. Maybe more. 
It’s just a fact: We don’t see our own common flaws. We don’t understand what it’s like to identify problems in our own work until we see them in others. 
Don’t just seek critiques. Give them. Give the most constructive criticism you can. Study the manuscripts of others to see where they failed and where they succeeded. You will unconsciously absorb what makes a manuscript work and not, and you’ll see better how to avoid and fix those flaws in the future. 


  1. You develop your own skills as you critique others—you become better at spotting your own mistakes as you make them. It’s far easier to understand why something doesn’t work in a manuscript than when you see someone else making the mistake rather than yourself.
  2. It helps you understand your own critique. Things like “the pacing is slow,” “the characterization is weak,” are vague and hard to truly understand until you find it for yourself.
  3. It puts you in “critique mode.” Writers are creative people. But critical analysis of our own work is an entirely different skill set from writing. Critiquing others helps you build the skills to critique yourself. 
  4. It helps you see the common mistakes within manuscripts. I highly recommend that you go to sites that offer contests to critique the opening of a first scene, a query, etc. Read 20 people’s first scenes in a row. You’ll see the common mistakes that you will want to avoid to stand out. (“Miss Snark’s First Victim” and this blog commonly hold such contests, often with a prize of an agent read for the top person.
  5. You get better at critiquing. Critiquing doesn’t go away when you’re published—it just becomes more professional as you start working with more professional writers. Don’t be a newb. Get your practice in now. 
  6. It helps you forge connections with your peers. The publishing world is actually very small. Make friends now. I met most of my critique partners before I was published, and they’ve been great friends and peers as we all moved up the publishing ladder.

In short, being a critique partner who both gets and gives critiques will make you a more professional writer who is capable of writing better works.



About the Author: Beth Revis is the New York Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe trilogy, as well as The Body Electric, Paper Hearts, and the forthcoming A World Without You. She lives in the Appalachian mountains with her boys: one husband, one son, and two very large dogs. 

You can find out more on Facebook, Twitter, or online. If you never want to miss a thing and also get exclusive insider opportunities, sign up for her newsletter here.

0 Comments on Win a Copy of Paper Hearts - A New Writing Guide Series from Beth Revis as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
9. Ask a Pub Pro: Ryan Graudin on Craft Aides, Romance, and Writing Alternate History

Please welcome author Ryan Graudin to the blog today! Ryan joins us to answer your questions for our Ask a Pub Pro column, sharing her thoughts on how to learn the craft of writing, guidelines for writing an alternate history, and questions regarding marketability. She's also celebrating the release of her new book, Wolf By Wolf. Be sure to check it out below!

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT gmail.com and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Ryan Graudin Answers Your Ask a Pub Pro Question:

1) In developing your own writing skills, which have you found to be more useful? Writing books? Workshops? Critique partners? None of the above? I don't have a lot of money to spend and would love to know where to get the most bang for my buck.

I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to write, so I had the good fortune of taking lots of writing classes/workshops from high school on. That being said, you should not have to spend lots of money (or any at all) in order to hone your writing skills. Reading is the most important tool! The more books you read, the more your brain automatically ingests the structure of stories and narrative! Even after years and years of practice, I can automatically see improvement in my own writing if I’m reading a really amazing book. Another thing I consider essential in the writing process is feedback. Critique partners, beta readers, workshop groups, editors… you need those extra eyes if you really want your writing to shine. You shouldn’t have to pay for the first two. CPs and beta readers can be found pretty easily on websites like querytracker.net and absolutewrite.com

2) I'm writing an alternative reality historical and am not sure what the accepted norm is for how much to deviate from the true history. Are there general accepted guidelines for how much of the story can deviate from history vs how much to keep true?

What a timely question! My alternate history novel Wolf By Wolf just made its way out into the world! In terms of guidelines, there’s no hard and fast rule out there. I would say the most important thing to keep in mind while writing alternate history is that you have to make your world believable, or at least, help your reader suspend their disbelief. Think about the implications of the historical events you’ve changed; both large scale and small. My take on alternate history was to envision a world where the Axis Powers won WWII. In order to do this effectively, I had to research not just the time period, but the hypotheticals surrounding it. The theories of military strategists on how Hitler could have defeated the Allies. I also had to do a lot of research on Hitler’s vision for the world once he won—a New Order that, thank God, never came to pass. I then had to take what I knew and weave it into my narrative in a way that would make sense to the reader. As long as you allow your reader to believe in the world you’ve created, you’re doing your job! Deviate away!

3) For a YA to sell well, does it have to have a strong romance? Can a relationship based on best friends or siblings sell well?

I love exploring relationships between siblings and best friends! I think the reason romance is so popular in YA is because that being a teen usually involves a romance/infatuation of some kind. (I know it did for me!) That being said, don’t write something into your story just because you think it will help the book sell. Teens can tell when you’re being disingenuous. Write the book you want to read, and chances are that teens are going to want to read it too!

