About John Hansen

Hi! I'm sixteen. I’m a YA writer represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary, and I’m an intern at the same agency. I like puns and being on time (some might even say I’m punctual.) (…I’ll stop.) but the latter never quite seems to happen because, you know, the internet exists.

TCWT July 2014 Blog Chain

 

As always, a huge thank you to everyone who participated in last month’s blog chain! All of the posts were really thought-provoking, and it was especially cool seeing such a variety of opinions on book-to-movie adaptions. (If you missed the chain, you can still see the list of participants and their posts here.)

 

Since the last few blog chains have focused more on actual, published books, I wanted to return to a writing-related topic for July. 

 

“What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started writing?” 

 

Once again, you can pretty much go wherever you like with this topic, whether it be an actual advice post, a discussion of aspects of your writing journey, a list of what you wish you knew/what you’ve learned (you are certainly not limited to choosing only one thing), or something else entirely.

 

If you’re interested in participating in the blog chain, just comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t post on, and I’ll try to assign you a date as quickly as possible. (First-time visitors: you are completely welcome to join as well!) The final schedule for July’s chain will go up on our blog chain page on July 4th, so you have until then to sign up. Thanks! :)

 

“The Netflix Effect” For Books?

**Please note: This is all speculation. I’m a writer, not a publishing insider, but I think this is a topic worth discussing.**

If you are familiar with the television realm, you’ve probably heard in some way about “The Netflix Effect.” Basically, the Netflix Effect–or at least the one I’m referring to–describes the growing shift toward binge watch-able shows. Since Netflix now has its own television shows (Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, etc.), they have decided to shake things up, and so rather than releasing one episode every week, they make all thirteen in a season available at once on the season’s release date. This new strategy has done wonders for the company and its subscribers, as it gives people a way to watch the seasons straight through without having to worry about forgetting what happened in the previous episode. Another interesting twist is, I think, that this method gives fans an incentive to watch all of a given season immediately after it releases, because watching some of the bigger Netflix series has almost become an internet-wide event. After all, since all of the episodes are available at once, it feels like everyone is watching.

But then the other day I started thinking about this Netflix Effect in terms of books–specifically trilogies. You hear a lot of complaints about the one-year-or-more waits between most books in trilogies, usually for good reason. These waits, while totally sensible if you look at it from the points of view of the writer, editor, publicist, and so on, can be a bit of a strain on a reader. For one thing, by the time a sequel releases, you as a reader will probably forget much of what happened in the previous book, and unless you loved it, that fact alone could leave you anticipating the next book much less than you otherwise would have. (And from a book-selling standpoint, even if you end up buying that next book, this still matters. When you are excited for a release, you tend to let other people know, and word of mouth is a major driver of sales.) And it’s true that you could always reread the first of the series before the sequel releases, but with so many new books appearing on the scene every day, people in general seem to be less inclined to reread a book they didn’t absolutely love the first time. In that way, the wait almost becomes a hassle, and if you didn’t feel strongly about book one, chances are you may altogether lose interest in the second book by the time it releases (whereas you would be more likely to buy it if all of the books had already released).

As someone who has struggled with the above, I’ve begun to gravitate back toward that Netflix strategy as a solution: what if, in the future, an entire trilogy could be collectively released on the same day? Bearing in mind that there are probably a number of technical problems with this idea–I’m sure there is a reason no publisher I know of has done this before–it is certainly something to think about it. Not only would this method give a reader more incentive to buy the rest of the books in the series after finishing the first one (if they’re all right there, why not?), but it will also get more people to want to read the series in the first place, since it eliminates a lot of the cliffhanger/wait time anger that usually makes people hesitant to start a new series.

Another potential benefit, to add to my point in the first paragraph, is hype. Hype is a powerful tool, and if it feels like everyone is reading a particular series (which, assuming a collectively released trilogy gets reasonably well marketed, I’d bet a lot of people will be inclined to do since all of the books are there and ready to be explored (for reference, think about how the sales of books one and two tend to shoot up when the final book in a trilogy releases)), a number of those who aren’t reading it will want to find out more. But on the other hand, this means that the hype for the trilogy will be very concentrated in that one-to-four-month time span as everyone reads the books. While with the Netflix shows another season can always be released to regenerate hype, the end of a trilogy is the end of a trilogy, and if a book series were to be collectively released, the hype for it, while strong, will die down rather quickly.*

Still, when you consider that a number of people are starting to adopt policies where they won’t read a series until all of the books have released, this “Netflix Effect for trilogies” strategy is certainly something to consider. I’ve even noticed some publishers having shorter-than-a-year time gaps in between the release of books in a series, which might be a sign of things to come. For now, this is mainly limited to New Adult (Finding Fate, Losing It, A Little Too Far, etc.), but I’ve also been noticing it happening in some Young Adult series as well (ExtractionGlitch, etc.). From where I stand, I’m not sure many publishers will try the Netflix, release-everything-in-one-day method because of the concentrated hype problem I mentioned above, but I have a feeling we’ll start to see shortening time intervals between release dates of YA trilogies. Considering that 1) YA is becoming reasonably flooded with new books and 2) that many readers are less inclined to wait years for a next book in a series as a result, it certainly seems likely. And, if publishers eventually choose a select few trilogies to be released all at once, I can see that strategy being very effective as long as it’s limited to only certain, well-marketed trilogies.

