May 2014 TCWT Blog Chain

I’m totally thrilled to announce that the blog chain is back–for real this time. After a long hiatus, it’ll once again happen every month, starting this May. (For those who are unfamiliar with what the blog chain is, you can read a brief explanation here.)

So let’s get right to it. The topic for May’s blog chain will be:

What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? 

This is inspired by the Twitter hashtag #RBWL (stands for Reader/Blogger Wishlist), which is basically a place for people to post about the kinds of plots/characters/themes/genres/etc they personally would like to see in more published books. So maybe someone wants to read a published book whose plot is like Hamlet meets Game of Thrones, or someone wants to have more YA historicals on the shelves, or someone else wants there to be more mute characters in literature. Anything fits; it’s all about whatever you wish there could more of. (You can find some examples of what I mean here or here.)

For the sake of this blog chain, you can be as vague or as specific (or, as serious or as random) as you like in your “wishlist.” It’s probably best if you could include more than one idea in your post, though, and it’s even better if you could organize them all into some sort of list. However, that’s certainly not a requirement; if you have a better idea, go for it! You have plenty of freedom with how to respond to this topic.

Hopefully, this will not only be a fun way to explore the different types of books you feel we need more of, but will also provide some writing inspiration for anyone who has been struggling with what to write next. (So in that vein, you may want to be careful about posting story ideas for books that you personally are writing.)

Let me know if you have any questions! Otherwise, to sign up, all you have to do is comment below with a link to your blog and any dates that don’t work for you (if applicable). And new people: you are always welcome to join, too!

(Sign-ups for this blog chain will end on May 3rd. On May 5th, the chain will begin.)


7 Popular TV Shows If They Were Made for a Publishing Audience

(So after nearly a year of infrequent posting, TCWT is finally back–for real this time! I’ve missed this blog, and I’ve missed you guys, and I’m really excited to be returning.

To give a quick update: I’ve spent the last two weeks updating old posts in preparation for this blog re-launch, organizing them into archives, and although not all of the posts are updated yet (I have yet to go over the critique partner posts, for example), those that are should hopefully prove to be at least a little bit helpful. We also have a new, cleaner blog design; our list of books by teen authors has more than doubled after I added to it last week; we now have, in that vein, a page for upcoming books written by teen authors (two are releasing from Big Five publishers this month alone, and one of those two has already sold movie rights!); and finally, yes, the blog chain is returning as a monthly occurrence as well. I’ll announce the topic for May’s chain in mid-April!)


So while watching most all of the writing/publishing/blogging community live-tweet the Game of Thrones premiere last night, I remembered Allegra Davis’s bookish reality TV show post from two years ago, and I thought, Well, what if Game of Thrones were remade for a writing/publishing audience? And from there, I starting imagining what it would be like if other popular TV shows were redone for book lovers… and then this post happened. I wish I could say it ended well. ;)

Breaking Books – After getting fired from his job and realizing he is broke, a high school librarian named Walter Write, desperate to make money to support him and his thirty cats, uses his knowledge of books to write and self-publish dinosaur erotica novels. He knows that what he’s doing is wrong, but he has no choice, and dinosaur erotica is a hot sell–pun intended. So hot, in fact, that the money quickly starts rolling in, and Write becomes famous in the underground dinorotica community for creating the finest dinosaur love stories out there (specifically, books involving his trademark blue pterodactyls). Soon, to increase his audience, Write begins working with a mysterious publisher named Gustavo who uses his small press as a front for dinorotica bookselling all across the world. And as the thousands of dollars turn to millions, Write tells himself that he’s merely trying to gather the funds to support his cats for the rest of their lives, but he soon realizes that, in fact, he isn’t: he’s doing it for him. Because, most shockingly of all, he likes writing dino love stories.

Game of Office Chairs – A drama following power-hungry editors from all across the publishing realm, who play an unending game of poaching each other’s authors, blackmailing publicists at other houses until they quit, and doing everything they can to propel their imprint to the top. Fans are still reeling from the shocking third season finale, which ended with the Red Merger, where two of the rival publishers attempted to merge–and their furious employees responded by drenching both buildings in red paint.

Sherlock: A BBC (Book Broadcasting Corporation) series about Sherlock Holmes, London’s best literary talent scout, who investigates books published throughout the web and, with the help of his partner Watson, analyzes the writing and decides whether those authors have what it takes to land a publishing contract. Unfortunately for Holmes, his rival, Moriarty, keeps finding undiscovered talent faster than he can.