4) I've been working three years on a YA dystopian that I love! Now, that I'm almost ready to submit, I hear no one wants them. Is this true? A critique partner suggested I try to switch it to an alien scifi. I think I could do it, but would that help its marketability any?

Unfortunately, I do think that most agents and publishers are avoiding dystopian. This often happens when the market gets too glutted with a single genre. For a dystopian to do well now, it would have to have a really, truly strong and original hook.

Go with your gut on this one. If you feel that alien scifi is the way you need to take the story, then go for it. If you feel that you love the story so much and don’t want to change it, then keep it the way it is. Changing a story just so it will be marketable has rarely worked out in authors’ favors.

About the Book:

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, they host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The prize? An audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele's twin brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and stay true to her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author:

Ryan Graudin grew up in Charleston and graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Creative Writing in 2009. She is the author of Wolf By Wolf, The Walled City and the All That Glows series. She resides near Charleston with her husband and wolf-dog. You can find her online at www.ryangraudin.com.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers

0 Comments on Ask a Pub Pro: Ryan Graudin on Craft Aides, Romance, and Writing Alternate History as of 11/6/2015 6:32:00 AM
Add a Comment
10. Tip for writers/illustrators: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again!

To aspiring book authors and illustrators out there: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again!

If you like my found object doodles, you can browse more on Instagram at @inkygirl.

0 Comments on Tip for writers/illustrators: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again! as of 8/2/2015 3:01:00 PM
Add a Comment
11. Back Burner Writing, Essential Apps and How I'm Squeezing In Extra Writing Every Day

Morning writer.

Since I started getting picture book contracts (yay!) I've put my novel writing on the back burner. Then last summer at SCBWI-LA, I was talking with my editor at Simon & Schuster (Justin Chanda) about my middle grade novels and time management. Justin said that if my novel writing was important to me, I needed to set aside some regular time to work on it...no matter how much other work I had going on.

Absolutely! I said. I am SO going to do this. And yeah, well. I was right on top of that for a few weeks and then the reality of work deadlines plus personal commitments pushed my novel projects onto the back burner again.

I've since come to terms with this. I am having SO much fun with my picture book projects these days and things are very busy for me in a good way. To those who didn't know: I used to write nonfiction while I worked on middle grade novels; Writer's Digest even asked me to write a book for them. I met my wonderful agent because of my middle grade writing, through children's book writer, Lee Wardlaw; Lee critiqued one of my first MG novels (thank you, Lee!). The two middle grade manuscripts that Ginger and I sent out never found a home, though we got close a couple of times near the end. I could tell from the rejection letters that my writing was improving. I shelved the older mss and began working on new stories. One of my new manuscripts that never got sent out was nominated for the SCBWI Sue Alexander "Most Promising For Publication" Award; it didn't win but the nomination was encouraging; I could tell I was getting closer.

Then my picture book illustration career took off, thanks to the SCBWI and Simon & Schuster Children's. My heart is in picture books now, and I always want to help create them...I love this genre SO MUCH and connecting with the young readers continues to be one of my greatest joys.

There is still a part of my creative soul, however, that is still drawn to middle grade novels. I read middle grade constantly; not for market research but because I've always enjoyed reading them. It's okay that my novel writing on the back burner right now, but that doesn't mean I can't still keep writing! Even if it's only for a few minutes a day. 

So I decided recently to get back on my own 250, 500 and 1000 Words A Day Challenge.

 I created this challenge for those who are looking for extra motivation to get back into a daily writing habit but who also need some flexibility. Challenges like NaNoWriMo are wonderful (I've done Nano in the past and had great fun) but can sometimes be discouraging if, for whatever reason, you start falling behind.

Anyway, I have been trying something new which has been working pretty well, so I thought I'd share it. Here's what I do:

I bought the iAWriter app for my Mac and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) and use it for my daily morning writing ritual. I've played around with MANY note-taking apps on my iOS devices ever since the first iPhone came out, and this remains one of the favorites because of its minimalist approach.

No settings to fiddle with, which means I'm not as likely to procrastinate. I love the easy-to-read monospaced font. 

I find using my iPad with my external keyboard works the best for this. Why not my Mac? Because I do most of my book illustration project work on my Mac, doing morning writing on a separate and very portable device helps deceive the "oh my gosh I can't work on my novel I need to get back to contracted paying work" part of my brain. Sounds stupid, I know, but I find it helps me focus. I can also take my iPad outside of the house at a moment's notice and work on my writing ANYWHERE.

When it comes to later revisions, I'll probably go back to my desktop computer so I can take advantage of the bigger screen space and two monitors. For a first draft, however, my iPad is perfect. I also tend to be the kind of writer who over-edits as she writes, and I'm finding that writing on a smaller screen encourages me to keep writing (editing is more of a pain). I know I will revise later. 

After I finish my session in iAWriter, I send the document to my Evernote account; happily, I can do this from within the iAWriter app. I know there are many other means of backing up my data and getting writing snippets to my desktop computer. I have tried many of them. This is the way that seems to work best for me, mainly because I don't need to open any other app that may possibly distract me. Did I mention that I'm easily distracted?