If this shift were to happen–and I have no idea that it will–it will obviously be more difficult for the writer and the editor, but that could be solved by a longer period in between the date a book is sold and the date it publicly releases. But whether this possibility is realistic or not, I find it to be at the very least exciting to consider, and is certainly something I would welcome as a good thing.

 

 

*There are also, I’m sure, a number of other contractual issues with bookstore/library distribution as well as other potential problems with this strategy, but my guess is that this concentrated hype problem is the main pitfall of the Netflix-for-books idea.

 

EDIT: There is an upcoming New Adult trilogy by a popular author, Ann Aguirre, in which each book releases one to two months apart.

TCWT June 2014 Blog Chain

**Quick announcement: On June 14-15, just outside Chicago, Illinois (U.S.A.), a few really great people are hosting a writing conference for teen writers known as the Chapter One Young Writers ConferenceIt’s led by CEO Julia Byers, Creative Director Molly Brennan, Associate Online Administrator Kira Budge, Event Aide Lynn Byers, and a number of other contributors heavily involved in the teen writing world. They have workshops and speakers (one of the coolest people out there, Amy Zhang, whose equally amazing YA contemporary Falling Into Place releases in September, is the headliner!), and the conference is open to all writers from middle school to undergraduate level. If you’re interested, you can register now, and you can find more info on their website.**

(Note: I’m not personally associated with the conference, but it looks fantastic so I agreed to post about it!)

***

 

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that May’s blog chain has been one of my favorites since the inception of this blog. Everyone who participated had such brilliant responses, which meant each post totally gave me a host of shiny-new-ideas-I-will-probably-never-write–which, as far as I’m concerned, is always a plus. So thank you endlessly to all who participated and followed along; it was tons of fun. (If you missed the chain, you can still see the list of participants and their posts here.)

 

Now, for June’s blog chain, the prompt is:

 

“What are your thoughts on book-to-movie adaptions? Would you one day want your book made into a movie, or probably not?”

 

This topic feels especially relevant because of the large number of “YA movies” that are releasing (or have already released) this year, and I know from talking to a lot of you that your opinions on book-to-movie adaptions vary wildly, the latter of which should hopefully make the chain all the more interesting.

 

As always, you’re welcome to approach this prompt however you like. You can discuss some book-to-movie adaptions you’ve liked or disliked in the past, you can talk about your thoughts on adaptions in general, or if you just want to do a review of a recent book-to-movie adaption (or talk about why you are excited about an upcoming one), that’d also be awesome! And for the second part of the prompt: we all know from seeing our favorite books in movie form that it’s unlikely Hollywood will completely capture the essence of a novel, as chunks of the story will always get lost of translation. So if given the opportunity to work with a film studio on adapting your book, would you risk it? Or would you be like Salinger and never let it happen? I’m curious to hear what you all think!

 

If you’re interested in participating in the blog chain, just comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t post on, and I’ll try to assign you a date as quickly as possible. (First-time visitors: you are completely welcome to join as well!) The final schedule for June’s chain will go up on our blog chain page on June 4th, so you have until then to sign up.

 

Thank you! You guys, as always, are amazing.

 

The Secret Life of a Teen Writer

I’ve always been a writer. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been putting my thoughts into stories in some way or another. At first, they were pretty obscure: epics of talking mice travelling to new worlds through da Vinci paintings, or tales of rebellious fruit who decide to wage war against their vegetable overlords. As I got older, those stories turned to novels (or at least half-written ones), and those novels into polished manuscripts. And yet, right from the beginning, I hated telling people about my writing.

My parents would ask me what I was working on, and I’d mumble out a vague answer and then turn in the other direction; my relatives, who my parents told all about my books, would ask when one would be published, and I’d just say something along the lines of it being “far away” and would try to change the subject; and my friends… well, I wouldn’t tell any of them that I write at all.

Even now that I have grown more experienced with the book world, have joined twitter, started my own blog, and so on, that hasn’t really changed. I’ve not only continued to avoid discussing my own writing in real life, but in a way I’ve also created this whole second world for myself, this super-secret online life. And maybe it’s because this makes people feel like spies, which is always a plus, but I’ve noticed from talking to other writers that this happens a lot. In fact, from what it sounds like, there are a number of us who write or blog “undercover,” who have over time created a second life for ourselves online.

And for the almost three years now that I’ve been active on the internet, I’ve been wondering why this is. On the surface, it seems like a pretty easy answer, right? I mean, it isn’t difficult to blame this whole “secret writing life” phenomenon on some level of introversion within us all. Or maybe, it seems, we’ve created this separate writing world because of societal pressure, because we are so afraid to be ourselves in public that we feel the need to hide our love for writing or something. And while there may be some truth in those theories, I personally have never really bought into either of them, because both imply that I am, on some level, ashamed of being a writer. When the fact is? For better or for worse,* I’m pretty damn proud of it.

