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YA Author Rendezvous

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

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YA Author Rendezvous

Lessons Learned from Authors

2410-153219Written by
Paul Briggs

Most of what I know about writing I learned from other writers. Sometimes they were literal teachers — my creative writing instructor at Washington College was a novelist named Robert Day — but usually I learned from reading their works and seeing what they did right or wrong.

One lesson came from a writer at alternatehistory.com: Never put the same tragedy in the backstories of two different characters, or it will turn into a running joke. (The writers of Avatar: The Legend of Korra could have profited from this.)

From Orson Scott Card (yes, really): This is something Card learned from a teacher named Francois Camoin: “When you have a word embodied in a story, the word itself should never appear.” Card applied this to his short story “Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Lavatory.” To pick an example everyone’s likely to be more familiar with, read The Runaway Bunny and notice how the word “love” isn’t in it.

From Harlan Ellison: That thing you think is too controversial to write about? Go ahead and write about it. Ellison once wrote a short story, “Croatoan,” about aborted fetuses surviving and growing in the New York City sewers. It got pretty much the reception you’d expect. He survived.

From H.P. Lovecraft: Know your strengths and weaknesses. Lovecraft couldn’t write dialogue that sounded like people talking, so he seldom wrote dialogue at all.

From Arthur Machen: Never write a paragraph so long it doesn’t fit on the page. When I tried to read those extra-long paragraphs of his, it felt like my eyeballs were holding their breath, if that makes any sense.

From Vladimir Nabokov: If you use a word the reader isn’t likely to know, make sure they can guess it from context, or at least find it in the dictionary. I’m still a little irritated over that phrase “lithophanic eternities” in a crucial passage ofLolita. My best guess is that a lithophanic eternity is supposed to be better than a non-lithophanic one.

From Naomi Novik: The rule “show, don’t tell” doesn’t apply to everything — just the things that matter. Carefully violating it can be a good way to draw a distinction between the details of a scene that are actually important and that the reader should remember, and those that are just there to make the scene feel complete. I learned this from reading a paragraph in which Novik described a conversation in terms of social dynamics without once quoting anybody or saying what they were talking about. Try reading Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death,” and notice how detailed he is in describing the suite of rooms, and how vague in describing the revelers.

From Terry Pratchett: A humorous tone throughout most of a novel doesn’t take away from its ability to handle serious matters — in fact, it can make the serious moments all the more poignant.

From Harry Turtledove: It’s better to create one complex and interesting character than a hundred that are barely sketched out. (Turtledove has done both.)

From Bookworm to Social Butterfly

wwywtryWritten by
Julie Tuovi

The eReader was a great invention for YA fiction-addicted adults everywhere—for those who dared read that awful Twilight gender swap book without getting flack from coworkers! In PRE eReader days, there was no hiding your reading preferences from the lunchroom crowd: your cover was right there for the world to see!

(YOU know what I’m talking about, you book addict, you. I know I’m not the only one who got odd looks for reading Harry Potter during my law school downtime, instead of catching up on Wills and Trusts…)

But the eReader era brought a breath of relief, didn’t it? Thousands of books at your fingertips, and no one is any the wiser as to whether you’re reading Hunger Games or an age-appropriate, snooze-worthy biography on the subway. Because hey, all eReaders look essentially the same from the back, don’t they?

But good news! Socially outcast bookworms everywhere now have reason to rejoice! There’s no reason to hide that copy of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer behind your Chemistry textbook anymore. Contrary to what the popular “antisocial bookworm” stigmas might have you believe, recent studies have shown that reading fiction actually helps you understand social cues better than your rather boring coworker who “only reads the New York Times, thanks.”

As Scientific American put it:

“… stories are simulations of a kind that can help readers understand not just the characters in books, but human character in general… The seemingly solitary act of holing up with a book… is actually an exercise in human interaction… it can hone your social brain, so that when you put your book down, you may be better prepared for camaraderie, collaboration, even love.”

BOOYA, HATERS!!

According to the smarty pants scientists running these studies, reading fiction actually STRENGTHENS my social ties and INCREASES my empathy towards others. How’doya like that, Professor?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this fiction reading simulation thing also applies to any future zombie apocalypse that may or may not take place in the near future. Look, all I’m saying is that if reading fiction is a simulation for real life, I’ve got this zombie thing under control.

