YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart


writers block

I’ve Started Writing Again – Beating Writer’s Block

I’ve Started Writing Again – Beating Writer’s Block by Author Lauren Mayhew

How to Break Writers BlockThere’s nothing worse than writer’s block, especially when you’re between projects. I know what I’m supposed to be doing, I’m just finding it hard getting round to doing it. I have so many projects in my head, but I don’t want to start too many. If I do, I’ll never complete any of them, I’ll just keep starting new ones.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve slowly been reading through the book that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It’s got a Working Title – Cycles of War. This is what it’s been called for about ten years now, though I didn’t properly start writing it until November 2016. I finished reading the other day, adjusting a few things here and there, but not really editing properly yet. I just wanted to slowly get my way back into the world that I created. It was very eye-opening actually, as the book isn’t nearly as finished as I thought it was.

Chapter six is literally just that. The word ‘SIX’. I decided to skip that chapter when I was writing it, as I didn’t want to slow the flow. (That rhymed!) I know what I want to put in there, I just need to write it and make sure it’s relevant to the rest of the book. I also haven’t written the ending yet. You know, the chapter that comes after the real ending? The chapter that ties everything up and lets you know what happened to the characters that you loved. At least I know where I want that chapter to go, unlike six.

There were also a few moments when characters referenced something that I hadn’t written yet. For example, someone asks the main character, Bri, if the events that are unrolling in real-time, are the same as the dream he had the night before. I didn’t write a dream. That really confused me when I read it.

I need to add a little more character development too. Unlike the Liliana trilogy, this book has a lot more characters in it. Each of them needs to have their own story and their own reasons for being there. At the moment, they’re just there. I think I’ll enjoy adding more in about them.

It’s the little things like this that I’ve forgotten after leaving the book alone for over a year. It’s good, because they stand out more than they would have done if the story was more familiar to me, but it also means there’s a lot more to do than I initially intended.

I wrote this book without a plan, and it’s turned out pretty well if I’m honest. There aren’t any plot holes as far as I can see, just a lot of vague details. It’s around 51,000 words at the moment, but I’m hoping to get it towards 60,000, if not 70,000 by the time it’s finished. I may have to change the confrontation at the end to make this happen. At the moment it’s quite Stephanie Meyer-esque. I may need to kill a few more people – how terrible does that sound?

When I wrote this book, I’d never written a proper battle scene before, so I wrote a confrontation that didn’t involve a lot of fighting. It kind of goes with all the themes in the book, but it’s not ‘real’ enough. ‘Eternity Begins’, the third book in the Liliana trilogy, has a massive battle at the end. About a third of the book, I believe. Now that I’ve written that, and had positive feedback from it, I’m more confident that I can write something bigger and better. It’ll help increase the word count too!

I intend to query this one, not self-publish. It’s a bigger story than my trilogy and it feels relevant to the events happening around the world today. There’s still a long way to go, with many rounds of edits, and lots of Beta readers if possible too. I’m feeling confident that I can do it. I just need to start.

Want more from Lauren? You can check out her books on Goodreads HERE.

Find Lauren on the YA Author Rendezvous site HERE.

This was posted by Lauren Mayhew.


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!

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.

Author Spotlight: Debbie Manber Kupfer

debbie kupferInterview by Michelle Lynn

Todays interview is from a very talented writer – Debbie Manber Kupfer.

So, I’ve read the first two books in your series, P.A.W.S. as well as a few of the short stories. They’re all great. Can you tell us about them?

The first two books of the series, P.A.W.S. and Argentum are out and I’m currently working on books 3 and 4. (I’m not sure how many books there will be in the end). It’s a YA fantasy that focuses on an international organization of shapeshifters, The Partnership of Animagi, Werewolves and Shapeshifters (otherwise known as P.A.W.S.) I’m also releasing a series of short stories that tie in with the series, Tales from P.A.W.S. both as individual ebooks and as a combined paperback.

When I’m not writing fiction I write puzzles for magazines and my website Paws 4 Puzzles and in early 2015 I published a book of logic problems, Paws 4 Logic together with my son, Joey.

You have so many wonderful characters. I know who my favorite is, who’s yours?

I have a particular fondness for Joey, the animagus kangaroo Australian exchange student as I based this character off of my son who shares a lot of his characteristics.

My absolute favorite character however first appears in Argentum. He’s Gromer the Green – an old Welsh warlock with a fondness for pea soup (don’t forget the wizzlewoop). Gromer will be coming back in book 3 and I also plan sometime in the future to give him his own tale.

Your main character, Miri, is a shapeshifter that can turn into a cat. Do I sense some major cat love? What made you choose this animal over all the other ones we see in paranormal fiction these days?

Well first of all I need to point out that there are many different animals that are part of P.A.W.S. – everything from toads, to snakes, to flamingoes! But yes, cats do hold a special place in my heart and Miri is a cat because if I were a shapeshifter that’s the form I would take. Danny (also a cat animagus) explains it best – cats are known for being able to blend into the shadows and have a magic all of their own.

So, Alistair – he’s the ultimate bad guy. For those who haven’t read your books, can you give a little background on him? What goes into creating a villain?

Oh yes, Alistair. You may be surprised to know that Alistair wasn’t even in my original idea for P.A.W.S., rather Miri’s Uncle David was going to be the main antagonist, but a few chapters in Alistair emerged and basically made the story all about him.

But there’s a lot more to Alistair then first meets the eye. I don’t believe that anyone is evil in a vacuum. There’s always a reason, and Alistair has his reasons. That’s why I wrote his origin story, Alistair, in Tales from P.A.W.S.