So then… why? Why get involved with the writing and book and blogging communities, then work so hard to keep it a secret from people I know in the Real World? Why keep it to myself? What’s the point?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and here’s what I’ve decided:

It’s because sometimes we all need a way out.

It’s because we all need a way to express ourselves.

It’s because we all need an escape.

There is something truly freeing in the secrecy of a “second writing life,” in being able to have something that is just yours, something that you can come home to every day and, like a blank canvas, fill with your thoughts. Writing is a naturally freeing experience, but when you can write just for you, for you and a few weird people on the internet, the possibilities become endless. You don’t have to worry about anything; you just write. And for me, that is exactly why I keep my online life a secret: because it has become my outlet. Because it’s the safe place I can escape to whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed. Because it is a world full of like-minded people who make me feel a little less strange. But most of all, because this secret life is mine.

And that, to me, is the heart of it all. Having this life that I get to keep all to myself allows me a way out when I need one, gives me a world that really just makes sense to me. There is even something kind of meta about it all, like through this secret life I’m suddenly creating an entirely new story for myself, like I am the main character in the book I’m writing. And in that way, why I do this seems (to me) at least a little bit logical. I don’t make a second life because there is anything wrong with the first one; I make it because I need a way to make sense of the first one.

After all, at the end of the day, we all do need to take a step back. We all need a place where we feel safe, a medium through which everything becomes both a little clearer and a little more sane. It doesn’t mean we’re unhappy with our real lives or anything; it’s just necessity. Some people find this escape through gossip, through music, through sports. Some people find it by looking at art or writing troll-ish YouTube comments or staring at the stars with their next-door-neighbor. And me? I just happen to find it through books and writing.

It’s not introversion that has me keeping this secret–not really, anyway. It’s because my online life is the same as your private journal, or your favorite TV episode, or that best friend you stay up all night every night talking to. Or anything else–but chances are, you have something. Some secret, some place that is always a constant. Something that is yours.

Because we all have our secrets. And sometimes, that can be a very, very good thing.

 

(*By “worse,” I am of course referring to the day the FBI finally arrests me for my Google searches.)

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.**

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?”

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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.

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

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

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

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7. “I hate reading.”

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

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9. “Are there vampires in your book?”

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And the kicker:

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

TCWT July 2013 Blog Chain

ETA: 3/31/14: *If you’re one of the awesome people who finds these past blog chain posts through search terms, you can go here to find more recent topics and to sign up for a current chain.*

I’ll get right to it: the topic for next month’s blog chain is:

“Take any character from one of your books and put them in a therapy session. Write a short scene about what happens.”

You guys are welcome to go crazy with this topic. You can stage it as you want, write it as you want, add in as many realistic (or unrealistic elements) as you want. (You can even include multiple characters to make it a group therapy session.) I think we all can agree that our characters need major professional help, so don’t hesitate to bring on the weird. ;)

Interview with LeighAnn Kopans, Author of One

 

Today, I’m so excited to introduce LeighAnn  Kopans, author of the fabulous YA sci-fi, One, which released this Tuesday. I love One because it takes a plot you don’t see very much in YA–superheroes–and turns it into something that is just plain fun, while also mixing in a little bit of romance. Plus, that cover? So awesome.

I love LeighAnn’s publication story because she didn’t self-publish as a means of giving up; to her, self-publishing was about beginning anew. After she landed an agent, her book received lots of positive feedback from the publishers they pitched it to, but ultimately, it just didn’t sell. However, after that, she didn’t just throw in the towel and decide to self-publish purely as a means of  getting the book out somehow. Instead, she weighed the pros and cons and decided that self-publishing was the right fit for her, and that she was going to work as hard as she possibly could to make her book look and read like any other traditionally-published book on the shelves.

And she did just that.

She started a street team, hired a great cover designer and copyeditor, packaged her book in a professional manner, sent out Advanced Reader Copies to bloggers–everything. I’m incredibly happy for her and all she has accomplished, so to celebrate One‘s release, I’m having her over for a quick interview and a giveaway.

Blog

Twitter

 

1. What inspired you to write One

I’ve had an intense love of superhero stories since I was a little girl – 8 years old camping out in front of the TV every Saturday morning to catch X-men cartoons. I loved everything about them, and since I have an obsessive personality (understatement) I obsessed over the pseudo-science of mutations. How exactly would superpowers WORK? It didn’t take me too long to realize that most superpowers featured more than one component.

That idea stuck with me for a long time, and once I’d cut my teeth on my first novel (in the drawer for now,) I decided to try my hand at using my half-superpowered idea on a Young Adult novel.

2. What was your favorite scene to write? 

It was the first scene I ever wrote, actually, and what later became Chapter 8 of the book  – when Merrin and Elias discover how their powers work together. The whole setting and discovery of the moment felt so magical to me that it just poured out, and I knew I had something special.

3. What advice would you give to those out there who are unsure of what publishing route is right for them? What made YOU choose self-publishing?