From the iAWriter app, I can share directly to Evernote and even choose the receiving project folder. I figure that I can always organize later on; I try to put a note at the beginning like "near end of book" etc. I also tend to write in scenes and snippets rather than from start to finish, and will organize them later. I *used* to write from start to finish but found that I tended to overedit and spend way too much time near the beginning.

I use Evernote for so much more, of course. Two of my favorite features: (1) with the paid version of Evernote, you can email anything to your Evernote account, and (2) when searching for a word or term in Evernote, the search will include any scanned documents...including business cards and handwritten notes (!).

I also use the Day One app for my Mac and iOS devices. I've tried other journaling tools before but like Day One the best because of its super-simple interface without all the bells and whistles.

As with iAWriter, I'm drawn to the minimalist interface because it makes it very easy for me to just open and use, without being tempted to tweak settings. 

I've been using the app to quickly record ideas and thoughts and character/title ideas as well as other personal observations, and I use tags (like "goals", "bookidea" etc.) so I can access them more easily later. One of my tags is "happy," by the way...whenever I'm feeling down, browsing all my "happy" entries always cheers me up. Another is "thanks", which I also try to use each day, to write down people and things and events I'm grateful for. 

I also use the DayOne app to quickly snap photos, which is great for grabbing a reference photo for illustration, character idea, a friend's book I want to read, etc. You can only take one photo per entry, though. If you plan to do this a LOT, I'd recommend Evernote instead. Also, you can share DayOne photos/text to social media as well! I don't do this, though; I'm too worried about accidentally sharing a post that's meant to be private. :-)

I do love Scrivener, by the way, and use it for many of my book projects (more on this in a future post), but the lack of easy syncing across all my devices makes it tough to count on Scrivener for my daily writing exercise.

Do you have any tools or tips to share that you've found useful in your writing? Feel free to share them below.

Good luck with your writing!


0 Comments on Back Burner Writing, Essential Apps and How I'm Squeezing In Extra Writing Every Day as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
12. Crafting a Satisfying Ending to Your Story by Amy Fellner Dominy

We're very pleased to welcome author Amy Fellner Dominy to the blog today. If there's one thing more important than how you start your story, it's how you end it. Amy offers some excellent advice for crafting an ending that your reader will be sure to love...and remember.

And be sure to check out Amy's new release, A Matter of Heart!

Crafting a Satisfying Ending to Your Story, A Craft of Writing Post by Amy Fellner Dominy


As summer winds down it seems like a good time to talk about endings.

Great endings make you sigh, tear-up or smile. They make you sad for the book to be over, and they make you want to flip the pages and go back to the beginning and start again. Great endings are, simply put, satisfying.

If only they were simple to write.

So, here are a few suggestions to help you craft a satisfying ending to your story.

Read more »

0 Comments on Crafting a Satisfying Ending to Your Story by Amy Fellner Dominy as of 8/7/2015 7:09:00 AM
Add a Comment
13. Reverse Outlining and Magic Post Its by Katherine Locke

As writers, we all love revisions...right?!? If you're not a revision-loving geek, or even if you are, author Katherine Locke is here to share with you some of her lightbulb-flashing ideas from her own revision process. I especially love the "but" and "therefore" method she shares. And be sure to check out her newest release, Finding Center, below the post.

Reverse Outlining and Magic Post Its, A Craft of Writing Post by Katherine Locke

Revisions are hard and overwhelming and it’s easy to feel like you haven’t fixed anything, or that you’ve broken the book. It’s a little like playing Jenga on a sand dune. But with the right methods, I think revision doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it often feels. As someone who really believes books are born in revisions, I’ve found that knowing my revision plan helps me find the book I set out to write. And today I’m going to share my revision methods so you can use them or tweak them to your own process and get started!

Read more »

0 Comments on Reverse Outlining and Magic Post Its by Katherine Locke as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
14. Essentials of a Pitch by Ava Jae

I am personally very pleased to welcome Ava Jae back to the blog today. When I first started on Twitter years ago, Ava was one of my earliest friends. She did an awesome guest post on Harry Potter for a mutual friend's blog, and through that I discovered Ava's own blog, Writability. Like many others, I was instantly drawn into her warmth and keen insight into writing and publishing.

Since then, Ava has been a writing dynamo. Her blog has become a popular hub online for writers and readers, she signed with a fabulous agent, her debut book releases next year (see below!), and she's now an assistant editor at Entangled Publishing.  Ava's putting all that wonderful experience into the post she shares with us today on how to craft a good pitch. Welcome Ava!

Essentials of a Pitch, A Craft of Writing Post by Ava Jae

When you’re a writer, pitching your book is a scary, but inevitable part of the process. But trying to condense your book from tens of thousands of words (or more!) to a couple paragraphs, or even a sentence can be pretty daunting at first.

Once you get the hang of it, though, I think it slowly becomes less painful. Sometimes.