Just saying.

But, if you really wanna get nit picky about genres, literary fiction is your best bet for understanding emotional intelligence. In a study published by the journal, Science, researches found that:

“… after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence—skills that come in handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.”

Apparently this is because literary fiction leaves more to the imagination than, say, fantasy does. (Um… okay? Not sure I agree with that…) But in turn, this “encourages readers to be more sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.”

This “fiction-induced empathy” is serious business, you guys. Through a series of MRIs, Scientific American proved that while reading fiction, a person’s emotions mirror that of the protagonists. (So basically, it’s okay that you cried when Dumbledore died—it’s just science!) And it is exactly these fictional, empathetic feelings that prepare us for handling emotions in real life.

So DOWN with the antisocial bookworm stigma! Books aren’t just an escape from the “real world” anymore… they’re a vehicle to understanding human emotion. Bring it on Wallflowers. It’s your time to shine!

What YA Readers Really Want In Their Strong Female Leads

Blog image10.255
Written By
Melissa A. Craven 
Author of the Emerge Series

What kind of main characters do YA readers really want to see in the books they read? What makes a “strong young woman” strong?

There’s all sorts of talk about this subject, especially with the recent addition to the Twilight series, Life and Death, Twilight Reimagined, involving a reversal in gender roles. Meyer wanted to show the world that Bella’s portrayal of the “damsel in distress” was situational, and had she been a boy surrounded by supes, he would have been in distress as well. While that is a very plausible argument, creating a strong-willed female lead is a careful balancing act that is not easily accomplished.  

In my own series, Emerge, my main motivation for writing the book was to create a true, realistic example of that young woman of strength. (And I like to think I achieved that with Allie.) I knew Allie needed to have an inner fire and a firm resolve to do what was necessary. She needed to face adversity head on and succeed. All qualities that most female leads possess. But here’s where YA has failed me as a reader in recent years. The heroine should not be all of these things to the detriment of her male counterpart! We as writers who influence younger minds, should not set the tone of tearing men down in order to raise women up. A successful female lead should be the epitome of strength, but her love interest should be the one at her side fighting the good fight with her, knowing that she can take care of herself. They should be a team. They each need to have a vulnerable side, with flaws and room to grow as individuals. They are young, so they also need to make mistakes and struggle with confidence. She’s going to have her moments of drama and he’s going to act like a douche sometimes, but at their cores, they should represent equality and have respect for one another. This generation of readers are passionate about equality and they want to see heroines and heroes they can admire.

The best example I’ve seen recently (other than my own series, Emerge, did I mention that yet? You can get it here) is the Defiance trilogy by C.J. Redwine. Rachael has backbone and determination, and the men in her life (father, grandfather and love interest) haven’t coddled her. They teach her how to fight and survive using her own skills and wit. Logan has his moments when he’s completely exasperated with her, but he knows Rachel doesn’t need him to hold her hand. Defiance is a remarkable example of gender equality in YA. See my review of Defiance, and check out Redwine’s upcoming Fairytale retelling, The Shadow Queen due out early next year.

If you’re a reader who loves books with strong girls and the amazing guys who stand beside them, check out my wall of #strong girls on my website to discover new books by authors like Kayla Howarth and her series The Institute.

The Reader’s Perspective

Vertical stack of eight straw hats in a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and sizes, trimmed with ribbons, feathers, and raffia. Isolated on white background, vertical format.

Written by 
Elizabeth Woodrum

I have considered myself to be an author since I independently published the first book in my children’s mystery series, The Maisy Files, in 2013.  But, I have been a teacher for thirteen years.  During that time, I’ve taught reading and writing skills to students of a variety of ages.

I’m also an avid reader.  I simply cannot be without a book.  But, I often find myself wearing a variety of hats while reading.  I have my regular reader hat, my teacher hat, and my author hat.  It’s not uncommon for me to be piled high with imaginary headwear.

There are some books that I am able to get swept away in and simply enjoy as a reader.  But, often, inspiration strikes and I have to pause to jot down some notes for a future story.  Sometimes, the educator in me jumps up and down and screams something along the lines of, “This would be great for teaching metaphors!” or “This is a great text for introducing plot structure!” I have to pause for her, too. She’s a little bossy.