The advice I give to everyone is to sit down and think long and hard about your goals for THIS BOOK. Any goals are valid, honestly – Maybe you want your family members to be able to buy your book, or maybe you want other people to read it. Maybe you want to make a little money with your book on the side. Maybe you really, really want your book to be in a book store. Maybe you NEED to hold your book in paperback, but have no cash. There are different methods of publishing for each goal – everything from publishing on Wattpad to self-publishing to small press to the query-agent-sub-Big 6 sale route. Each publishing method has its major pros and major cons.

I chose self-publishing because my book went on submission in NYC but wouldn’t sell, for unclear reasons. I believed my book was good and would have some degree of mass appeal, and that it could have the greatest number of readers and maybe even make a little money if I self-published it. Really, in a nutshell, I believed that ONE deserved to be published, and I knew I could do it myself in a way that I was proud of.

4. What is one part of your marketing plan that you feel worked the best?

Hands down, my street team was the most effective method of marketing. I’m so grateful that John planted the seed of the idea, and that I had so many amazing friends and contacts and friends-of-friends to assemble what is truly the best street team around. There is nothing more effective than passionate word of mouth, and that’s what a street team is.

I also teamed up with my fellow author and friend Francesca Zappia to create the most unique teasers I’ve ever seen – comic-style installments that summarized the first eight chapters of the book. We saw a great response on Goodreads when the comics went live. I asked myself what would make me, as a reader, read teasers, and the answer was that I was sick of reading long text excerpts. I would want something to give me a glimpse of the story in a totally different way from most people.

5. For those interested in self-publishing, what advice would you give?  

Be methodical about your decision. Know what it takes time, resources, and dedication-wise BEFORE you decide to self-publish. It’s not an easy route, to be sure, but no publishing route is. After being in this game for almost seven months, I can say that I’m very happy with my decision, and all the angst and worry was definitely worth it.

Also, remember that when you self-publish, you are in charge – you can do anything you want! The sky is truly the limit. I was able to send out more ARCs than most traditionally published authors, dream up cool swag and promo, and have a HUGE street team – all things I would not have been able to do unless I was a top-billed traditionally published author. Think outside the box – self publishing does not have to mean making do with less. In fact, oftentimes, it can mean having more.

6. You have to do one dance move to celebrate your release. What would it be? (This is a serious question!)

Gotta be a Dougie, since all you need to do that move is music and style – and, dance-wise, those are the only two things I *do* have. We can’t all be superheroes at EVERYTHING.

Thank you so much for inviting me and for writing up this interview! Teen writers are amazing, and I’d love to come back or help out in any way I can. Happy writing!

Thank you so much for coming, LeighAnn!

***

About One:

Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly, or even drift along like a freaking ghost – too bad all she can do is float up and down. When almost everyone else is a Super, with at least two powers, or a Normal, with none, being a One is the worst kind of in-between.  

All Merrin has ever wanted is to land an internship at the Biotech Hub. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over news of Hub President Fisk’s experiments, hoping she can get close enough to his research on the manifestations of superpowers to finally figure out how to fix herself.

Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other. Merrin’s over the moon – Elias is as good at kissing as he is at helping her fly. Better yet, her mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub’s internship short list.

But when the Hub kidnaps Elias, Merrin discovers The Hub’s sick experiments could take away even their measly single powers – Fisk’s interest in Ones like them might even be lethal. If she stands up to Fisk, she not only risks Elias’s life, she’ll also destroy her chances of ever finding a way to fly solo – of ever being more than a One.  

Buy it on:

Kindle
Paperback
Special Edition Paperback with comics (from Amazon)
B&N
iBookstore
Signed (from her site)

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Also! I’m giving away an eBook copy of One. I don’t want to make you do anything fancy to enter, so just comment below and I’ll put you in the drawing.

(Or if you comment but don’t want to be entered, just say so.)

Thanks! Hope this helped, and be sure to pick up your copy of the book even if you don’t win. It’s available in print as well for those of you without ereaders.

Critique Partner Match Up Service – 2013

*Before you enter, please skim through this post to get an idea of what is going on.*

Have you done that? Good! Now it’s time to meet some critique partners! :-)

 

Rules:

- Anyone 13-20 may participate, whether you’re serious about writing or doing it just for fun. You may mention your exact age in your entry, or you may not. It’s up to you.

- You don’t have to contact anyone about being critique partners if you don’t see an entry that looks like a good match, but you have to participate to contact others. If you see someone who you want to talk more with about being critique partners, contact them in whichever way they say you should in the form below (more on that in a minute), and tell them briefly about yourself, why you think they’d be a good fit, maybe go over what your current manuscript is about, etc. and then ask them if they’d like to swap pages. Please keep it courteous, and respect that they may not want to swap. It isn’t anything personal if they say no. (Side note: Swapping pages–usually about the first five pages–is a good way to see how you work with the other person, whether you like their writing, their critiquing style, and vice versa. And if you both agree it will work, you have yourself a new critique partner!)

