Don’t Just Read ‘Em, Write ‘Em
Since my first two novels are little more mature in the way of curse words and love scenes than YA readers are accustomed to, I was a bit stumped as to what would be an appropriate piece for Liss’s blog. Silly of me, really, considering I teach middle school. My world from late August through June is all about YA. I read the books my students love, watch their tv shows (no denying it, I’m a Pretty Little Liars fan), take notice of the latest fashion trends, and listen to their stories. And they have plenty of great stories. They just need to get out there and tell them.
So this post is for the YA reader (of any age, really) who’s ever finished a great book and thought, wow, I wish I wrote that. You can write it. Well, okay, you can’t, but you can write the next big book. S. E. Hinton published The Outsiders at sixteen. P. C. Cast coauthored the first House of Night book with her mom before she graduated college. You’re never too young (or too old, for that matter) to write. But everyone could use a few tips. Here are best ones, in my opinion, for beginning writers.
1. Read. Yeah, I know I’m sounding like your typical English teacher. There’s a reason we all say this, though: it’s true. Reading might just be your hobby now, but when you really start seeing yourself as a writer, it becomes research. You’ll find you read in a whole new way—sometimes an utterly annoying way, because focusing on how all the parts work can detract from the whole. But knowing how all the parts become the whole is a great place to start.
2. Read widely. Um, yup. I’m still on reading. It’s super important to read in the genre you want to write in. You want to know what’s already out there. You’ll want to use the commonalities of the genre as guides, yet know enough to be able to stray from the norm in order to keep things fresh. But great books pull from multiple genres and styles, and great authors read everything from Shakespeare to Stephenie Meyers. See how it was done in the past. See how it is done now. And read as much of the in-between to try to figure out how it evolved.
3. Read *ducks projectiles* and write poetry. Yes, I know, you want to write a book. We’re getting there. The reason all writers should dabble in poetry is because poems are stories boiled down to their most basic parts. Poets know the importance of every word. More novelists ought to focus their writing down to the word level. YA books in particular are typically faced-paced and fluff-free. A poet doesn’t have the luxury of throwing in extra words because they like them. In an age when readers have millions of other reading materials at their finger tips and are used to getting important information in thirty-second sound bites or hundred character tweets, novelists have also lost the luxury of adding in gratuitous description or purely character developing scenes. Besides, who doesn’t love a good sappy poem now and then.
4. Fail to plan and plan to fail. I’ve moved on to throwing corny clichés at you now. Super. I’m twisting this one though. Yes, if you really want to attempt the novel, a plan helps. That’s not to say you need to plan every chapter, and you certainly don’t need to plan it before you start. Sometimes you write your way into an idea. Go with it until you’re stumped, then sit back and plan the rest. However, as another favorite cliché goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. So plan to fail. Plan to not finish every story you start. Plan to finish some and then discover they are just plain awful. Plan to polish some to perfection only to have agent after agent reject them. Failure is part of life. Learn from it and move on. Just don’t stop writing.
5. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. There’s not an echo is here; I’m repeating myself intentionally. Write everyday. Blog. Write poetry. Keep a diary. Make up stories to put in your diary when your own life seems too mundane. If writers block strikes write your way out of it one awful word after another. (Eventually they’ll stop sucking and start sounding like your story again!) Write even after someone tells you that you can’t write well. Write because that person tells you that you can’t write well. Eventually you’ll write enough that something you put down is amazing. And that person who made the snide comment will finish reading it in bed one night, sigh, and say, “I wish I wrote that.”
This spring I finally realized it was time for this lover of YA everything and teacher of teens to get off her butt and start a piece appropriate for the YA audience. It’s still in the very early stages. But I’m including the teaser and a link to my website where I’ve put up a draft of the first chapter as a sneak peek!
All That Glitters
by Lauren Grimley
It’s every girl’s dream to have any boy she desires fall at her feet—to have the golden touch with guys.
For Zoe August it’s not a dream; it’s her nightmarish reality. Infatuation is fun while it lasts, but she’s learning real love hurts—possibly even kills.
When Zoe’s latest ex disappears just days after leaving her heartbroken, she begins to fear she’s somehow responsible. She’s not the only one with questions. Kiran O’Rourke has moved into town after his mother’s sudden death with his mind set on more than just mourning. Their separate searches soon set them on the same path, entangling their lives and endangering them both. They will soon discover that all that glitters isn’t gold.
To read chapter 1 visit: http://www.laurengrimley.com/Other_Projects.html
For those of you looking for a completed YA piece, I do have a short story from the Alex Crocker series featuring a middle school character that’s available on Amazon for just 99¢.
by Lauren Grimley
Middle school is supposed to bite. Middle schoolers aren’t.
Alex simply wanted to do a favor for a friend while taking a much-needed reprieve from her far-from-average life and returning temporarily to her teaching position. Torie was just trying to trudge through another day of middle school surrounded by naïve peers who had no idea what she was to become. Neither teacher nor student expected to glance across a classroom of normal human teenagers and into the face of their enemy. Neither Seer nor Knower could have understood how their gifts would leave them second-guessing everything they’d been taught to believe about the other side.
Unforeseen (Alex Crocker series, book 1)
Alex was quite sure gifted was a term delusional parents applied to their strictly average children, vampires were gorgeous dead guys in her eighth-grade girls’ novels, and Seers was a middle schooler’s misspelling of a department store known for power tools. Teachers, however, don’t know everything–it’s Alex’s turn to be educated.
Running alone the night before school ends, Alex is violently attacked. Regaining consciousness, she finds herself in the home of the Rectinatti Regan, the leader of one of two covens of vampires battling nightly on the streets of her city. If that discovery wasn’t enough to make her think she’d gone insane, she realizes she’s sensing the emotions of another of the vampires as strongly as she feels her own. Discovering these creatures have the answers to what she is and why she was attacked, she decides she wants to stay, despite knowing it is a dangerous, possibly deadly desire.
Purchase links for Unforeseen, book 1:
Lauren Grimley lives in central Massachusetts where she grew up, but her heart is on the beaches of Cape Cod where she spends as much of her time as possible. After graduating from Boston University she became a middle school English teacher. She now balances writing, reading, and correcting, all with a cat on her lap and a glass of red wine close by.
Unforeseen, the first novel in the Alex Crocker Seer series, was Lauren’s debut novel, and she’s thrilled to be continuing the series with Unveiled. To learn more about her or her writing or to connect with her online visit her website at www.laurengrimley.com
If you have enjoyed this post, please Tweet, FB Like, and share below. I would greatly appreciate the kindness!
Everything Lauren Grimley! - Don't Just Read 'Em, Write 'Em