Sleepy Hollow: This supernatural thriller takes place interchangeably between the Amazon-Big Five war of 2079 and two-hundred years after the fact when Bezos’ long-dead military commander Ichabod Crane comes back to life and mutant Kindles start terrorizing the town of Sleepy Hollow. The series revolves around Crane and a local small press owner as, through their attempts to save the town, they uncover one of the greatest conspiracies in all of publishing history

Mad Publicists: A group of corrupt publicists works to convince readers to buy books they know to be of poor quality. Famous for drinking and writing vicious reviews of competitors’ books while on the job, Don Draper, the show’s lead, is desperate to hide the numerous secrets from his own dark past–especially a lengthy vampire romance he self-published years back.

The Auth-Bachelor – A group of some of the most prolific literary agents in the industry, who have their own share of personal troubles and are in need of a new client to resolve them, compete to win the representation of an extremely talented, somehow-unpublished writer. As the writer’s initial queries lead to a partial-turned-full with each agent, the reality show teems with romantic one-on-ones. And even after the writer is forced to choose only one agent that he wants to be represented by, things happen fast; after all, one day the two meet, and the next they’re picking out a publishing house together!

The Walking Read - Set in a post-Amazocalyptic world hundreds of years after the fall of Amazon took the rest of the publishing industry with it, where authors everywhere have become so desperate to get their work published that they’ve resorted to attacking everyone they see until the people agree to read the tattered remains of those authors’ books (shameless self-promotion just got serious), a rag-tag team of former self-publishers has to fight their way through the desperate-author-riddled world and into New York City, the heart of the former publishing industry, in their attempts to save the writerly race.

TCWT January 2014 Blog Chain

Oh yes, it’s that time again. After an uber-fantastic December blog chain, it’s time to announce the topic for January!

(See here for more info on what this whole blog chain thing is about.)

This month’s prompt is:

“If you could co-write a book with one author–living or not–who would it be and what would the book be about?”

FYI: as far as the “what would the book be about?” part of the question is concerned,  you’re welcome to be as vague or as specific as you like. (You also don’t need to write out a blurb, but you’re welcome to if you prefer that.) Or if you’d rather not come up with a book idea at all, feel free to talk about why you’d choose that author instead. Really, go crazy with this! After all, in my experience, crazy always = more fun.

If you want to join in, comment below with a link to your blog and any dates you can’t post on!

Writing An Antagonist

There’s something about antagonists that, I think,  inherently fascinates us as readers. We all get at least a little curious about what leads someone to become “evil,” why it is they do what they do, and so on. And considering we live in a world where right and wrong is all about perspective, well-done antagonists can be especially exciting. I think this is where my love of Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo comes in. The Darkling is one of the greatest villains I’ve ever read. He’s evil; he’s terrifying; he’s complex. And you know what, on top of that, makes him so great? The fact that he feels uniquely human. (Well, okay, this is a fantasy so technically he isn’t human, but you get the point.) Bardugo does this incredible thing where she gives him emotions and fears and goals and even a bit of romantic longing, and this helps the reader to understand and connect with him, because at the heart of it all, she shows that he is still a struggling guy. He is still a normal person, just one that is immeasurably angry and unpredictable. This fact, I’d argue, makes him all the more terrifying to a reader–I mean, how can you be afraid of someone if he doesn’t feel real?–thus adding lots of tension to the story. Plus, making the villain have his* human moments adds a layer of intrigue for the reader. After all, you don’t want to write a villain so pointlessly evil that the reader cringes whenever he enters the scene; you want to write a villain so intriguing and complex and wicked that he makes the reader’s heart pound instantly, but at the same time, they can’t look away.

Recently, I heard someone on Twitter give advice that went something like this (I’m paraphrasing): “you haven’t succeeded in writing an antagonist until the reader knows why he or she [the antagonist] is the hero in his or her own story.” I couldn’t agree with that more. Take it from me, because I’ve made this mistake before; you don’t want your villain to be all evil. You don’t want them to do the bad thing every time for no apparent reason, because that’s boring. Not only that, but unless you give your villain a real character and real motivations, the tension in your story will be significantly lacking. Think about it. If the reader doesn’t understand your antagonist, they won’t be afraid for your main character. They won’t have those moments where they’re reading at 1 a.m. with their heart pounding because the prospect of the main character meeting the villain terrifies and excites them all at once. And you want those moments. Those moments are key to making a good story become great. So you have to make sure your antagonist feels real and layered and exciting. Give him goals. Give him drive. Give him weaknesses. Give him a unique backstory and an interesting personality and possibly even romantic longing. Make sure his dialogue isn’t always centered around being pure evil. (Maybe he’s apologetic at times. Maybe he’s reminiscent. I don’t know. But even the bad guys say more than just endless threats.) Don’t get me wrong; your villain doesn’t have to be a nice guy. He doesn’t even have to have redeeming qualities. But he should feel real. He should feel unique and human. And to get this across, here are three key** aspects you need to make sure are clear, or become clear, in your story:

1) Motivation. What makes him do what he does? What is his endgame? What in his past brought this about, and why does he think doing [X thing] will help? What are the lengths he will go to achieve his goal? 

2) Justification. Why does the villain think what he’s doing is just? Why does he believe the main character deserves it? Why does the villain, like I mentioned above, see himself as the hero in his own story? After all, nobody is all evil. Sometimes people will do bad things because they feel it’s for the right reasons, and you have to convey that in your antagonist. 

3) Fear. Let’s face it: everyone is afraid of something. This means your villain has to be afraid of something, too. He has to have a weakness. He has to have a past he doesn’t want revealed, or a person he doesn’t want harmed, or a world he doesn’t want created, or something. Show what this fear is, or at least hint at it.

*I’m just using “his” because The Darkling is a guy, but you can obviously have villains of all genders.

**Please note that this is all my opinion. You may be able to write an incredible villain without any of this. I have yet to read one, but I’m sure it’s possible. These are mostly just guidelines that can always be broken, and if you disagree with any of it, feel free to bring it up in the comments! I love discussing antagonists, lol.

Good luck, guys! Let me know if you have any questions/you disagree with anything I said. And for those of you waiting for the blog chain–yes, there will be one in January! I’m going to announce it on the 26th. :-)

Why There Is No Such Thing as a Teen Writer

So let’s get right to the point: there’s no such thing as a teen writer.

Now, I know this sounds really weird coming from me–I run a teen writing blog, after all*–but it’s true. There is no such thing as a teen writer. We are the unicorns of publishing; we are more myth than we are reality. (Sorry, unicorn lovers.) Because really, we aren’t teen writers. We’re WRITERS. Period. End of story. Blog post over.

When you think about it, what makes teen writers so different from everyone else? Well, we just happen to be a different age than most (which in itself is sort of untrue since writers span all ages). So why is there this major divide between teen and adult writers? Why are we viewed so differently than other writers are? The internet is filled with “advice” geared toward teen novelists, but you don’t see similar blog posts for writers who are in their twenties, or writers in their thirties, or writers who are exactly forty-two and two months old. Why? Because when you’re a writer, your age doesn’t matter. 

So why, despite this, are teen writers often looked down upon compared to adult writers? I think, obviously, it’s because we’re young, and many people think that automatically equals Not Good. In fairness, yes, it’s 99% likely that you won’t be an excellent storyteller when you first start out as a teen. (That’s not to say this non-excellence will carry through for all of your teen years, of course. All I’m saying is that during your first few months or so of writing novels you may not produce the best books ever.) But you’re equally not-excellent when you start out at age 22 or 35 or 43 or 82. The whole point is that writing is something you can’t improve on without actually going out and writing. And yes, it’s true that some people won’t ever be ready to publish as teens, because we all need time to develop our craft. But by that same logic, some beginning thirty-year-olds won’t be ready to publish until they’re thirty-nine and some beginning seventy year olds won’t be ready to publish until they’re seventy-five, while some beginning forty year olds may be ready to publish at forty-one and some beginning sixteen year olds may be ready to publish at seventeen. It all depends on you, the individual, and how much time you put in, how much you get critiqued by trusted sources, how much you read and study books by your favorite authors to see what they’re doing right. It’s not about your age. It’s not about how many years of life experience you have. It’s about your drive, the effort you put in, and in a lot of cases, just pure luck.

And then there is the argument for the teen/adult writer separation that basically says teen writers aren’t mature enough to tell a real story with real life themes that asks all-important questions, which is just so untrue. Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve found my teen years to be the ones in which I have the most questions about this crazy life thing, in which I care about politics and people and love and religion, in which I feel myself gaining an opinion and a voice and ideas I want to share with the world. I’m not just a clueless kid any longer, and that’s the amazing thing about being a teenager. Because suddenly, we gain a voice. Because suddenly, we know all of the questions we’re supposed to be asking, plus some of our own. Being a teen is about exploring, just like a book is about exploring–whether it’s a story or a character or a theme or a question or all of the above–so why is it so odd that they can mesh together in an innovative and thought-provoking way? 

The answer is, it isn’t, just like it isn’t odd for an adult to do the same thing.

Thus, teen writers don’t exist. We’re just writers, and like every other one out there, all it takes is the right amount of effort, natural ability, and luck for us to create great books. It might be two years or ten years or thirty years from when you start to when you’re “ready” to publish (which is incredibly subjective as is), but one day, you will get there. The “when” of it just varies from person to person, not from age to age.

My point being: when you write, you’re a writer. There’s nothing more to it. You’re not an aspiring writer, you’re not a teen writer–you’re a writer. You have your own style and your own voice and your own ideas and processes and stories to tell, and one day, in some form, you’ll get a chance to share them.

Publishing is that awesome industry in which your age just does not play a part (aside from a possible marketing perspective). Because, think of it this way: when you query an agent or self-publish on Amazon or post a short story on Wattpad, the agents or the readers aren’t paying attention to your age.** They’re paying attention to your story. They’re paying attention to the characters you create and the themes you get across and whether or not your writing can suck them away from the rest of the world.

Because–like I said–whether you’re thirteen or twenty-five or forty-four or eighty-two, you’re a writer. And telling stories is just what writers do.


*The main reason I label this blog as a teen writing blog even though I don’t believe there is a such thing as a teen writer is because I really want to provide a genuine resource for writers-who-happen-to-be-teens that doesn’t treat us as lesser than every other writer out there, and to do that I have to add the teen writer label. (There are some really discouraging blog posts on the internet that supposedly give “advice” to teen writers, and the advice is basically that we suck and should quit now and wait until we’re forty. Which… yeah… not true.)

**Unless you make them pay attention to it by touting yourself as a young author, which is not something I recommend when you query an agent.**

TCWT December 2013 Blog Chain

Ladies, gentlemen, and all variations thereupon, we are delighted to announce that the Teens Can Write Too! blog chain is back for December 2013!

After granting me posting privileges, John told me that I was free to do whatever I wanted – a statement he may regret in the future. In the meantime, however, I shall temporarily curtail my plans for world domination (teen writers are a crucial part in this particular strategy, but I can’t go into details or somebody will try and stop me), and restrict myself to organising the blog chain for December.

For those who don’t know me, my name is Miriam Joy. I blog at Miriam Joy Writes; I’m the co-author of a book called St Mallory’s Forever; and I have a slight obsession with mythology and dead languages. It’s delightful to meet you. I hope you’re all well, and ready for a new prompt.

We all wish we could enter fictional worlds sometimes. For some of us, we’re still waiting for our Hogwarts letter, or we’re not sure why we haven’t been recruited by SHIELD to join the Avengers Initiative. Others are convinced they have what it takes to win the Hunger Games or get through their faction training. When I was nine or ten, I tried repeatedly to read myself into a book like Meggie from Inkheart.

And so your prompt is this:

Which fictional world would you most like to be a part of, and what role do you think you would fulfil within it?

How would you make your living? Would you even survive? Don’t feel that you have to stick to jobs outlined canonically in the books – use your imagination about who else might exist in this society.

To sign up for the blog chain, leave your name / blog URL in the comments below and let us know which dates you prefer. The blog chain will start in the first week of December, though if we have too many participants, some may have to double up on days. :)

I look forward to reading your responses to this prompt!

Miriam Joy

Ten Things Never To Say To A Writer

In the spirit of… something… I’ve decided to compile a list of ten things you should never, ever say to a writer. I’m sure all of us can relate, largely because they’ve probably happened to most of us in real life, but also because there is a level of insanity that comes with being a writer that non-writers just don’t “get.” They don’t get the characters in your head. The constant need to write. The 2 a.m. mornings spent typing away at your computer. And they most certainly don’t get how to talk to a writer about his or her writing, which is where this list comes in.

WARNING: excessive GIF use.

1. “Anyone can write a book.”

Enough said.

2. “You said you want to write for a living? No, really, what do you want to do when you grow up?”

3. “Since you like writing so much, will you write this essay for me?”


4. “You must have a lot of free time to write all those books.”

This one gets to me every time, hence. Yeah, of course I do my writing from midnight to 2 a.m. every night (morning?) because I just have buckets of free time.


5. “Will you write me into your book?”


6. “Have you ever considered publishing your book?” 

What a brilliant idea! That never crossed my mind until now.


7. “I hate reading.”


8. “So are you, like, a psycho soon-to-be serial killer to spend all that time at your computer?”


9. “Are there vampires in your book?”


And the kicker:

10. “Aww you’re writing a book? That’s cute.”