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YA Author Rendezvous

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Walking the Line – Sex in YA

c118acd3c2a99fb465af4dff36bbc17dWritten by K. R. Conway

If you have ever kicked around on YA blogs,

inevitably you come across posts about sex in Young Adult novels. Nine times out of ten, the post will say something about how books portray these moments, whether accurate or inaccurate, fade to black or way too much details.

I’m going to address the top three myths I see about nookie and YA, because quite frankly, there is a whole variety of what can be deemed as accurate in portraying sex.

Argument 1: Too many YA books paint first time sex as a beautiful experience, when it really is kind of . . . awkward.

My thoughts: True, but this seems more likely if both characters are inexperienced. tumblr_n0jrngdlbv1rizz8go1_1280It doesn’t have to always be portrayed as messy, or clumsy. Sex between characters should be a reflection of who they are as people and as partners. What they do between the sheets (IF they do anything between the sheets, because sex should only appear if it is accurate for the characters), should mirror their lives with one another. I’ve seen it done really well in YA books, and other times I wanted to scream (and not in a good way). Should it be an accurate reflection of real life? Absolutely, but such truths should be echoed in who the characters are without sex, and whether or not one is inexperienced or not. Sex between YA characters can be beautifully drawn, but should be honest. The Gossip Girl do-it-on-the-staircase-stuff I’d avoid. I mean come on . . . those wooden treads would suck!

Argument 2: Fade to black is a cop-out in YA. If your gonna write it, write it!

My thoughts: While some writers give a real play-by-play of sex scenes, I find myself far more impressed by those who show alot without showing alot. Plus – I have a teenaged daughter, and while she is fully aware of “stuff” (and heaven knows the stuff that is shown on TV and film now-a-days) I would rather she not read some graphic scene (not yet anyway). An intimate scene between characters can be portrayed vividly, while maintaining a PG / PG-13 rating.

2120642dcf55ac09bd2160fa5551f531Argument 3: All the girl characters become mindless idiots once kissed, and all the boys are dying to peel their love interest’s clothes off like a tangerine.

My thoughts: Bullcrap. You’re just not reading a wide enough variety of YA to realize that some writers deliberately put their female characters in the driver’s seat when it comes to sex. They are also careful to write both the bad boys that don’t give a damn about consent, along with the ones who make sure their girl / guy are in total control of the situation. Both these issues (girl power in the sack and males who boost the control of their love interests) are a critical part of the Undertow series. I wrote the contrast because I wanted the girls who DID read the series to see and understand what true love looks like (and what it doesn’t, in the case of Ana Lane’s father), and what strong females sound and act like. I’m not the only author who is a “girl power” writer – there are many of us (Sarah Maas, Eva Darrows, Jennifer Armentrout, Mary Pearson, and Holly Black to name but a few). So don’t buy the BS that sex in YA is all “boy he-man, girl fair princess.” Some of us write the warrior chick, right down to the marrow of her bones (and her hormones).

Argument 4: Sex in YA is inappropriate.

My thoughts: Maybe – it depends on the story. It depends on the characters and what the author, editor, and about nine other people who are involved in the book’s evolution believe. At the end of the day, however, the choice between characters on whether to do the deed or not reflects entirely on who they are at that moment in time in their lives and whether or not that moment actually occurs in the time span of the book. Like all choices characters make within the story, sex must be a reflection of who they are, as people (or, uh, monsters), where they came from, and how they see and trust one another.

And sometimes, when we view sex in YA, we simply need to remember what it was to be in love for the first time.

You can read more of K.R. Conway’s blogs here.

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Why the Agony of Writing for Teens is Worth It

Girl reading a book on the floor.Written by K. R. Conway

Writers can become burned out.

I don’t mean the hyperventilating, “OMG I have no story ideas!” type of burn out. I mean the grind of the words, the constant push to out-write your last book, the stiff necks, the time crunches, and the piecemealing of a life outside of your characters’ worlds.

You try to balance the requests from bookstores, the demands to meet deadlines, the desperate need to spend time with your family and your children, and (for many of us), the 9 to 5 of a day job as well.

Novel-writing is the ultimate act of endurance, with a finish line that seems to never fully reveal itself. And once you have finished one story, polished and in print, you immediately are looking to churn out the next book.

I started to feel the burn out when I was finishing up CRUEL SUMMER.  In the past 2 years, I had churned out close to 300,000 words related to the UNDERTOW series. Let me tell ya – that’s a lot of freakin’ words!

I’ve worked as a writer since 1999, and in all those years, I never got burned out as a journalist. But in all those years, I didn’t have the fans I have now. And they are like – HARDCORE FANS. They burn through those 300k words in just a couple of days, because they can’t put the book down. Because they must keep going, or they will obsess about Eila and her crew all day long, which is great and all, but I start to panic and think, “I need to get another book done for them, like, YESTERDAY!”

And my fans are voracious readers. I often get messaged that this kid or that kid has read STORMFRONT in a day (112k words) or that they are re-reading UNDERTOW for the 5th TIME! I don’t even think I’ve read Undertow cover to cover more than twice, and that was when it was in its editing phase! Some fans buy EVERY cover version, because they must have them all (0_0)

So, when I start to feel the burn out lurking in my life, I remember those fans. Those that flip out so entirely over the characters, that their Christmas lists are loaded with Undertow stuff.

I don’t get to usually see fans outside of book events, but the other day I saw one reading my book, and what I saw filled me with determination to work even harder.

You see, I drive a school bus during the day, filled with my target audience. While I can only really see the tops of kids’ heads when I drive, I do have to walk to the back of the bus when I pull up to the middle school to unload. The other day, while I walked to the back of the bus to disengage a warning button, I saw one girl sitting and reading, oblivious to the fact that we were at the school. At first I didn’t pay much attention, but then I did a double-take.

I knew that font.

I knew that line.