- Similarly, if you get contacted by a participant and don’t think they’re a good fit, please politely decline their offer. They will understand. But if you think they’re a good match, give them more details about yourself and your writing and send them an agreed-upon number of pages to critique, and they’ll send yours in return. Please try not to make them read your whole manuscript until you both agree you should be CPs. Tact is always appreciated.

- CPs don’t have to be purely for critiquing either, and you don’t need a finished manuscript to enter. CPs also make great writing buddies, especially with Camp NaNo coming up.

- (For what it’s worth, I don’t think you should limit your CPs only to teen writers, though, even if this contest is teen-only. Remember that adults have great opinions about YA too, no matter how old they are, and a range of input is always helpful!)

- Most importantly, have fun with this!

 

Entry Form:

If you’d like to participate, post brief answers to the form in the comments below. A few sentences each is good. (This is also the same form as last time, so if you want to reuse your responses, go for it!)

Name or pen name:

Genre:

Are you serious about getting an agent with your book, or is it just for fun?

Pitch your current book in under three sentences*:

Briefly talk about yourself and what you like to do/read/write:

What you’re looking for in a critique partner:

Links to blog or twitter (if applicable):

Contact**:

 

*This post may be of use, if you have no idea how to write a pitch.

**Note: I know many people don’t like their email addresses published publicly, so if you’d rather not include your email as a means of contact, just ask anyone interested in working with you to comment on your blog (and you can grab their email address from the comment and email them privately), or message you on twitter/facebook/whatever and work it out from there. If you’re fine with having your email in the comment, then please include it, but be sure to space out the “@” and “.com” to avoid spambots. [i.e. TeenRiter(at)gmail(dot)com]

Questions? Comments? Concerns? And just so you know:

All entries most be posted in the comments section below by 11:59 PM EST on June 16th! However, the actual reading entries and contacting participants can go as long as you like.

Thank you! I hope this helps!

(To clarify, you can start contacting right away, but you have until the 16th to put your entry in the comments below.)

Finding A Critique Partner

So, critique partners. Beta readers. I talk about their importance a lot on here and I’ve found a lot people struggling to find them, so I thought I should make a post on it. (A while back, I did a critique partner match up, and I’m going to do something similar right now. See below.) Basically, critique partners/beta readers are people who write books that are similar to yours and who you mesh with personality-wise; you tend to swap manuscripts and give each other feedback, work through plot problems, etc. A critique partner and beta reader can do as much or as little as you both agree to, but regardless they’re incredibly helpful and an invaluable resource–totally worth getting. (The main difference in definition between a critique partner and a beta reader is that a critique partner implies you swap manuscripts, while a beta may just be someone who reads for you but not you reading for them.) It’s good to have a go-to person to work with on your book, or just to talk with or rant with. Critique partners (CPs for short) or beta readers are great for that, and I strongly encourage anyone who thinks having one will be of help to them to get one, especially if you’re working toward publication. Here is a great post about the importance of critique partners by a published author herself. It’s definitely worth checking out.

But the question is, how do you find a critique partner? Well, this is the million dollar question, and so I asked the TCWT Facebook group (another great place to find critique partners!) how they got theirs. Here were the responses. (Last names are fuzzed out for privacy purposes.)

And more:

So here is what I found. If you’re looking for a critique partner, some good places to start are:

- In this very blogging community. There are so many awesome writer bloggers out there, both teens and not, and if you are particularly fond of a certain blogger (and they aren’t, like, famous) and think you would be a good personality match, don’t hesitate to ask about swapping chapters. They worst they can do is say a polite no. An awesome way to find other teen bloggers like this is through our TCWT blog chain, where tons of teens participate  every month, and you can always look through the blog chain schedule and find other people similar to you through there.

- Forums. This is a big one. There are plenty of writing websites out there, like NaNoWriMo (<—this is perhaps the best place to find critique partners or beta readers), Protagonize, Figment, Wattpad, Absolute Write, etc. that are great for meeting other writers, reading and critiquing each other’s stories, and finding people who you connect with and whose critiques and own stories you enjoy. This = a potential CP.

- Critique partner matching sites. There are a few sites out there dedicated to critique partner matching, like CP Seek, which are definitely worth looking into. There are also writing websites that do critique partner match ups every so often. For example, Maggie Stiefvater does a yearly Critique Partner Love Connection on her blog (I think every March?)  and Authoress does a similar Critique Partner Dating Service every six months, the next of which should be this July!

- Pitch contests. If you’re in the writing community and have a finished manuscript, pitch contests are a great way to meet other writers. Brenda Drake runs some amazing contests every month, and they serve as the perfect way to meet other writers and read about their manuscripts. If you seem particularly interested in one person, don’t hesitate to ask about swapping! Tons of writers have found their critique partners (and agents!) through Brenda and others.