Through online critiques, critiques I’ve given away or traded, my own writing, and my assistant editing work with Entangled, I’ve seen many a pitch, and I’ve found that oftentimes, writers are missing the essential elements that should be in one. What essential elements, you ask? Well…
Read more »

0 Comments on Essentials of a Pitch by Ava Jae as of 8/21/2015 8:16:00 AM
Add a Comment
15. Ask a Pub Pro: Author Bethany Hagen on Series, Deep POV, & Book Trailers

We are thrilled to welcome author Bethany Hagen to the blog this month as our columnist for Ask a Pub Pro! Bethany is the author of the Landry Park "Downton Abbey dystopian" series with her newest book, Jublilee Manor, just released. She's here to answer your reader questions on how to work necessary backstory into a series, deciding whether to use deep POV in a large-scale book, mistakes in queries, whether book trailers are worth it, and do we really need to know what your characters are wearing? Be sure to check out Jublilee Manor below!

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT gmail.com and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Ask a Pub Pro: Author Bethany Hagen on Series, Deep POV, Book Trailers, and What Your Character is Wearing

1) In writing a series, what's the best method for working in the necessary information from a prior book into the next one?

Did you ever watch Lost? Lost was one of those shows (and Game of Thrones is currently another) that have those "Previously on" bits at the beginning. And of course, you always know what the show is going to be about based off the clips they show...like, "Oh, they showed Hurley winning the lottery, so it must be another Hurley episode." What I like about the "Previously on" bits is that they only reveal relevant information--and information that maybe wouldn't be apparent throughout the course of the show. For example, they didn't need to show us clips of Jack and Kate kissing for us to know that they have A Thing. While watching the episode, it would be pretty obvious that there's some serious romantic tension. Instead, they only remind us of the previous plot beats that would be essential to our understanding the plot developments of the current episode without being totally confused.

Read more »

0 Comments on Ask a Pub Pro: Author Bethany Hagen on Series, Deep POV, & Book Trailers as of 8/28/2015 8:34:00 AM
Add a Comment
16. How to Write a Novel (and Actually Finish It!) in 8 Simple Steps -- Plus a DAMAGE DONE by Amanda Panitch Giveaway

Writing a novel isn't magic. I'd like to say that anyone can write a book--and truly, almost anyone can. The trick is sticking with it, making it good, and getting it published.

Ah, there's the rub. Frequently when someone asks me "How do you write a book?" what they're really asking is "How do I get a book published?"

There are a thousand ways to answer that, but the most honest on is once a book is that no one can guarantee publication. Once a book is at a certain level of competency, no matter how good it is, or how many books you've written or previously published, sometimes what separates a book that gets a book deal from one that doesn't comes down to luck.

You can't control luck, but there are a number of things that will make it easier if you want to write a book that has a chance of traditional publication, or of successful indie publication.

Read more »

0 Comments on How to Write a Novel (and Actually Finish It!) in 8 Simple Steps -- Plus a DAMAGE DONE by Amanda Panitch Giveaway as of 9/8/2015 7:43:00 AM
Add a Comment
17. How to Write an Author Bio They’ll Remember

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how difficult it can be to write about yourself in a bio—after all, you’re a writer! But I understand it’s not as simple as that, so here are a few tips to make it easier.

Write your bio in first person for query letters, third person for most other purposes including proposals, book jackets, article bylines.

Make it professional but you also need to convey personality and writing style. Don’t try too hard to be funny, but include something that makes you seem like a real person.

What gives you credibility? What makes you interesting? What helps people connect with you? (When you’re on Twitter, Facebook or your blog, what kinds of posts seem to get the most comments?) These are things you can briefly include.

If your book centers on something specific—the Civil War, for example—are you a member of a Civil War society? Have you published any articles in historical journals? Include that.

Try not to include too much “resumé” type information–education, job history, etc. because it tends to be boring. Only include what’s relevant to the book you’re pitching.

As you write a bio, consider carefully the purpose of the bio – who is the audience? Is it agents and editors? Is it your blog readers? Tailor it to this audience.

How to write a bio if you have no publishing credits:

  • If you’re a member of a writers’ organization such as SCBWI, ACFW or ASJA, you can mention it.About Me
  • You can mention if you’re a member of critique group or if you have a degree in literature or writing.
  • Don’t say something like “I’ve been writing stories since I was two years old.”
  • Keep it short and sweet, i.e. “Jane Smith is a fifth grade teacher in Bellingham, Washington, and is a member of RWA.”

A bio for a query letter:

  • For FICTION, if you’re unpublished, it should be one to two sentences—about 50 words or fewer.
  • For NON-FICTION, it should be longer, enough sentences to establish your credits, credentials, and/or platform in the subject matter of your book.

Some tips for the process of writing a bio:

  • Read author bios in a dozen different books. Note what you like and don’t like.
  • Make a list of things you MIGHT want to say about yourself. Try to list 20 to 30 things—don’t self-edit, because you don’t want to leave anything out. Later you can choose the best elements to include.
  • Write two or three bios of different lengths and keep them on file so that you have them ready when you need them.
  • Trade author bios with a writer friend and help each other make them interesting.