She was reading STORMFRONT. I didn’t bother her, but kept going and unloaded the bus, but she hung back, sliding into the seat behind my driver’s one. “This is so unbelievably awesome,” she says to me. “I was up from, like, 8 to 11 last night reading. And I reread Undertow over the weekend, but OMG. I love this!”

I thanked her and blushed a tad, thrilled she was enjoying it.

At the end of the day, I drove her home with a bus full of half-crazed teens. I was focused on getting the kids home safely and not losing my mind, so I wasn’t really paying close attention to what she was holding as I unloaded at her stop. But as I saw her walk away, I realized she had gotten off with the book tucked under her arm. I watched, floored, as she walked towards her home, Stormfront in her hands as she read.

She wasn’t on her phone. She wasn’t hanging with the other kids and talking. She was lost inside my book, living alongside my fictional characters, reading as she walked. Suddenly that lurking burn-out vanished and I remembered why I write.

I do it for teens like her, who want to fall so entirely in love with a story that their own reality tumbles away.

I write for the fans, and in turn, they are my creative jolt.

They power me past the burn out.

They are my army and my saving grace . . . and I pledge my undying loyalty to their awesomeness

How I got past Writer’s Block

How to avoid writer's block - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

At some point in every writer’s life, writer’s block kicks in, and when it does, I think you can agree it’s the absolute worst. Even though you know you’re capable of writing the story in your head, the words just won’t come out.

What I’m about to say is by no means the only way to defeat writer’s block, but this is what worked for me, so hopefully I can help a few of you out if you’re struggling too.

My writer’s block began after I’d published my first book, ‘Reality is in a Dream’. I had a short break before beginning the writing process of book 2, ‘Mourning Memories’, and when I started to write book 2, I was very enthusiastic that the process would be swift. However, about 20,000 words in, I began to hate everything that I’d written up to that point, and then I re-wrote the whole lot.

This put a massive spanner in the works. I’d completely lost my flow, and although I had a very descriptive plan, I just couldn’t find the motivation or inspiration to do any writing. At this point, I was also hand writing everything, and then typing it up later. It was a slow process, and in the end, it took me 18 months to write book 2. That didn’t include the edits, and formatting time.

Because of this extremely long process, I kept putting off the writing of book 3. I couldn’t even bring myself to write a plan out, because without this, I couldn’t start writing, or that’s what I told myself anyway. But then NaNoWriMo came around, and with the encouragement of a few others in this group, I decided to give it a go.

I didn’t write book 3 of my trilogy for NaNo, as I was still procrastinating about that one, but I did manage to write 50,000 words of a different book, the fastest I’d ever written a book in my entire life. I was no longer hand writing, simply typing directly onto Microsoft Word, and the words just kept flowing. I had a plan for this book, but I think I only looked at it once. The story ran away with itself, and turned into something I’m extremely proud of.

50K50Days - Day 50 - Lauren Mayhew Author - Young Adult Author RendezvousSo, when I finally decided to write the third book in my trilogy, I took inspiration from NaNo. I set myself a new challenge, to write 50,000 words in 50 days. I posted every day on my social media accounts, letting my followers know about my progress, and that pretty much forced me not to give up. I still hadn’t finished the plan for the book, but once I’d started, the characters took over, and before I knew it, the story was written.

Having less of a structured plan to follow, a daily target to reach, and followers on social media expecting updates, I managed to overcome my writer’s block. In the space of four months, I managed to write two books. Neither of them are close to being finished, but the story is there to be edited, and that’s sometimes the hardest part for me. I’ve given myself a break from both of them, but I’ll be going back to the third book in my trilogy soon, and hope to have it published by the end of summer.

Set yourself a challenge, and you may be surprised what you’re capable of!

Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness

Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

My mother is a wise soul.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s kooky and crazy and lives out loud, but she’s got this inner Zen thing going on that makes her come out with some true treasures of insight every once in a while.

One such gem was pretty simple: she said real writers, WRITE. They don’t perseverate, they don’t make up excuses. They just write – nose to the keyboarded, possible drink in their hand (hello, Hemmingway), and a brilliant fire in their belly that demands they tell the story.

I didn’t have that drive to write when I first messed around with UNDERTOW, but once I got really rolling inside Eila’s world, I loved it – the feel of the abused keys under my fingers and how the voices and scenes washed away the world as I worked. I mean, literally – the house could catch fire and I may not realize it.

So anytime I try to excuse myself from my keyboard, I remember my mother’s words (and the fact that my readers will get on my case if I don’t finish my next novel) and I get back down to business.

But I like to think that I’m actually a storyteller first, a writer second. The tough thing about being an obsessive storyteller is that you have a MILLION stories to tell. And because the new characters and tales are screaming to come out, I sometimes think I can weave them ALL into a current WIP (work in progress). Sometimes I do, but sometimes I control the urge and tell myself they deserve their own novels. Most of the time I spin so many stories in my head, that they all jockey for attention at once, which literally melts my brain.

At night I go running for a few miles, music blaring in my ears, seeking the muse within. While I pound the pavement, those stories that are whispered in my mind suddenly come vividly to life. I no longer see the road, but rather an entire scene playing before me like a ghostly movie screen. Literally, I no longer have any sense of where I am, only that I SEE the scene in front of me. The stories that win the right to be the next one written, are the ones that build scene after scene, night after night as I run.

Tonight I went walking with Kalli, and while we strolled she suddenly asked me why I was feeling the leaves.

I didn’t even know I was doing it.

I was walking under a low slung oak branch and my fingers were trailing through the tips of the leaves above me. But in my mind, I wasn’t touching them – my character was and the leaves weren’t soft and green, but curled and windburnt.

I turned to my daughter and simply replied, “I’m writing,” as I dropped my hands and shrugged.

Of course, she thought I wasn’t normal and commented as such. A minute or two of silence sat between the two of us as we walked in the near darkness. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye as she fiddled with her phone, seeming flustered, but then she finally huffed in aggravation and halted. “DAMN IT! Now I’m gonna obsess about what you’re writing!”