Oh yes, Alistair was my favorite short story of yours. How do you walk that line between a villain that readers just hate, and one that’s a little more complex? A little more fun?

Despite his evil, I think readers are drawn to Alistair – just like Nora and his pack are in his story. He’s attractive and has a charisma that shines out beyond his magic. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, but the one part of the series I personally felt was weak was how Voldemort was drawn. There’s really no part of the series when we empathize with him and he’s mostly in the shadows while others, Snape, Malfoy, Umbridge take on the real role as villain.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

Not really for P.A.W.S. – I have a clear vision of the ending of the whole series and have even written the final epilogue – but I have only a vague notion of how we’re going to get there, but I’m looking forward to the journey.

What authors have inspired you to write?

My biggest inspiration is probably JK Rowling, but I’m also a huge fan of Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Cornelia Funke and Terry Pratchett.

On a personal level after I wrote P.A.W.S. I took my prologue to a local writer’s group. Those writers who have since become my friends were probably my biggest inspiration. I also had the good fortune to meet Ben Reeder at a science fiction conference last fall. Ben, an indie author, who has been able to earn a living wage from his paranormal and zombie books is a huge inspiration. He proves that with good writing and a little luck it is possible to really succeed as an indie.

I think there are very few of us that haven’t been influenced by JK Rowling. I know I was. What age were you when you started writing?

I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid. I sent one of my stories about a day when I turned into a ladybug to the Puffin Post when I was around eight years old and got a mention in the magazine.

Do you ever experience the dreaded writer’s block?

A little – usually when I do I’ll go for a walk and take my writing out to a coffee shop or McDonald’s. I’ll write the old fashioned way then in a notebook and I’ll people watch. I love people watching – and yes a lot of those folk end up in my stories.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I’m mostly a discovery writer. I have a vague outline in my head, but not usually on paper.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

What do you mean they aren’t real?!

Here are a couple of fun questions! If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

I want “Mary Poppins” power. The ability to snap my fingers and have the house clean itself so I have more time to write!

If you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

That’s an odd question. I grew up in London so (at least when I’m in the US) I have an East London accent. It’s not a posh accent – I don’t speak the “Queen’s English” and neither would I want to – but I find it strange how many Americans tell me they “like my accent”. The other thing that’s strange to me is when I go to England my friends there tell me that I now have a slight American twang to my accent. I, of course, can’t hear it all, but I believe they are right.

I have a friend who also grew up in England but while I moved to America he moved to Australia. A few months ago he posted a video of an interview he did on Australian TV and I was dumbfounded; to my ear at least he had lost every trace of his English accent and sounded completely Aussie!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

When I first wrote P.A.W.S. I wrote it for myself. I had the story burning inside me and I knew it needed to come out. I only started thinking about publishing after I took my prologue to a local writer’s group. With trepidation I read it aloud and was amazed by the response. The writers in the group loved it and told me I needed to publish and one of those writers was Robin Tidwell of Rocking Horse Publishing. I knew nothing about the publishing process at the time and RHP gave me my chance for which I am truly grateful. They published P.A.W.S. and a year later the sequel, Argentum.

In the meantime I met more writers both online and off and started learning about what indie publishing really entailed and in spring of 2015 ventured into self-publishing on Createspace when I published together with my son our puzzle book, Paws 4 Logic. I discovered that not only could I self-publish I also enjoyed the process and the freedom it gave me to set my own publication dates, choose my own covers and generally be in control.

When my original contract expired with RHP for P.A.W.S. I thought long and hard and decided not to renew with RHP and in September 2015 I rereleased P.A.W.S. with a new cover and bonus bits. I’m grateful for the chance RHP gave me originally, but today I’m happy to be self-pubbed.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

I would have done some of the social media stuff in advance. Set up a blog, had a blog tour, online release party, stuff like that. When I was brand new at this I had no idea about the marketing side.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I have a few upcoming projects. Firstly I’ll be releasing my three Tales from P.A.W.S. – Alistair, Ramora and Griddlebone – together in their own small paperback. I’m also working on a collection of my flash fiction stories, Tea and Dark Chocolate, that all being well will release sometime in the next few months.

Then there are my picture books, Adana the Earth Dragon and Cecilia’s Tale. Both of these are out with illustrators at the moment and I’m very excited about the stories. Adana is the tale of a small brown dragon who discovers that she can do big things. Cecilia was my cat in Israel and this is the story of how she found and adopted me.

Finally towards the end of the year I will republish Argentum and then the third part of the P.A.W.S. series, Umbrae. In Umbrae (which is currently out with my beta readers) Miri will travel to Israel and discover the secret of the purple book with Argentum on its cover that she first received in New York from the old crone.

How do you deal with criticism of your work?

I try to take it in my stride. Not every book is for everyone and that’s OK.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It helps me a lot to set aside the month of November, (and April and July for Camp NaNo) to write. For just month at a time I can concentrate on my writing and let the other stuff slide. Also the social aspect of cheering each other on really helps me and I’ve made some good friends through my local NaNo group.

How important do you think reading is to your writing?

Essential. I truly don’t understand folks who don’t read. I read constantly and I think it helps me be a better writer.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I must have a mug of tea with milk at all times!

What is your biggest fear?

That I don’t make it to the end of my series. I’m a cancer survivor. I understand that we’re all mortal. P.A.W.S. is my little bit of immortality that I want to leave with the world and really hope that by the time I check out my story is complete.

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