What has worked for you? Comment to this post and share!

The post How to Write an Author Bio They’ll Remember appeared first on Rachelle Gardner.

0 Comments on How to Write an Author Bio They’ll Remember as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
18. The Writing Life by J.J. Howard + #Giveaway

We are pleased to welcome author J.J. Howard to the blog today. J.J. has enjoyed one of the highest pleasures of an author...to see her book made into a movie. Her YA novel, Tracers, pictured below, was released as a film in March starring Taylor Lautner from Twilight.

J.J. is here today to share with us some of her insight and advice on the writing life learned from her years of experience. She's also giving away two books, so be sure to check the Rafflecopter at the end of the post!

The Writing Life by J.J. Howard

1) Get a dog

The writing life is lonely. It’s nice to have company during the long process of writing and the long, long, long process of revision

Cats are classic, but I say go dog. First, dogs are more the encouraging type. When it’s hour nine of a work slog and you look like a person who lives in a box and forgot how to shower, dogs will still look at you like you’re a rock star. At a moment like this, I’m thinking the aloof and, let’s face it, slightly judgmental cat is not your best bet. Also, dogs need to be walked, and this forces you to take a break once in a while to go be with the outside people.

2) Embrace bribery

I don’t mean slip an envelope under your publisher’s door—no, I’m referring to bribing yourself. Unless I’m absolutely on fire with a new idea—which is too infrequent to be counted upon—I must rely on bribery. I suppose there may be writers out there who wake up every morning filled with the bright, pure light of inspiration, who float on a cloud of ideas from one chapter to the next. If you’re one of those, good on you, but for the rest of us, there’s the bribery-based word sprint.

My sprint system works like this: I select a target word count, give myself a defined period of time (usually one hour), then give myself a “reward” when I hit the target. I personally try to ignore the sports-connotation of the words sprint completely, probably because most of the time I’m sprinting toward some sort of food. But you could sprint towards a spot of yoga or a long run, or whatever, if that’s your bent.

Sometimes my reward is a snack and a short break. Sometimes it’s lunch. The logic here is muddy, since I allow myself to have lunch even on days when I don’t write a word, but it’s really more the taking-a-break aspect that’s the lure. Once in a while, if I’m really stuck, I’ll give myself a bigger carrot, like a half hour to shop online and even a budget of how much I can spend in that time.

After a few weeks of treating myself like an errant teenager, complete with curfews and spending limit, viola, first draft. Of course, the first draft is just the beginning, which brings me to…

3) Don’t marry your characters

By that I mean, don’t get too married/attached to the first version of any of your characters. Or settings. Or plot. I know they seemed brilliant when you had the idea at one in the morning, when after a long day of writing the light bulb appeared above your head and you figured out the perfect way to fix chapter 13. Your dog certainly seemed impressed.

However (the writing life is full of howevers—they say to avoid adverbs, but there’s no avoiding this one). However, what you wrote at first is going to change. First, your beta readers or writing group won’t get chapter 13. It confused them, maybe. Or maybe it was just boring. You’ll fee sad. It was your favorite part.

You may stubbornly cling to the original chapter 13, but the next round of folks to read it may very likely say the same thing. Or perhaps 13 will skate by, but the best friend character you adore will suddenly have his head on the chopping block. The point is, writing is rewriting, and it’s less painful—and more productive—to view your first draft as a work in progress. No one’s ever sold a raw first draft. Or, if they have, I sure don’t want to hear about it.

4) Guard your writing time

This is harder than it sounds. The outside people can be tempting, with their lunches in restaurants, movies, and other fun outings. Sometimes you have to actually turn down an invite, which is hard, but hard work and sacrifice are often part of the deal. This advice may be more for folks like me who work full time plus write. I teach high school, so I get plenty of chances to socialize, so that’s not an issue. But sometimes my weekend has to be about writing or revision, rather than weekending. I’d imagine weekending is very necessary for the full-time writer. When I get there I’ll let you know (notice the lack of conditional if there—power of positive thinking and all that.)

5) Keep your sense of humor

Not just for writing—this is life advice, really. But the book business can be kind of crazy. You’ll get conflicting advice from separate, reliable sources. Your favorite project will languish in a drawer while something you weren’t sure about at the start takes off. Someone will see you walking your dog with a Cheeto in your hair. Learn to laugh about the ups and downs, and remember, it’s all material for your next WIP.

About the Book:

Cam is a New York City bike messenger with no family and some dangerous debts. While on his route one day, he runs into a beautiful stranger named Nikki—but she quickly disappears. When he sees her again around town, he realizes that she lives within the intense world of parkour: an underground group of teens who have turned New York City into their own personal playground—running, jumping, seemingly flying through the city like an urban obstacle course.

Cam becomes fascinated with Nikki and falls in with the group, who offer him the chance to make some extra money. But Nikki is dating their brazen leader, and when the stakes become life-or-death, Cam is torn between following his heart and sacrificing everything to pay off his debts.