- Twitter. Yes, here I go again telling you all about how great Twitter is. But really, I love Twitter. Once you get the hang of it and follow a bunch of writers, it’s one of the best networking tools out there. You meet others like you, connect, learn about what’s happening in the industry and what other writers are working on manuscript-wise, and really, you make amazing friends. I met all of my critique partners through Twitter, and it was the same for all of them; we started talking, we both connected, we eventually asked about each other’s manuscripts, swapped chapters and were still a great match, and then BAM. Critique partner. Twitter is not all about getting critique partners, of course, but neither are any of these (except the CP websites). Still, like with the others, Twitter is the perfect gateway into finding someone to swap manuscripts with.

- The TCWT Facebook group. Of course I have to plug TCWT, right? But seriously, for those of you on Facebook, you should join the TCWT Facebook group. We currently have 75 awesome teen writers, some of whom have already connected and became critique partners, and it’s a really great place to be weird and meet people like you; to find a critique partner, it’s as simple as making a post introducing yourself and seeing if anyone would be interested in swapping chapters.

- Real life friends. Real life friends and family should not be your only critique partners–you should have other writers who you don’t know in real life as well, because real life friends are always biased–but they are a great place to get started for advice, encouragement, and critiques. If you know any writers or avid readers in real life, don’t count them out!

So let’s say you find someone similar to you both writing and personality-wise online. How do you ask them about potentially being CPs? Really, just be nice about it. Email them and introduce your book, yourself, what brought you to them, why you think you’re a good match, (or if you already are good friends, you can adjust how much to say accordingly) and just ask them a) if they are looking for a critique partner and b) if they would like to swap first chapters. (It’s always best to start with swapping a few chapters to assess how good a fit you are critique-wise. Then, if you like each other’s comments, you can move on to full manuscripts!) Similarly, if you’re either asking to beta read for someone or asking them to beta read for you, be polite, pitch yourself or your book, state why you chose them and why you (or your book) would be a good match.

I’ll be honest, it isn’t easy to ask these things, at least for me (it’s like asking someone out on a date, really, and I am AWKWARD), but taking the leap is almost always for the better. I mean, it can’t hurt to try. Worst case scenario, nothing happens. Best case, you have a shiny new critique partner or beta reader.

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And now? Let’s do a critique partner match up. I made another post specifically for it; if you’re interested in finding a critique partner, please go HERE. Enjoy!

Why Communities Are Important To Writers… and Why The Teen Writer Community Rocks

Writing is a very solitary thing. It requires patience, quiet, and being alone for long periods of time. Of course, you can argue that you aren’t ever really alone because that ever-annoying voice in your head never stops talking to you, but the point remains that writing is a personal hobby geared toward the individual. However, oddly enough, a big part of the whole writing and publishing process is community. You can’t go it alone; you need a support system, people to laugh with, talk with, write with. You need someone to read over your drafts and give you honest feedback. You need someone to brainstorm plot ideas with (well, sometimes) and to encourage you when you feeling like your writing is crap. You need people like you. Whether you’re writing for fun and seriously toward publication, community makes all the difference.

This is a big reason why I love WordPress, and really all blog communities. It allows so many teen writers to connect and interact and write and share their work. It helps each of us grow and improve and enjoy ourselves. I swear, I would be nowhere if I hadn’t met all of you wonderful people as well as the amazingly talented people on Twitter. The support, the insight, and the sheer brilliance of others have made me a better writer and really, a smarter, more mature person.

But this is not about me. I hope, and I assume, that community has shaped all of you as writers, too. Feedback from people you trust is invaluable, and so is having a support system, and having people to go to when you’re feeling lost about what comes next in your book. Plus, community is fun. Writing gets stressful sometimes, and there’s nothing more refreshing than going into a Chatzy with a bunch of friends and embracing your own, weird self. It inspires you. It helps you write more, and write better.

So I guess that’s my number one tip for new teen writers with no idea what to do. It’s to get online. Join the community. Make friends. Other teen writers are your best outlet for improving your craft and building your writing and publishing knowledge, and I think that’s what makes the internet so amazing. It allows teen writer sites like TCWT and Go Teen Writers and all of the others to exist. It allows us, as young writers, to connect with each other and help one another in a way we were never able to before. I also think this is why you see more and more teens getting published nowadays. (I know of four who are debuting next year!) The internet, and the community behind it, is allowing teens, who would normally not know the first thing about writing a novel, to be as talented and as knowledgeable as any adult. NaNoWriMo and Figment and so many writing forums have been such a huge factor in getting writers, young and old, to meet one another and eventually, to achieve their publishing dreams, whatever that may be. This isn’t to say that if you join the writing community, you will magically become talented and everything you ever wished for will come true. That doesn’t happen. But getting involved in the community is the first big step to growing as a writer. You also have to be proactive. Read as many blog posts about writing and publishing as you can, both by industry pros and writers like you. Make friends. Beta read other writers’ manuscripts (seriously, nothing helps you improve your craft more than critically reading a friend’s book.) Build a support system. And most of all, have fun. Writing shouldn’t be work. It sometimes feels like work, yes, but you should be able to make it enjoyable, too. Other people can help you do that. I’ve never had more fun writing than when I’m word sprinting with friends and spending the in-between time talking and GIF warring and whatever. You need to find that place of enjoyment, whatever it may be, and community is the perfect way to do that.

Basically, if you’re new to writing and want to improve, my number one suggestion is to do one of three things:

1) Start a blog and interact with the teen writer blogging community.

2) Get on Twitter/Facebook (we have an awesome TCWT teen writer Facebook group!)/Tumblr/etc. and meet teen writers there.

3) Get on writing sites–Figment, NaNoWriMo, Protagonize, etc., share your work, and meet people!

These are great starter points for new writers, and they will help you break both into the publishing world and the writing community. You’ll meet amazing people, and I promise it won’t take long for you to feel improved as a writer. You also shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions when you have them, or volunteer to read someone’s manuscript, or ask people you know if they’d be willing to critique your first chapter. Take advantage of these resources. They’ll help you, I promise.

All of this boils down to: in this day and age, we have all of the tools we need to achieve of our writing dreams right in front of us on the internet. Don’t be afraid to use them.

So, out of curiosity, how has the writing community affected you?

 

TCWT June 2013 Blog Chain

ETA: 3/31/14: *If you’re one of the awesome people who finds these past blog chain posts through search terms, you can go here to find more recent topics and to sign up for a current chain.*

For this month’s chain, I wanted to try something a little more serious than some of the recent topics, as I’m really curious to see what everyone has to say. The prompt:

“How have both the people in your life and your own personal experiences impacted your writing? Do you ever base characters off of people you know?”

This is a question writers get asked all the time, but it’s one that is especially fascinating to me because of the wide variety of answers I typically get. And then when you consider that, as teens, we tend to write characters that are our own age, I always wonder how each of us applies our own lives to our books.

Thanks everyone! As always, comment below with a link to your blog and any dates you can’t do to sign up!

May 2013 Blog Chain

ETA: 3/31/14: *If you’re one of the awesome people who finds these past blog chain posts through search terms, you can go here to find more recent topics and to sign up for a current chain.*

This month’s chain is hosted by Lily Jenness, who emailed with a brilliant topic I can’t believe we haven’t done yet:

“What are some of the coolest/weirdest/funniest/most disturbing things you’ve researched for a story?”

She says: “Let’s face it, as writers, our search history can be a bit bizarre. We look up everything from how memory works to how to make candles. For this month’s blog chain, talk about a few of the things you’ve researched for your stories, be they funny, fascinating, or disturbing.”

As always, to sign up just comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t make. Thanks!

It’s Not You, It’s Me

But can we at least still be friends? 

Okay. Sorry. I had to do that. I’m not actually breaking up with you, though; I’m just stating a publishing fact. “It’s not you, it’s me” is something you probably have heard and will hear in various forms all throughout your writing life. After all, writing is art, and by definition art is all about interpretation. Therefore, many different people can interpret your book in many different ways, which means almost everyone’s experience reading your book will be different.

Basically: some people will get your book. They’ll get what you’re trying to say, what themes you want to convey, what concepts you’re attempting to explore. They’ll get your characters, your plot, your writing style, your voice. They’ll just get it.

But then some people won’t.

By definition, like with all art, some people won’t like your book. Does that make them stupid? Not at all. Does that make it your fault? Definitely not. The crazy thing is, someone not liking your book means next to nothing about the quality of your work. It’s just that, for whatever reason, your characters or your writing or some part of your book didn’t click with one reader. That’s all there is to it. Because that not “getting” it reflects more on the reader’s personal tastes than it is does on the quality of your writing.

This kind of thing happens in less black-and-white ways, too. Maybe someone will ABSOLUTELYLOVELOVE the themes in your book, but will despire your main character, or think your plot is way too predictable, or some combination of things. Maybe they’ll fall in love with your main character, but think the love interest is a terrible match for him or her. Who knows! The point is, for every group who loves your book there will be a person who hates it, and for every group who hates it there will be a person who loves it–and it has almost nothing to do with the book itself.

This concept sends the perfectionists of the world reeling (*raises hand*), but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. And yeah, I’m sure we’ve all heard this before. “Subjectivity” and all that crap. We know on the surface that not everyone will like our books, just as not everyone will like us, but still… deep down, a part of all of us hopes we’ll be the exception to that rule. That we’ll be beloved by all. But the truth is, there are not exceptions. Not in the real world, not in the book world. For example, on Goodreads, The Fault In Our Stars by my pizza-loving idol, John Green, is the highest rated book-that-has-over-100,000-Goodreads-ratings, and yet even it has thousands of one-star reviews, has people who think it’s one of the worst books ever written.

But that’s just how art works.

That’s just how life works.

So:

If you’re querying, you will get rejections. If you send your book to all of friends, some will not love it. If you publish your book, you will get bad reviews. It’s just a fact. It happens, and sometimes, you just need to cry over it, and that’s okay. But then you need to learn to relinquish control, and accept that rejections are inevitable. Because the beautiful thing about art is that the reverse is also true:

If you’re querying, you will get full requests. If you’re sending your book to friends, you’ll get people who love every bit of it. If you publish your book, you’ll get glowing reviews from.

It’s that. obnoxiously. freaking. simple.

***

Or if that doesn’t help, and you’re in the midst of Rejection Suck, PUPPY GIFS ARE ALWAYS THE ANSWER. LIKE SO:

Being a Teen Is Not the End

Update: 3/30/14

So, quite obviously, this is a teen writing blog. And by definition, that means I’m all, “Rah! Rah! Teen writers rock!” “Teen writers can get published!” “Teens can write, too!” (See what I did there?) I talk a lot about how teen writers, just like all other writers out there, are completely capable of securing a book deal, and often, as is the case with our teen author bookshelf, I highlight all of those who do.

But, here’s one thing I don’t often talk about: what if you don’t get published as a teen?

What if you work your heart out, write a great book, fully deserve to secure that book deal… and it just doesn’t fall through? Or what if you realize that you just need more time to improve your craft before you can get published? Or… what if it just doesn’t happen while you’re a teenager?

And I know this may sound silly to any non-teens reading this, but I think a lot of us teen writers, myself included, fear this. In fact, we fear it not just a little bit, but a lot. There’s something in the back of our minds that says, “Okay, you need to get published before you turn twenty-one.” Or, “Okay, you need to get an agent before you turn twenty-one.” Or, “Okay, you need to write a full novel before you turn twenty-one.” There’s something telling you that you need to do X writing-related thing while you’re still young, because you know that you are talented, and you want to show it to the world. But more than that, there’s a certain level of personal pride in it, because you want to be able to look back on yourself in ten years and say, “Yeah, I did [insert thing here] when I was only eighteen.”

Whatever the case, this is something we all deal with on some level, and it’s 100%, totally normal. Everyone, knowingly or not, sets goals for themselves. Everyone. And it just so happens that many of us teen writers set goals revolving around our age, so the possibility of not doing X writing-related thing before we turn twenty instills fear in a lot of us. (In a weird way, it’s sort of like the “I need to get kissed/need to lose my virginity before I turn Y age” mentality that a lot of us, myself included, feel.)

I get this. I really do. Even now, I still feel a little tingle of fear whenever I remember that, chances are, I won’t get published before I turn twenty. But today, when this possibility popped up again, I found myself thinking, “Well, who cares?”

To help give you all some perspective, I’ve spent the last thirty minutes researching all of the things that happen if you don’t get published as a teen, and I’ve culminated my findings into this one picture. So what happens if you don’t get published as a teen? Well:

There is a legit picture here. You just can’t see it. #SneakyJohnIsSneaky

The answer is nothing.

Nothing happens. Absolutely nothing. The world does not implode. Dinosaurs don’t come back to life and take you hostage in your own basement. Your fingers do not, out of protest, refuse to ever form words again.

It just… passes.

Because here’s the thing: you’re a writer, and you know what writers do? We keep writing. We keep writing better and better books, until we finally write The One. Whether that’s the one that we first complete, or the one that gets us an agent, or the one that secures us a book deal, it doesn’t matter. But if you keep trying, it will happen, and the glory will be just as sweet as it would have been if you did it as a teenager.

You’ll get there.

Remember that, okay?

You. will. get there.

You’ll get there, and it doesn’t matter one bit when you do, because the beautiful thing about publishing is that age is a nonfactor. Writing is not like, say, gymnastics where you have to “make it” at a young age or else you’ll never make it at all. In writing, it’s all about your book–and if your book is good, that’s all people will see. So think of it this way: wouldn’t you rather wait to publish an incredible book that will garner you fans from all across the globe, than to rush to publish one you know isn’t so great, just because you want to secure a book deal while you’re still a teen?

Don’t get me wrong: I think positive peer (self?) pressure can be a good thing. But you have to remember that at the end of the day, even if you don’t hit your goal of accomplishing X thing before you turn twenty, or twenty-one, or whatever the age may be, nothing will change. The voice in your head is wrong, because you are not a failure. You started following your dreams at an age before most people even realize what their dreams are, and for that, you deserve nothing but applause.

Because, really? I’m confident that if you keep working at it, one day, each and every one of you will have your books on the shelves. Some of you will get published as teens; some of you won’t. It’s that simple. But you all, no matter how or when you get published, have something amazing to say through your stories, and you will get a chance to say it. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time.

TCWT April 2013 Blog Chain

ETA: 3/31/14: *If you’re one of the awesome people who finds these past blog chain posts through search terms, you can go here to find more recent topics and to sign up for a current chain.*

So last month, for the first time ever, the TCWT blog chain almost ran for a full thirty days. All I can say to that is: whoa. And also, to all of you fabulous people who have been participating:

(Seriously. I’m beyond grateful to each and every one of you who follows this blog. None of this would be possible without you.)

In less awkwardly sentimental news, this month’s blog chain topic is a little bit more serious than the recent ones:

“What is your ultimate goal as a writer?”

I know that getting a book published is a pretty standard ultimate goal for us all, so if you can, try to go deeper than that. How do you picture yourself seeing your book on the shelves? What kind of book do you want published? What kinds of readers do you want to attract? What conferences do you want to go to? Stuff like that.

I’m excited to hear what you all come up with!