Though it is a bit tedious to manage my unintentional interrupting of my own reading, I have come to appreciate the different perspectives I have when it comes to reading great literature. I think it helps me to fully immerse myself in a story and identify with the characters.  But, I think everyone has different hats to wear while reading.  Each of us brings something different to our interpretation of a story based on our experiences.   Before I became a teacher and an author, I still appreciated and enjoyed a character-driven story.  I still do.  But, now I recognize learning opportunities and have a deeper respect for a perfectly constructed conflict.

So, the bossy teacher in me would like to assign you all a task.  The next time you find a great book, purposefully pause and consider it with a perspective that is uniquely yours, one that doesn’t often make its way into your reading time.  You may find a deeper meaning or even a little levity.  Share your thoughts with another person.  Find a teachable opportunity and bring out your inner teacher.  In other words, identify your own reader hats and wear them proudly.

How to Write a Basic Outline

Written by
Shari Tapscott

Outlining—you either love it or hate it. I happen to love it, and I’m going to share my approach with you today.

When I was in school, outlining felt suffocating. It was like death to creativity. Nothing irked me more than a free writing assignment that required an outline—and I usually wrote one after the fact (not exactly what my teachers had in mind, I’m sure). Years later, when I was attempting my first NaNoWriMo, I decided I needed some sort of strategy to get my word count in. I wrote the major points of my book in three paragraphs and called it good. And it was pretty good. I knew the main events and the ending, and it helped a bunch. But at the end of November, my manuscript was still a mess. I knew I could do better.

Fast-forward a couple more years, and now I proudly call myself an obsessive outliner. I use a mishmash of techniques that I’ve tweaked to fit my style. Before I begin to explain how I do it, I want to say that I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to outline—you need to do whatever feels good to you. And if that means pantsing it (writing by the seat of your pants), then do it! This is just what works for me. I hope it’ll help you as well.

Sum up your idea

First, I start by summing up my story into one paragraph. What’s it about? Who are the characters? How does it end?

Divide the idea into four parts

After that, I divide my idea into four parts and write a summary paragraph for each section, making sure to end the first three sections in conflict. I like to have something inconvenient happen to my character at the quarter mark and halfway through the book. The climax hits about three-quarters of the way through, and then the last quarter is for overcoming the problem and wrapping up the story.

Expand the sections into chapters

There are several ways you can go from this point. You have your story’s skeleton—you can start writing, if you want. Some writers will go on to expand these paragraphs into a page or two. Others may take it a step further and begin chapter outlines. That’s what I like to do.

I decide how many words is ideal for my novel. Then I decide how many chapters I want. For an 80,000 word novel, I’ll usually shoot for thirty. I like to write in short chapters, and that puts me at just under 2,700 words in each.  You can have shorter chapters; you can longer ones. It’s completely up to you, and they’re bound to change as you’re writing.

Since I know I need my conflict at 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 of the way through the story, those are the first chapters I fill in. For example, for my 80,000 word novel, I will have the 1/4 conflict at 20,000 words, which will fall in Chapter 7.

After I have my conflict in place, I begin to fill in each chapter. These little summaries don’t have to be long. I write a paragraph for each. Often, I will find I don’t have quite enough story points to fill them all in, and I brainstorm for ideas until I have a story that flows from beginning to end.

Now, as I’m writing my book, things often change. I’ll just go back and tweak my outline as needed. Sometimes one of my chapters will end up as two chapters. Other times two chapters may merge into one. Nothing is set in stone. The outline just keeps me moving toward the conflict.

After that, I begin to write! That’s really all there is to it. During my planning stages, I also like to fill out character and setting questionnaires. They really help if you’re stuck in the development stage; you’re bound to get new ideas when you’re working on them.

Whether you choose to outline or not, I hope this was useful for you! Also, if you have your own technique, be sure to add it in the comments. I love to hear how other people tackle the pre-writing stage.

Reading like a Writer

keep-calm-and-read-a-book-books-quotesWritten by
Marley Boldra

We all have our favorite books that are worn and dog-eared from reading over and over again and we have those books that we can’t even make it halfway through. Have you ever wondered why you didn’t like that particular story? In order to avoid making those mistakes, we must read books with a writer’s mind.