I smiled like the cat who ingested Tweety and pointed to the tree, sitting content and deep green in the night air, and said, “The leaves, in my mind, are burnt and the damage isn’t from nature. I see it every night when I run.”

Kalli looked at me, a stone-still stare that she has perfected over the years, and only her lips moved. “You are so weird.”

Yup. That’s me. The weird one.

I am my mother’s daughter. Apple. Tree.

My daughter is totally doomed to inherit that gene.

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YAAR Does NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo Experience - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, challenges people to write 50,000 words in 30 days, that’s an average of 1667 words per day. I’ve struggled to write that many words this whole year, let alone one day. You can read more about NaNoWriMo here.

I went into this challenge very pessimistically. Both of my published novels are around the 50,000 word mark, and they each took me around a year to write. Doing this in 30 days wasn’t just going to be exhausting, but mentally challenging too. However, I did it, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

I haven’t finished the book yet, which is encouraging, as this may turn out to be the longest book I’ve ever written! Chapter six is completely missing, and I haven’t written the ending yet, so I’d hope there’s at least another 5,000 words to add, not including all of the edits I’ve already made in my head!

NaNoWriMo challenged me to write in a way I’ve never written before, and I think I’ll continue in this way from now on. I wrote everything straight into Microsoft Word. Normally, I write by hand and type everything up later. There was no way I’d have the time to do that with NaNoWriMo, and it’s helped me to write quicker which can only be a good thing.

But I’m not the only one who took this challenge head on! Quite a few of us here at YAAR decided to give it a go, here’s what they have to say about their experience, seven days after it’s over.

NaNoWriMo Winner's Certificate - Young Adult Author RendezvousThis was my fifth NaNoWrMo and my fifth win. I love November. It’s the only month of the year that I truly write every day. My challenge now is to keep going until I finish this book … oh and to have fun with my local NaNo peeps at our “Thank Goodness It’s Over Party!” on Saturday. – Debbie Manber Kupfer

Every November I get excited. Not only because it’s the holiday season, but the creative juices around the world start reeving up and it’s addictive. Especially in the book world. And it’s all because of NaNoWriMo This is my second year to join the movement, my first year to “win”, and it was such a wonderful experience. Yes, I have mega bags under my eyes and I’m seriously sleep deprived, but the words that flowed, the relationships that were built (both literal and fictional, the stories that will come of it… EPIC.)Lili Mahoney

For the first time in my writing career, NaNoWriMo actually coincided with a time when I was able to get a lot of writing done. It really truly motivated me to write every day, which is something I rarely do. In the span of only 30 days, I was able to get 50,000 words written AND plan out the rest of the book (which will likely be over 100,000 words). Having others do this at the same time was awesome!Patrick Hodges

I had grand intentions for NaNoWriMo… I was going to finally get back in the habit of writing every day! I was going to finish my book! I was going to remember that I love writing and it’s something I do for fun, not as another chore! In the end, I didn’t write every day. I didn’t finish my book. I eked out my 50,000 words by the skin of my teeth on the last day. But I did it and most of all I rediscovered my love of writing, even in the midst of my crazy life!!T.D. Shields

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for four years, but this was the first year I ever made it to 50,000 words. My secret was getting up to speed by writing 1,000 words a day during the previous month. You really discover which parts of a book you’ve thought through and which parts you haven’t when you have to produce three to five pages a day on it.Paul Briggs

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I finished my book with 60,000 chaotic, raw, heartfelt words. I’m not sure what I’ll discover when it comes to editing, but having that rough draft done feels amazing! I’d say overall my experience was overwhelming, intense, beneficial, and gratifying. I’ll be ready to do it again next year…or in 2025.Tenille Berezay

Nanowrimo was like going on a literary bender, but with not nearly enough booze.K.R. Conway

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I completed my first draft of a novel that I first had the idea for over ten years ago. The challenge gave me the opportunity and the excuse to write it, and I am absolutely in love with the manuscript. Keep an eye out for my novel, Paranormal Painless.Shannon Rieger

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Writing Techniques to Set You on the Right Track

Writing Techniques to Set You on the Right Track - Beth Rodgers

Written by Beth Rodgers

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  So, I’ve picked up some book writing techniques over the years that I have always used to my benefit, and I hope to help you use for your own benefit.

Even as a little girl in elementary school, I wrote journal entries describing the desire I had to be an author.  Journal entries are especially helpful for those writers who are lost in their own writer’s block and need more techniques to get them out of it.

The main issue that I encounter in my own writing is introductions.  I most always end up pleased with my choice of title or opening paragraph, but they give me more trouble than they’re worth.  So, I sometimes come up with or search for story starters and poem starters as a means of helping me think of beginnings.

When I was in middle school and early high school, I was in love with the idea of learning how to write a story (I still am!).  I had fun.  Writing wasn’t a chore; it was a pleasure.  I loved learning how to write a story, an anecdote, and other styles that teachers would provide.  It was also enjoyable to increase my knowledge of literary terms, including learning to define words like “anachronism” and consider how to use those devices within my writing.  It is because of these early experiences that I feel I have garnered some expertise in the matter of book writing.  

When eighth grade rolled around, I parodied the pop culture phenomenon that was Beverly Hills, 90210 and wrote my own version: Lathrup Village, 48076.  

Your writing does not have to be yours to be inspired by you.  You make it what it is.  Find ways to pull the most useful items you have and use them to structure your own writing.

As time went on, young adult stories seemed to fit me to a tee, as I was a young adult myself. Junior year of high school was the year that cemented my desire to be a full-fledged author, as I wrote my first novel that year.  I used tips and techniques that my junior year English teacher provided me with, as well as some of my own that I had garnered from my own writing experience.  One of these tips was to watch for redundancy.  Learning to make sure that you are not becoming overly repetitive with what you have to say is important in any type of writing.

My first novel started out as a short story I had written my sophomore year.  When first assigned, it had to be 3-5 pages, and about anything we wished.  I wrote about the most unpopular boy, a main character named Phillip, who likes the most popular girl, Susie, while dealing with his best friend moving away, and gaining a new best friend while using quick wit and a caring manner.

Little did I know I would continue this young adult novel-in-the-making my junior year and add in new  characters, along with some surprise return character cameos who served to further complicate the never-peaceful teenage lives that the main characters constantly led.  

This just proved all the more that conflict sells.  People enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of others and possess a desperate desire to see how it all turns out.  

My use of character development, conflicts, twists and turns, and a passion for my subject matter are central pieces of the puzzle that make up the book writing techniques that I use.  

TV and movies serve to delineate this point all the more.  As an avid TV and movie viewer, I am constantly spotting potential book writing techniques and strategies that writers use to keep their audiences at the ready for anything that might possibly occur.

Some TV and movie writers like to start at a season or series finale, or with a particular scene, and work backward to what they feel will be the best starting point.  Others remain mysterious and keep you guessing to see what will happen next.  This is useful in TV writing, but is prevalent in movie scripts, as they have a shorter amount of time in which to tease you with potential scenarios and keep you guessing to find out which will actually come to fruition.  

It’s amazing to look back on shows that have been on for years or have gone off the air already, and realize that the whole plotline, or at least the vast majority of main ideas, have definite ties back to the very first episode of that series.  A great example of this can be found when watching the pilot episode of Friends.  If you have watched most or all of that series, re-watch the pilot and see what I mean.

Going back in time a bit, the astute Ben Matlock and Lieutenant Columbo solidified the power of a few key phrases and wording styles as they investigated their cases and solved them with barely any trouble.

Perspective is very important in writing, especially when writing from a specific point of view.  You have to be able to see what you read, watch, and write as positive, negative, happy, sad, or a gaggle of other emotions in order to truly know that you have tried every angle to make your writing shine.

So always view your writing as a glass half full.  Watch TV and movies to see and hear the masters at work.  Read your favorite authors to investigate for yourself how great minds work.  Write a novel, book, play, or even a doctoral thesis.  Use techniques that you have learned and that you are learning as you are in the process of writing.  Open your mind and see all the possibilities that writing offers.

Breaking Writer’s Block

How to Break Writers BlockWritten by Beth Rodgers

There are so many places to visit and ideas to consider that I find it hard to even know where to begin. Breaking writer’s block should be much easier, however, once you explore the places and think about the people who help provide you with the best writing fodder.

Just last month, I had my second child. I must say that children really do say the darndest things much of the time, and that holds true with my toddler, but with newborns, just watching them and feeding off of their energy and sweet smiles can provide a whole different set of instincts that can be stupendously helpful in writing.

There are also museums, libraries, movie theaters, sports arenas, comedy clubs, and a variety of other locations to inspire fun writing ideas. Some of these places may have children around, while others will only have adults or senior citizens, and others will have a mixture of all three. Viewing people through the perspective of locations they go to and the different demographics they go with can be especially telling when investigating new and distinct writing techniques.

Now, you must have an open mind. All the places mentioned above will have creative writing guides who will be happy to share their expertise with you. Just remember, you don’t have to visit any or all of the places listed here. There may be other places you frequent, or places you do not go so frequently that you want to re-visit. Sometimes re-visiting locations, or even characters or settings that you have written and left alone for a while, can help you get back on the right track, as you look at each once again from a fresh viewpoint.

Here is a sampling of some of the creative writing guides you might find as you visit a variety of these places:

Creative Writing Guide #1: Museums and Docents

You’ll find a guide to breaking writer’s block at almost any museum you visit. There are hosts and hostesses who act as docents, and who will at least point you in the right direction, if not lead you on a tour of inspirational areas that just may heighten your writing interest in a new (or old) topic. I myself love visiting presidential homes that have been turned into makeshift museums. I find the historical value fascinating, and the woodwork or other decorations in the home oftentimes provide me with unique ideas for settings that I might want to incorporate into my own writing in some way.

Creative Writing Guide #2: Libraries and Librarians

If you are a writer or a reader, this should be a no-brainer for you. Libraries are chock full of what we love – books, books, and more books! Librarians will be your guide to help you research what interests you at your local library. A variety of books, CDs, movies, and possibly even microfiche (remember that?!) to supplement the ever-popular Internet will be available at most locations you visit.

Creative Writing Guide #3: Movies and Scriptwriters

It may sound ridiculous that anything original can come out of the movies anymore. There are some great ones still, mind you, but they are few and far between compared to the feature films of the past.

Visit movie theaters and video stores (yes, they still exist!). Allow scriptwriters to be your creative writing guides in discovering what writing formats work best for them, how those styles make you like or dislike their work all the more or less, and how you can use these same formats for breaking your writer’s block.

Creative Writing Guide #4: Sports Games

Go to a game. Don’t just attend baseball, basketball, hockey, or football games. Try something new. Find a soccer game in your area. Watch a high school team play lacrosse. Seek out a rugby tournament. Some of the best writing in movies, books, and newspapers come from America’s favorite pastimes.

Don’t discount the power of watching a sports game. The fact that you enjoy it means that you can discuss it at some length, and therefore you can write about it with some sense of authority.

Creative Writing Guide #5: Comedians and Comedy Clubs

Comedy clubs are popular, and more and more people are repeating jokes that Dane Cook, Amy Schumer, Jimmy Fallon, and other comedians are reciting. After all, if Saturday Night Live wasn’t popular, it would be off the air. It has been running in syndication since 1975, and its popularity is still sky-high.

Comedians are writers, too. So use them as your creative writing guides. They use other comedians, as well as book, TV, and movie writers to help them come up with new and sensational jokes. They feed off of pop culture, news stories, and interesting things that happen to them or that they come across.