In the vein of great box-office blockbusters, the high-stakes romance here sizzles within this page-turning thriller that will leave readers feeling like they are flying through the streets of New York.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author:

By day I teach English, Humanities, and Media Studies at a prep school in Florida. By nighttime I’m really tired, but I still love to write books: my debut YA, That Time I Joined the Circus was published by Scholastic in 2013, followed by Tracers from Putnam in 2014. My debut MG, Sit, Stay, Love is coming this January from Scholastic. Way back in the way back, I went to Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, and I got my Masters from Tiffin University in 2010. I am moderately obsessed with coffee, French fries, and pop culture, especially anything by Joss Whedon.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 -- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers

0 Comments on The Writing Life by J.J. Howard + #Giveaway as of 9/11/2015 6:17:00 AM
Add a Comment
19. A comic for those who think that picture books are easy to write

Anyone who thinks that picture books are easy to write because they're short needs to read this advice from my Simon & Schuster editor, Justin Chanda.

0 Comments on A comic for those who think that picture books are easy to write as of 9/16/2015 8:51:00 AM
Add a Comment
20. Having Fun with Editing by Skylar Dorset

If you're like most writers I know, you just LOVE revisions and edits. ;-)  So you'd probably appreciate some good ideas as to how to make the process less painful. Skylar Dorset, author of The Girl Who Never Was, is here with us today to share how she turns the process into an enjoyable game!

Having Fun with Editing: A Craft of Writing Post by Skylar Dorset

Here’s the thing everyone will tell you about a first draft: Don’t worry about it! Don’t try to fix it! Just get through it! Write without judgment! You’ll deal with it all later!

I embrace all of this. I *love* first drafts. First drafts are the best. First drafts are when you sit down and you get to just *write.* All of your writing in a first draft is pure creation. I am addicted to the no-judgment idea. Once you get yourself to accept it—and learning not to be too hard on ourselves is hard; for just general life advice, I recommend learning how not to be too hard on yourself. Give yourself a break! You’re a nice person!—it’s marvelously freeing. First drafts flow easily from my fingers. Is that a continuity error? Worry about it later! Is the tone a little off? Worry about it later! Did you foreshadow this too little or too much? LATER!

I breeze my ways through my first drafts, and then when I’m done, I look back on a desolate landscape littered with trash I’ve left behind in my wake. “Oh,” I say, looking at the heaps of run-on sentences, the confetti of commas, the neglected secondary characters roaming through the wasteland giving me the evil eye. “Did I do that?” It’s like waking up the morning after you host a party. That party seemed like a good idea at some point in your past but on the morning after you’re cursing Past You for all you’re worth.

Read more »

0 Comments on Having Fun with Editing by Skylar Dorset as of 9/18/2015 6:24:00 AM
Add a Comment
21. Ask a Pub Pro: Author and Editor Erin Rhew on Branding, Cover Art, and Voice

We are thrilled to welcome editor and author Erin Rhew to the blog this month as our columnist for Ask a Pub Pro! Having worked with Erin, I'm amazed at how she tirelessly juggles so many hats. Not only is she an editor and the social media whirlwind for BookFish Books, but she's also the author of The Fulfillment Series, with the last book, The Fulfillment, releasing in just a few days!

Erin's here to answer your reader questions on how to brand yourself across genres, whether to send your own cover art in with submissions, and facing the fear of writing to a group younger than your age. Be sure to check out her newest release below!

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT gmail.com and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Ask a Pub Pro with Erin Rhew

1) I've heard the advice that if you want to build a fan base, you need to brand yourself. But my ideas don't all lend themselves to one category or genre, though they all have some similar themes. I'm wondering if you can brand yourself writing across categories and genres but by always exploring a similar type of story question or theme. Or even a similar type of story?

That’s a great question! When branding yourself, it’s important to remember you’re branding YOU, not a specific book or genre. If you have a cause that’s important to you or a theme/message you’re trying to disseminate, you could certainly include information about that in your branding. For example, let’s say you want to bring attention to animal cruelty. As you blog, perhaps blog about that particular topic once a month or so. Highlight and promote charities you feel exemplify the work you’d like done for animals.
Read more »

0 Comments on Ask a Pub Pro: Author and Editor Erin Rhew on Branding, Cover Art, and Voice as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
22. Blah Blah Blah: How Dead-End Dialogue Kills Pacing by Amy K. Nichols

We welcome author Amy K. Nichols to the blog today. Amy's here to help us shape up flabby dialogue to tighten our pace. Be sure to check out her upcoming release, While You Were Gone, at the end. Welcome Amy!

Blah Blah Blah: How Dead-End Dialogue Kills Pacing and How to Get Your Story Back Up to Speed by Amy K. Nichols

Of all the problems writers face when revising, one of the most elusive is pacing. Locking into the internal engine of a story can be tricky. We writers tend to overthink our scenes, distrust our instincts, and underestimate our readers. Then we compensate by adding more words, which only gums up the works. As a result, our stories sputter and lag, groaning under the weight of all the stuff we’ve crammed into them. Our critique partners return chapters with comments like, This section drags, This part lost my interest, What’s the point here?