To read like a writer, we need to differentiate why we are drawn to a story and what turns us away. Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you’re reading a book.

Keep a Journal
I find that it helps to makes notes to yourself on thoughts you’ve had during the day, or an idea that sparked while reading a story. Make observations to yourself on whether you liked or disliked a theme or element of the story you’re reading. Write about what you would do differently.

It helps for you to understand why you like a certain piece of writing, or why you don’t. Write those ideas down and you will be able to reference them at a later date.

Critique a Story
What do you like about the story? Is it fast paced with relevant details? Are the character so life-like that you have no problem following their story? What do you dislike?

Reread your favorite book and find out what elements draw you in. Mark or copy down any passages or descriptions that you really liked, then explain why you enjoyed them. The purpose of critiquing a story is to identify what techniques appealed to you and what turned you away.

Question everything! The author has included or excluded a pieces of information for a reason, rereading the story will help you to identify why that information was presented in that fashion. Making extensive remarks in your journal will help you understand which techniques you prefer.

Practice plotting by drawing out a diagram of books you’re reading. It will help you to see how the author pulled together their elements.

Keep Reading
Lastly, don’t stop reading! Expanding your reading base will give you insight to improvements that you can make to your own writing. You may discover a brand new technique that will work perfectly with your style. If you’re stuck on your current novel, pick up a book. Something in the text may spark your imagination and start your creative juices flowing.

October – New Releases

by Patrick Hodges

Several great books to tell you about this month!

By a happy coincidence, all three books will be featured in a Facebook Launch Party, which will take place on October 17 between 4:00 and 6:00 pm PST.  If you would like to come by, please do! You could win prizes such as free e-book copies of any of these books!

Three Author Event!

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10/17 – Maisy and the Mystery Mansion by Elizabeth Woodrum

maisybook3-cover-final Super sleuths will be thrilled to know that everyone’s favorite fourth-grade detective is back with a double dose of mystery adventure! As Maisy participates in a mystery weekend event for junior detectives, she uncovers a real case.   Could a ghost be haunting Mystery Manor? Find out in the exciting third installment of The Maisy Files!

Genre: Middle Grade/Mystery

To go to Ms. Woodrum’s Amazon Author Page, click HERE

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10/17 – Unexpected Alpha (Aluna Series Book 1) by Bethany Wicker

Unexpected Alpha

Female Alphas are unheard of in werewolf society, and the Sapphire Pack is no different. So when Lena’s father dies, no one is more shocked than she to discover that his Alpha powers have transferred to her.But when the uber-sexy Kane enters the picture, Lena gets a lot more than she bargained for. She soon discovers that searching for answers is most difficult when the last person she can trust is the only one who has them.

Genre: YA/Paranormal

To pre-order the book on Amazon, click HERE

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10/18 – Xavier: Flight to Ambrosia by E.M. Cooper

X.2KindleCov

Xavier Jones and his friends are captured and returned to St Griswold College to the clutches of Ms Ratchet and her strange staff. At every turn, gargoyles, demons and the Darklaw are ramping up their sinister activities.  Following the advice of the messenger angel, Raphael and scribe, Nisroc the boys seek answers in the wilds of the magical Ambrosian Forest. Who can they trust in this bewildering landscape?

Genre: Middle Grade/Mystery

To order/borrow the book on Amazon, click HERE

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Also debuting this month:

10/6 – Adventures on the Breeze by Kristen Iten

Genre: Children’s/Picture Book

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10/15 – Catchpenny Part Four: Gold Mine by Sarah Wathen

Catchpenny

Have you ever wondered about that girl at the edge of the crowd? The one who has dark, bushy hair that hides her eyes while she’s reading, but tight shirts that don’t even try to hide the size of her breasts? She never comes to parties and she lives in a neighborhood where nice girls never venture. Everyone tries to ignore her…but there is something about her that’s impossible to ignore. Especially for the star quarterback, apparently. Because he just asked her to the Homecoming dance, after dumping the head cheerleader.

Catchpenny tells a story from the eyes of “that girl,” and Gold Mine is the conclusion of this serial novel. Does the outcast find her fairytale ending, or something else she didn’t even know she’d lost?

To visit the Amazon page for the first part of this series, click HERE

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