So, pretend that you’re a comedian – at least in the sense that you pick and choose what best works for you, and write those ideas down. You’ll soon find that you are breaking writer’s block for good if your mind is constantly churning and ideas are constantly being written down.

It sounds hard, but breaking writer’s block is an easy task. Visit some of these places as well as others that come to mind. Write down what you see and hear. Attend concerts, ask questions, listen to what is being said in line in front of you at a Starbucks. You may be surprised at what you come across.

American English VS British English

American English vs British English in writingWritten by Lauren Mayhew

Ok, this may seem obvious to most of you, but here is a quick pointer to differences in English and American English words. I have read many books written by non-British authors that contain English characters and not all of the terminology has been correct. The same can be said for British authors writing American characters too.

To me as a reader, this is only relevant to books written in first person or for dialogue. In descriptive text, feel free to use ‘Organization’ instead of ‘Organisation’. This is only relevant to when a British/ American character is speaking/ thinking.

I know that if I was writing an American, Australian or British character, I’d need to do some research into certain words that may be different. Here’s a little list of words or phrases that are used differently. (I’ve put the American English first.)

Band-Aid  –  Plaster

Bangs  –  Fringe

Block  –  Street

Candy  –  Sweets

Cell Phone  –  Mobile Phone (to be honest, I just say phone..)

Crossing Guard  –  Lollipop Man/ Lady (you probably won’t ever have to use this one, but I love it)

Diaper  –  Nappy

Fall  –  Autumn

Faucet  –  Tap

Flashlight  –  Torch

French Fries  –  Chips

Galoshes  –  Wellies

Gas  –  Petrol

Jello  –  Jelly

Jelly  –  Jam

Math  –  Maths

Mom/ Mommy  –  Mum/ Mummy

Pants  –  Trousers (pants mean underwear in England)

Potato Chips  –  Crisps

Recess  –   Break Time

Robe  –  Dressing Gown

Sidewalk  –  Pavement

Sneakers  –  Trainers

Soccer  –  Football

Sweater  –  Jumper

Trash Can  –  Dustbin

Vacation  –  Holiday

A Fortnight is a measurement of time. A fortnight is equal to two weeks.

After Patrick ever so kindly edited my book, he brought a few more words and phrases to my attention that I presumed everyone knew! Here they are:

Coconut Shy  –  This is a fairgound game where coconuts are sat on little pedestals and you American English vs British English Coconut Shyhave to try and knock one off with a ball to win a prize.

Eggs and Soldiers  –  A boiled egg with toast cut into strips (soldiers) to dunk into it.

Faffing around  –  To ‘faff’ around: to spend your time doing a lot of things that are not important instead of the thing that you should be doing.

Stonking  –  Used to emphasize something that is impressive, exciting or very big. I used it like this: How do you hide a stonking great Land Rover?

There are so many words that I would love to put in here, but most of them aren’t really appropriate for a YA audience. If you’re ever in doubt about a word, ask someone. I’d be more than happy to help any fellow authors with British slang. Just send me a message or tweet!

The Love of Writing

 

ladybugWritten by Debbie Manber Kupfer

 

At eight years old I turned into a ladybird. The story prompt in the Puffin Post said to choose a creature and write a story from its point of view. I spent days wandering around my house and garden in Barking, a working-class borough of London, peering into my dad’s magnifying shaving mirror and imagining my life as a tiny red, spotted crawling thing. Then I wrote that story and sent it off to the magazine and I waited.

Two months later I tore open the envelope that held my Puffin Post and scanned through the pages and there was my name in print – Deborah Manber. I’d got a mention for my ladybird story. And so it began: my love of words, of dreams, of stories (and as that first story involved me turning into an insect, I guess my love of shapeshifters started here too.)

As a child I filled notebooks with tales. I wrote a series of school stories, based around the playground. I even remember the titles – Rodney and Me (about a large Old English Sheepdog that hung out around the school playground – the only dog I ever truly was comfortable with), The Day the Workman Came (about when the playground was torn up and the equipment reminded me of huge monsters breathing fire), and Parents Week (a week when we got to go out to work and our mums and dads sat in the classroom. I didn’t understand back then that the parents might actually have enjoyed the swap!)

Each time I wrote another tale, I escaped – escaped from the meanness that surrounded me in that playground, but back then I never put the bullies in my stories (that would come later when I wrote P.A.W.S.) My stories were my refuge and apart from that one tale I sent to the Puffin Post, I never shared them with anyone.

Over the years I would continue writing. I wrote letters to an imaginary boyfriend in my teens. And as he was imaginary he wrote me beautiful letters back and sent me a handmade Valentine!

During college I wrote bad poetry in a black bound notebook that I believe still sits in a box in my basement. Maybe someday the kids will clean out the basement and find the poetry and laugh at their mom. My own mother, I discovered a couple of years ago, used to keep a diary when she was a kid. I found it when I was helping her move and she let me keep it. It’s a treasure. She wrote mundane stuff about her everyday life, which is fascinating to me today, but also in the back of the book are two stories she wrote. So maybe this writing thing runs in the family.

Both my kids write – my son recently started writing fan fiction for a game series he likes to play online. I felt very privileged when he let me read some of it a couple of nights ago (“but no editing, Mom, OK?”) Privileged and surprised. He has more confidence in his writing than I ever did at his age.

Since I’ve been published my mum has read each of my books and enjoyed them even though fantasy isn’t really her thing. My father enjoyed the genre, but sadly passed from this world before I became a published author.

Today I still find comfort and love in words. If I’m particularly tired or sad, I can sit down at my computer or just with a piece of paper and pen and write out an escape. Sometimes I’ll tear up the words, sometimes I’ll save them and eventually share them. But either way after writing it down I feel a little better.

Amazon and the Future of Publishing

Written by Christopher Mannino

Amazon is generally considered to be responsible for the demise of hundreds of brick and mortar bookstores. The mega-retailer helped drive dozens of independent bookstores into bankruptcy, and pushed the former chain Borders into oblivion.

Then, last fall, Amazon surprised many by opening a physical bookstore in its home town Seattle.

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The bookstore is built on a different model than large bookstores of the past, such as Barnes and Noble, Borders, or Books A Million. With most chain bookstores, books are stocked by the publisher’s demands. These demands are issued by the so-called “big five” traditional publishers such as HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin. The publishers sign an author, and release a set number of books to the stores.

A new author, for example, might get offered a 10,000 book run. All of the bookstores would be sent copies of the novel, totalling 10,000 copies, and the author hopes they sell. The bookstores are given a time limit, usually about three weeks, and then any books that are unsold are destroyed and sent back to the publisher. If the author had an advance, he can be docked the cost of returned books. If he didn’t have an advance, he still knows he likely won’t get another contract if the books sold poorly. With this model, the big five establish what books are in stores, and all books are either “make it or break it” novels for an author. If you don’t succeed big, you fail, and there’s little room in between.

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However, all of that might change. On Tuesday Feb 2nd, the announcement was released that Amazon will open HUNDREDS of physical bookstores. CNBC shared the announcement, citing up to 400 brick and mortar stores to open. Amazon retracted the statement shortly after, and while not denying that it plans to increase its number of physical stores, it is backing away from specific numbers. Only TWO days after the announcement originally aired, Barnes and Noble stocks had plummeted 14%, showing the real fear of the mega-retailer’s possible entry into the chain bookstore venue.

If Amazon does open hundreds of physical bookstores, the entire publishing industry could change. Amazon has publicly stated that its physical bookstore’s selections are based entirely off of sales and ratings of books on Amazon.com. A quick look through the online store and many of the bestsellers are NOT published by the big five publishers. Many bestsellers are self-published books offered at Amazon only. If these then become the books seen in physical bookstore chains, how will the big five respond?

In 2012, Houghton Mifflin filed for bankruptcy to help erase debt. The big publishers are facing increasing financial hardhips, and with the oncoming Amazon phyiscal chain, they NEED to shift their focus if they hope to survive. One model that may gain in popularity is Print on Demand, or POD. Many books, including The Scythe Wielder’s Secret, are currently offered as POD, and since books are only printed when they’re ordered, there are far fewer financial risks. If a national bookstore chain is filled with POD books, will old model publishers even be relevant? Could the big five focus on print on demand publishing, instead of enormous gamble-based runs? Could the older publishers focus on marketing, or other mechanisms not necessarily available to smaller presses, so that they still have something unique to offer? Or will the older publishers crumble, like Borders did? The only thing certain in the publishing industry is that the business is changing rapidly, and the old rules don’t necessarily work any more.

The ABC’s of Writing: Part 2

abcsofwritingpart2Written by Beth Rodgers

The ABCs of writing continue this month with the rest of the alphabet (see January’s post here).  It’s vital for writers to know their own ABCs so they know what they’re aiming for in writing.

 

Nostalgia.  Use experiences and memories.  Capitalize on the effects of something that happened to you, or causes that got you there.  Feed into nostalgia by remembering how you got a character out of conflict in the past.  It may help you figure out just how to solve a similar problem in a new story you’re writing.  Use nostalgia to your benefit.  Establishing a solid store of connected memories and emotions can make for gripping writing.

 

Opaque.  Don’t be too opaque or transparent.  Don’t make it difficult to understand, or, for that matter, too simple.  Leave room for curiosity.  Don’t give everything away (too transparent), and don’t keep everything a secret until the last chapter (too opaque).  Let readers’ minds wander, but give clues to maintain interest.

 

Purpose.  It may sound cliché, but writing must have purpose.  Know what you’re writing, whom you’re writing for, and why you’re writing.  This helps writers hit home with their purpose.  It’s the driving force behind the greatest writing.

 

Quality.  Quality may seem an overdone characteristic, but it’s absolutely essential.  You may have heard that quality is more important than quantity.  In good writing, this rings true.  Quantity looks good on paper (the more you have, the more work you did, right?), but the truth is that too much of something can be troublesome.  For example, you might find yourself becoming repetitive if you’ve done too much writing.  Season your writing with quality; pepper it with all the ABCs that are staples of your process.

 

Respect.  Have you ever read a book, watched a show, or listened to a song and wondered how in the name of good writing certain lines got uttered?  Maybe you’ve wondered how certain writers keep their jobs or how they continue to publish?  Respect quality writing.  Prove you know what makes good, impressive writing by reading great authors’ works and aspiring to the greatest heights with your own.  Not only should you respect others’ writing, but you should respect your own.  If you don’t respect what you do, how will others?

 

Sportsmanship.  Give your characters competitive edges.  Let them work both for and against one another to make more compelling, animated writing.  You want to keep readers on the edges of their seats by keeping characters on those same edges.  Make characters so vivid that readers are rooting for or against them as they deal with written conflicts and emotions.

 

Tact.  Watch your word choice.  You don’t want to fall into the trap of using too strong or too juvenile of language.  Gauge your intended audience and see what words and phrases best fit.  When writing dialogue, write how a person talks – not necessarily with proper grammar.  Understanding your characters will help your writing become more tactful.

 

Uniformity.  Don’t conform to normal writing approaches.  That isn’t to say that some of those approaches shouldn’t be used, because they should be.  Take into account all approaches that other writers have used to make their writing magical, creative, and interesting.  When you make your writing put on a “uniform,” you aren’t allowing it to bask in its own glory.  Let your writing take its own form.  Let it whisk you off into other worlds and help you understand your own style and approach.

 

Value.  Surely you take a vested interest in your writing.  After all, you’re penning it.  So, value your writing technique.  Trust what you know and what you write, and encourage yourself as you go.  Second, find value in your writing.  See strengths it exhibits.  However, don’t forget to look for areas to improve.  It’s the mark of a great, gifted writer when he or she can see areas that are lacking and in need of refinement.