Ugh. Fixing pacing problems can seem like an unwieldy process. Where do you even begin?

I suggest with dialogue.

In my experience there are three common dialogue problems that result in bogged-down pacing: white noise; perfect questions, perfect answers; and stating the obvious. The good news is, because dialogue stands out visually from the rest of the text, it’s easy to isolate and revise each section individually. Even better news is, each of these problems is pretty easy to fix. Here’s what to look for, and suggestions on getting your story back up on track.

White Noise

Sometimes your characters get to chatting and say a whole lot more than what needs to be said. The result is a slew of words that act like white noise or static, adding nothing to the story. When revising dialogue, look for repeated questions and dwindling comments. For example:

Character 1: Did you watch the finale of Game of Thrones?
Character 2: The one with Snow?
Character 1: Yeah.
Character 2: Yeah.
Character 1: That was crazy, huh?
Character 2: Totally crazy.
Character 1: Yeah.

Authentic character voice is good, but keep in mind that just because people actually talk like this, it doesn’t necessarily make for good reading. Here’s how you might revise such an interaction to keep the story moving:

Character 1: Did you see what happened to Snow on Game of Thrones?
Character 2: Yeah. That was crazy.
Character 1: Totally.

Done. It gets the information to the reader while keeping the authentic voices of the characters. All you’ve lost is the extraneous white noise that slows the pacing. Regardless of whether your dialogue is gripping or inane like this (hopefully it’s gripping), trimming away the excess takes away the drag.

Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers

The second thing to look for are instances where characters continually ask the exact questions necessary for getting information across to the reader or so the next plot point can take place. In other words, a sequence of perfect questions followed by the perfect answers. This is a really easy pattern to fall into, especially in early drafts when you’re trying to figure out the story. We think we’re being crafty, using dialogue to convey information and instigate action, but when your characters always say all the right things at all the right times, it actually stunts the story. It’s like when your windshield is too dry and your wipers make that awful bbbbrooooarromph noise. For example:

Character 1: Want to go to the movies tonight?
Character 2: That would be great. I’ll pick you up at six.
Character 1: Want to get dinner after?
Character 2: Sure. We can go to Bucky’s Burgers.
Character 1: Isn’t that where Brian works?
Character 2: Yeah. Maybe he’ll see me and ask me out.

Okay, hopefully your writing is a lot more compelling than this, but still, you can see the problem. Perfect questions followed by perfect answers. Sometimes info dumps lurk in these exchanges. There’s nothing in dialogue above that can’t just be shown through the action and progression of the plot. The characters go to the movie, get dinner after, see Brian, and he asks Character 2 out. The work is done visually rather than through stilted dialogue. If you absolutely must keep the exchange, pare it down.

Character 1: Movie tonight? Bucky’s after?
Character 2: Sure. I’ll pick you up at six.

You can use dialogue to set up the action to come without telegraphing what the plot will be. Keep it simple. Keep it moving.

Stating the Obvious

The final problem to look for when revising is sections where your characters say what they already know solely for the reader’s benefit. Writers do this when they question their ability to communicate the story, and/or when they underestimate the readers’ ability to comprehend it. Passages of dialogue that state the obvious cause readers to roll their eyes and think, We already know this! (Well, that’s how I react anyway.)

If you come across a character stating the obvious, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Has any of this been shown in previous scenes or chapters?
  2. Does this section of dialogue advance the story?
  3. If I cut this dialogue, will the reader be lost or confused?

If you answer these questions and still feel you need the exchange, revise the section to be as quick and snappy as possible.

Along the same lines, keep an eye out for info dumps. This is when a character (or in some cases, the narrator) stops the story to explain something, such as a character’s backstory or the technical specifications of a spaceship. Because info dumps act like a pause button on your plot, any momentum you’ve built up to that point will be interrupted. When it comes to info dumps, the rule of thumb is to wait as long as possible to include them. Only do an info dump when your reader is so curious and so wanting the information, they’re willing to put up with the interruption.

While fixing pacing can feel like a huge undertaking, starting with these three dialogue problems can be a quick way to jump-start your story and get it moving again.

About the Book:

Eevee is a promising young artist and the governor’s daughter in a city where censorship is everywhere and security is everything. When a fire devastates her exhibition—years in the making—her dreams of attending an elite art institute are dashed. She’s struggling to find inspiration when she meets Danny, a boy from a different world. Literally.

Raised in a foster home, Danny has led a life full of hurt and hardship until a glitch in the universe changes everything. Suddenly Danny is living in a home he’s never seen, with parents who miraculously survived the car crash that should have killed them. It’s like he’s a new Danny. But this alternate self has secrets—ties to an underground anarchist group that have already landed him in hot water. When he starts to develop feelings for Eevee, he’s even more disturbed to learn that he might have started the fire that ruined her work.