 

Whimsy.  Make your writing fancy-free and whimsical.  Imagine new worlds.  Reach new heights or depths.  Create characters that only you have the ability to solidify through your unique technique.  Have fun, and as you do, write to your heart’s content!

 

Xylophone.  There aren’t many words that begin with ‘X’ that work.  So, go with me here.  A xylophone produces different sounds depending on the parts hit.  So should it be with writing.  Know how to hit high notes, low notes, and everything in-between.  Xylophones allow you to improvise, so try out different writing styles.  Improve your technique by testing different genres.  See what you can do to make your writing more surprising and impressive.

 

Yet.  If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?  You may not have been published yet.  You may not have perfected your writing technique yet.  You may not even know what you want to write about yet.  Notice what the key word is in all this: yet.  Nothing may have happened yet, but it may be on the verge of happening.  Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  Work harder.  Strive to higher heights; imagine thrilling scenes.  Everything good will come in time, as long as you keep in mind that it might not have happened yet, but it’s working its way there, just as you’re still working your way there.

 

Zest.  One of the most important aspects of the ABCs of writing is to have zest for what you’re doing.  You want to come across as someone who loves his or her craft, and the best way to do this is to prove your love of writing by making it part of your everyday life.  Use zest to engage in symbolism, vocabulary, and other aspects of your own ABCs that make you love what you do.

 

The ABCs of writing don’t stop here.  There are many more words that can be explored to further your craft.  You can learn to write what you like and do it well.

 

Now that you’ve read my ABCs of writing, what are yours?

Are Writers Like Voldemort?

Written by Christopher Mannino 

Two recent reviews compared School of Deaths to the Harry
Potter series. I decided to play on that a bit with this question: are
writers like Voldemort?

I say YES.
The first similarity is that both writers and Voldemort use magic.
Voldemort’s magic mostly involves torturing and killing people.
He seems especially obsessed with a teenage boy, and finds ways
to get into the boy’s mind.  A writer also uses
magic.  Writers use a group of arcane symbols arranged into
clumps they call words.  Like a spell, they can take an image,
something that only exists as a slight fancy in their imagination, and
dump it into the imaination of their reader.  As I type, an
elephant walked in front of my window stinking of manure.  Did
you picture an elephant, or smell manure?  What if I then told
you there was no elephant?  That transference is the most real
form of magic imaginable….
“Writing is magic.” – Stephen King,
On Writing
 
Another striking similarity is in what both writers and Voldemort
want: eternal life.  Voldemort is obsessed with the idea of
immortality.  He kills people to create horcruxes, ironially
causing his own downfall and death, when one of the horcruxes fights
back.  Writers are no different.  It’s true that many might
simply want to share their ideas, but in the end, by creating stories
that will endure, a writer has taken part of their soul and created
something eternal: a part of their soul that can be shared in
another’s mind, and could last forever.  Sounds a lot like making
horcruxes- only without all the murders.
So what do you think?  Are writers like Voldemort?
Also, don’t miss this stellar review for School of Deaths:  http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=20235
 

ABCs of Writing: Part 1

ABCs1

Written by
Beth Rodgers

When learning to write, we start with our ABCs.  They provide components that make writing easier.  Peruse the following words and explanations about how to use the alphabet to promote your writing craft; then check back next month for the rest of the alphabet!

Ammunition.  My reservoir of writing techniques serves as my ammunition to get the ball rolling.  I work to come up with new ideas to share with myself as I work on my writing.  Ammunition does not only have to be construed negatively.  People hear it and think of guns and violence.  However, in this case, it’s meant as the driving force behind my writing.  Each new idea I consider is part of the ammunition I’ve made a stockpile of as I pen my thoughts.

Bravery.  I’m not afraid to take risks.  I want to stand out and make my writing shine.  I make a point of including conflict to make endings more magical.  My characters struggle through dilemmas and emotions; they also consider ways to overcome struggles.  Sometimes that isn’t possible, and that’s what makes for more emotional, substantial details that lend themselves well to pulling at readers’ heartstrings and making them feel deeply for my characters.

Collection.  I have a large collection of books, poetry, websites, etc. I use when I feel stuck.  I read books in my chosen genre, and I make a point of learning more about authors by analyzing why they chose to write a certain way, why they made their characters act certain ways, etc.  It is important to see the paths others have taken in order to learn the craft well.

Decisions.  Making decisions can be hard, not only in life, but in writing.  Even when writing fiction, the reality of the writing must set in as you embrace the lives of the characters and realize you must make decisions that affect the outcomes of their lives.  Remember that creating conflict isn’t the worst thing, as there must be some sense of urgency throughout your writing in order to make it realistic.  You might have your readers suspend disbelief, but you also might want them to feel grounded in reality.  Pick your moments wisely, and make the most of your writing as you do.

Energy.  Never lose the vivacity and excitement you have when you begin writing something.  Stay on the writing rollercoaster, and let it take you on all the twists and turns it can.

Freedom.  Write to your heart’s content.  You can write a novel-in-verse or a short story that chronicles the top news headline.  You can write an idea for a unique TV pilot.  You are at liberty to make revisions, additions, and concessions within your writing until it’s to your satisfaction.

Gravity.  Stay grounded.  Even if you are writing fantasy or science fiction, don’t go so far as to be totally unbelievable.  You want to convey comprehension, and this may be lacking if you get too into ridiculous notions that readers aren’t apt to understand.  If you do choose to write silly, ridiculous stories or poems, great!  Just make sure the context is right.  Don’t write in this way if you haven’t prefaced your work to make it comprehensible.

Happiness.  Enjoy what you write.  Laugh at your jokes.  Employ descriptive words and phrases.  If you’re not happy with your writing, how can you expect anyone else to be?  Obviously, concessions can be made if you feel it’s for the best, but you’re the one doing what you love.  Make it a happy experience.  The rest will fall into place.

Instinct.  Use your instincts.  Intuition is a strong tool, and if you feel something is right or wrong for your story, trust yourself.  However, it can’t hurt to make a note of what you choose not to include, as you never know how it might come in handy in the future.  If you don’t write it down, you’re more likely to forget it.  Keep all your thoughts, as you never know when they might become useful and creatively stimulating in a way you never considered.

Jello.  This may sound silly, but when you make jello, you leave it in the refrigerator for a while before it becomes solid.  Until this happens, it’s liquid.  At that stage, it is not ready to eat, but when it takes on a more solid form, it becomes edible and tasty.  The same is true of writing (except the edible, tasty part – unless you’re thinking metaphorically).  Your writing needs to be worked on before it can become a solid structure.  You want to make sure you focus on all details necessary to make your work well-rounded.

Kin.  Work on characters.  Outline their physical characteristics and personalities.  The way someone acts is equally, if not more, important in some instances than the way he or she looks.  A character’s personality can be equated to someone readers know, and this will give them a vision of what they think the character looks like.

Lifestyle.  Writing should be a part of your daily lifestyle.  It is one of the most important ideas that gives creative license to write what you know and love.  Learn to think outside the box and see the world, your writing, your characterization, your emotions, and everything else in new, glorious ways.  Let your lifestyle become your motivation to notice more.

Market.  Be sure you market your writing appropriately.  Don’t attempt to sell a children’s fairy tale to an adult romance publisher.  Also, set your sights on the right demographic.  Consider who will read it.  Be certain that the words and phrases you use are at least somewhat specific to that demographic so you meet the needs of the people you’re most trying to impress.

More ABCs are forthcoming next month, but as you learn your own writing alphabet, consider the possibilities I’ve already presented.  There are so many places to go with your own writing; you just have to keep your eyes open.

Creating a Fantasy Supervillain

Written by
Christopher Mannino

As a speculative fiction writer, I’m always looking for new and interesting creatures. Often villains and magicians in fantasy have special abilities, things they do that are beyond normal,and might be terrifying.

Imagine, for instance, a creature with visual omnipresence. Omnipresence means that you can exist everywhere at once, able to see and witness everyone and everything. Unlike an omnipotent character, who knows everything, an omnipresent character would be able to see everything themselves. It’d be impossible to keep any secrets from this godlike ability, because everywhere you go, whether sleeping or awake, the character’s there, watching. Imagine for example, Sauron with visual omnipresence- he takes one look at the Ring- book’s over in chapter one. Same thing with Voldemort, President Snow, Darth Vader- you get the idea. Even in history this idea is terrifying. Want D-Day or the next drone strike to be a secret? What if the villain sees everything all the time? In nearly all fiction, the protagonists do things the villains aren’t aware of. Crafting a story around this feat is daunting.
Let’s make this super-villain more three-dimensional. As of now, he just has a superpower, albeit an impressive one. Imagine the villain also has a supernatural means of transportation. While he’s still able to see everything anywhere, he can’t actually get to places without traveling. We won’t let him fly directly, that’s too Marvel Universe for us, so instead we give him a flying car. Yes, he can hop on a flying car and travel rapidly to any location in the world. How fast? Let’s assume he can get anywhere he wants within a single night, even making multiple stops. Scared yet? This character can see everything, and now get anywhere within one night. It’s like having a TARDIS with the viewfinder always switched on.
The guy’s still not interesting enough, though. Let’s give him some minions. All villains have them. This character’s got dozens of them- all enslaved to his will. They do whatever he says all year round, making anything he asks for. Yeah, now we’re cooking, a character with visual omnipresence, able to travel anywhere within a night, who has a horde of servants.
Now we need to stop focusing on the evil/supernatural aspects and give our character some personality. President Snow and his blood breath and love of roses, Darth Vader’s persistent asthma and respirator- that sort of thing. Hmmm… well, let’s start by making the character fat. Too many villains are really thin and gaunt. It seems the skeletal look usually frightens people, so let’s make our character as chubby as possible. In fact, give him nice red cheeks, almost comical looking.
Let’s also give him a backstory. Maybe he used to be a farmer. Yes, he was a farmer long ago, before things went terribly wrong. His mother used to say “Plant, plant, plant! Plough, plough plough!” He’s never forgotten the last thing his mother demanded, asking him to hoe the fields, right before the accident. To this day, the guilt around her final words consumes him, and he can’t stop repeating them.
This character, by now, should be truly terrifying. Let’s take a look at what he might look like, if an artist was to draw a rendition:

Click HERE to see an artist rendition.

And no, I won’t even get into the obsession with little kids. That’s too frightening, even for me.

Songs to Write to!

Written by
Lauren Mayhew

I know everyone is different when they write and some people like to work in complete silence, whilst others have to have music playing. I personally, cannot write in silence, but if I play familiar songs, I find myself singing along to them and not doing any writing.

I do find a lot of inspiration in music though – I don’t steal people’s lyrics, if that’s what you’re thinking. I simply mean that certain songs evoke emotions that make me want to write certain things.

Below are a few certain scene types in all books and a few songs that I think are great to write to and get you in the mood to create something epic! I’m trying not to be too obvious with this, so no Titanic theme tune here! (The names of the songs also have links to their YouTube videos!)

Romance/ Love Scene:

Over and Over Again by Nathan Sykes
Always by Bon Jovi
AND every Adele song ever written…

Battle/ Fight Scene:
Ash and Smoke from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Soundtrack (Actual Battle Scene)
Call the Police by James Morrison (More of an argument song)

Comedy/ Light Hearted Scene:
Little Joanna by McFly
The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars

Death Scene:
Hi & Low by The Wanted
Close Your Eyes by RHODES

Uplifting Scene OR if you, as a writer, need some motivation:
Wings by Little Mix
I’ll Be Your Strength by The Wanted

I know there are many more generic scenes than this in a book, but I thought I’d pick out a few that are used most often. I’d love to know what you listen to when writing!

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