As Danny sifts through clues from his past and Eevee attempts to piece together her future, they uncover a secret that’s bigger than both of them. . . . And together, they must correct the breach between the worlds before it’s too late.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author:

Amy K. Nichols is the author of YA science fiction novels Now That You’re Here and While You Were Gone, published by Knopf. She holds a master’s in literature and studied medieval paleography before switching her focus to writing fiction. Insatiably curious, Amy dabbles in art, studies karate, tries to understand quantum physics, and has a long list of things to do before she dies. She lives with her family outside Phoenix, AZ. In the evenings, she enjoys counting bats and naming stars. Sometimes she names the bats. Visit her online at www.amyknichols.com.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers

0 Comments on Blah Blah Blah: How Dead-End Dialogue Kills Pacing by Amy K. Nichols as of 7/10/2015 8:12:00 AM
Add a Comment
23. Five Tips for Making Any Scene in Your Novel More Tense and Interesting

I'm about to spill one of my worst kept writing secrets, by which I mean that I'm going to talk about why I include a lot of the kinds of scenes that  legendary agent and author Donald Maass, whose many books about writing I usually agree with in their entirety, says to leave out of a novel. What kind of scenes are those? The ones that take place in kitchens, living rooms, and cars driving back and forth. Let's call them the everyday scenes.

Now it's true that these scenes are the ones that usually are left out of successful novels--especially young adult novels. Why? Because they tend to be low-tension scenes. Scenes where people are sitting around talking and not much is happening.

But low action doesn't have to mean low tension. Novels aren't necessarily about action; they're about conflict. And conflict can occur anywhere. That's what a lot of writers overlook, and it can result in low-tension (aka boring) action scenes as well as scenes that end up being just two characters talking.

There are many valid reasons to have those everyday scenes, though. Which means it's a good thing there are easy ways to beef them up so they engage instead of disengage your reader.

Read more »

0 Comments on Five Tips for Making Any Scene in Your Novel More Tense and Interesting as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
24. Ask a Pub Pro: Author Stefanie Gaither on Character Names, Science Fiction Research, and POV

We are thrilled to welcome author Stefanie Gaither to the blog this month as our columnist for Ask a Pub Pro! Stefanie is the author of the very popular and thrilling Falls the Shadow, with the sequel coming in 2016. She's here to answer your reader questions on unusual names for fantasy, how many books can an author squeeze into a series, the balance of fiction and fact for science fiction, and how many POV characters can make up an ensemble. 

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT gmail.com and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Also, please do not forget next week's Happy Potter Birthday celebration!  If you were inspired to write, or if your writing was any way influenced by JK Rowling, we'd love to hear from you! Please send a paragraph (or two) telling us how Harry Potter influenced your writing and you may be included in next week's celebration.

Email posts to AYAPLit AT gmail.com, and please put Happy Potter Day in the subject line. We'll let you know before July 31 if yours is one of the submissions chosen.

Author Stefanie Gaither on Character Names, Science Fiction Research, and POV

1) Writer Question: I'm worried about the names I'm creating for my WIP. My story is a fantasy, and the names I've envisioned sometimes have hyphenated endings to add a suffix meaning onto the name. But it seems that I've heard hyphens in names are frowned upon. I'm keeping the names very simple, even with the hyphens, so that it will not be confusing to the reader. Do you think that will work? Or would the use of hyphens be too off-putting? Would an apostrophe be better?

I actually just finished up a fantasy WIP of my own, so I understand the name struggle :) I don’t think that hyphens in names are immediately off-putting—so long as it fits the story and/or character. Other readers may feel differently, of course. If you’re really concerned about it, maybe there’s a way to compromise? Have their formal name hyphenated, but perhaps they go by a nickname that flows more easily for the reader?

Either way, one thing I like to do when figuring out names is to ask people unfamiliar with my story/character what comes to mind when I mention a person named “XYZ” or whatever; in your case, maybe write the name and then ask friends and fellow writers what immediately jumps into their minds when they see it—and if it’s in line with what you’re going for with this particular character, then you’re golden. Poll as many people as you can. Of course, not everyone will have the same answer, but it will give you a general idea of what the name you came up with is “showing” potential readers about this character—and whether or not they’re stumbling over things like hyphens.

Read more »

0 Comments on Ask a Pub Pro: Author Stefanie Gaither on Character Names, Science Fiction Research, and POV as of 7/24/2015 7:44:00 AM
Add a Comment
25. Six Ways to Unleash the Magic of Subconscious Writing

In the language of a recent Suits episode, I'm a "grinder" rather than a "rainmaker." Writing doesn't come easily for me, and I spend countless hours staring at sentences and rewriting them fourteen times, only to discover that the first version was probably the best. I add layers, and subplots, and symbolism, and connect the dots through sheer hard grunt work.

Sometimes I hate writing.

But then there are the rare flashes of brilliance that I swear don't come from me. The moments of magic when there's a muse on my shoulder. Or a miracle. Or all of the above. That's the part of writing that makes the rest worthwhile.

We all want more of those creative insights, but how do we get them?

Read more »

0 Comments on Six Ways to Unleash the Magic of Subconscious Writing as of 7/28/2015 8:06:00 AM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts