Author Archives: John Hansen
Just a note to anyone coming into the site: I’m taking a temporary hiatus. There will be no blog chain for August. Sorry guys!
In the spirit of… something… I decided to compile a list of ten things you should never, ever say to a writer. Most of these have happened to me at least once, sometimes a number of times–unfortunately, they do not go away.
Anyone who talks to those so-called “non-writers”–also known as silly muggles–is well aware that very few of them understand the insanity which goes behind writing a book, and writers oftentimes come across little gems through their interactions with these muggles. As much as I love non-writers, they really do not get us. At all. This list is just more proof of the writer/non-writer divide, and, you know, is also for amusement purpose.
Writers, I think you can relate to some of these. Non-writers… well, take note.
WARNING: excessive GIF use.
1. “Anyone can write a book.”
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 the vicious GIF. 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.”
I’m ashamed to have friends who hate reading. Those silly muggles strike again.
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?”
You wouldn’t believe how many times I get asked this question.
And the kicker:
10. “Aww you’re writing a book? That’s cute.”
If any real life friends are reading this, know that you’re awesome and I appreciate you. However, writers are elusive creatures, and there is a reason I hate talking to you about my writing. *coughs*
So, writers of awesome, have any of these happened to you? Do you have any additions to the list?
P.S. Have you heard about JK Rowling’s pen name? Such coolness! I plan to blog about this next.
I’ll get right to it: the topic for next month’s blog chain is… drumroll please…
“Take any character from one of your books and put them in a therapy session. Write a (short!) scene about what happens. (You can include multiple characters and make it a group therapy session.)”
I’m super excited to see the posts on this! Hopefully it’s going to be fun. I’m a little obsessed with the idea of putting my characters through therapy (they need it) so this should be an interesting experiment. Plus, it can help you get to know your characters a little better. You’re welcome to stage the therapy session however you like as well. You can write it like an actual scene from your book, or an interview, or set it on a different planet–anything! Go crazy with it.
Thanks everyone! As always, comment below with a link to your blog and any dates you can’t do to sign up!
*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!
- 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!
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:
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):
*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.)
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.)
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.
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!
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?
Following this theme, the next post will be about critique partners and where to find them!
Update Thingies of Updateness:
- From now until September, I’m going to make two posts a week. I’m also working on something really, really fun for July. Yay!
- Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! The brilliant Holly Kench is hosting a short story competition for teen writers. The prize is monetary and the main requirement is to write about minority characters! Link here.
- Leigh Ann Kopans, an amazing YA author, is releasing her debut, One, on Tuesday. This book is incredible, and it has–you guessed it–superheroes! Look at the pretty cover above! I’ll be featuring her and doing a book giveaway later this week. Stay tuned!
- My friend L.M. Augustine’s book is only $.99 through Thursday! Info is here. It’s totally dorky.
(Psst. School ends tomorrow for me. I’ll finally get back into posting again!)
Woohoo! Another awesome blog chain gone by! We ran all the way to the 30th this time, our longest chain ever, so as I warned last time we may have to double up on dates (depending on how many sign up.)
For this month’s chain I wanted to do something a little different. It’s more serious than some of the pasts ones, I know, but I’m excited 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 the answers are always interesting to hear. Especially because as teens, we tend to write characters our age and our friends’ ages, I like hearing 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!
We’re writers. No–we’re teen writers. We spend our time by our computers, blogging, writing, being random, often embodying insanity, and yes, procrastinating. We’re invincible. Or at least, we should be.
But our one foe? Our Achilles heel?
Yes, writer’s block. That evil, vicious, good-for-nothing, soul-sucking (have I made my point yet?) disease caught by all writers at some point in their careers, oftentimes in more instances than one (or five.) Writer’s block is crippling, where you get stuck at a point in your book and don’t know what to write next. It could be a plot hole, a characterization issue, or a point where you just have no idea what should happen in the rest of your story, but the point is, writer’s block drives most writers crazy. We all know it happens, and yet, it seems to devastate our productivity no matter what.
But here’s the thing: writer’s block is no match for you.
Yeah, I said it. *dramatic finger snap* Seriously, though, when you get stuck while writing, becoming “unstuck” isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. It certainly feels difficult, but there’s a relatively easy solution to beating writer’s block. The secret? Skip over the scene that’s giving you trouble and go ahead and write the rest of the book. I know, it’s difficult at first when you’re as OCD as I am and you tell yourself that you have to write everything in order, but this method, once you give it a chance, helps so much. It allows you to continue the flow of the story without forcing yourself through a scene you either aren’t ready to write or don’t know how to write–because a lot of times, when you force yourself through it, your writing suffers from it.
My personal motto is that you can always fix scenes giving you trouble in the edits. First drafts are about getting your thoughts out, so the book doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be complete. So, don’t worry about skipping scenes. You can always add the tricky ones later, when you’re feeling up to it. And chances are, if you write a difficult scene after you complete the rest of the book, you’ll have a much better feel for the story and characters and what needs to happen in that scene, so the words will therefore come more easily to you.
Of course, this method will not work for everyone. Every writer is unique, so there are going to be a number of strategies that work and don’t work for the individual–what you have to do is figure out what works for you. Most people, when they give it a try and overcome their inner OCD, work better by skipping scenes. Others can’t do that; they have to power through and write the scene no matter. Try both. See what works best. But my point is, don’t be afraid to skip scenes when you’re struggling. It’s a valuable tool, and if you think of a novel like building a bridge, one skipped scene is a gap in the bridge, while trying and failing to power on leaves the whole half of the bridge unfinished for who knows how long. You’d rather have the small gap.
So. Next time you get stuck, take a breath. Go outside and clear your head. When you return, try for a few minutes to power through the block. Then, if that doesn’t work, skip over to a scene you want to write and let the words flow there. Heck, go ahead and write the rest of the book right then and there. Because when you need to, you can always come back to that difficult scene, and having written the rest of the book allows you to use everything you wrote around it to make that scene work.
And remember: writer’s block is no match for you.
What’s your method for beating writer’s block? Do you skip scenes, or do you power through them?
What? Two new blog posts in a week? This is insanity, I know.
(I told you, I’m getting better about posting!)
First off, thanks to everyone who participated in last month’s chain! I wasn’t able to comment as much as I would’ve liked to, but I read most of the posts and they were all awesome. (I’m also going to try and get better about commenting in May. I’ve been reeeeeally bad.) We’ve had a lot of people already email to join May’s blog chain already and since the recent chains have been so long, I might need to –gasp–double up on dates. It depends on how many sign up, of course, but I just want to warn you in case that happens. We can’t run the blog chain into June.
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?”
To describe it, 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.”
Super fun, right? Thanks so much, Lily! As always, to sign up just comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t make. Thanks!
No, I am not breaking up with you (although that would certainly make for an interesting blog post…) I’m just stating a publishing fact. “It’s not you, it’s me” is something you probably have and will hear in various forms all the time in writing, blogging, and publishing. You all know that writing and blogging are arts. They’re all about the interpretation, and they can be interpreted in so many ways, which means everyone’s experience reading your book or blog posts will be different.
Some people will get your book. They’ll get what you were trying to say, what themes you were showing. They’ll get your characters, your plot, how your writing style or voice ties into it all.
Some people, however, simply won’t. Does that make them stupid? No. Does that make it your fault? Definitely not. It doesn’t mean anything about the person or about you. It’s just that, for whatever reason, your book didn’t click with them. As frustrating as that sounds, it happens. You can’t stop it. It’s a part of all arts.
It happens in less black-and-white ways, too. Maybe some people will get your book but absolutely hate your main character, or think your plot is way too predictable, or some combination of things. Maybe they’ll love your main character but think the love interest is a terrible match for him or her. Everyone experiences books differently, which means everyone will develop their own opinions on it. Oftentimes, however, those opinions reflect more on the reader than they do on your book.
Honestly, I think that right there is the hardest part of the publishing process to grasp. When you’re as much of a perfectionist as I am, you really hate the idea that not everyone is going to love your book. I mean, this definitely isn’t news to anyone. You’ve heard it before and you know it happens. But still… a part of you kind of hopes you’ll be the exception, you know? That almost everyone will love your book?
The truth is, though, there really aren’t exceptions. The Fault In Our Stars, for example, is one of the highest rated book with over 100,000 ratings on Goodreads and it still has tons of one-star reviews. I’m sure, if John Green were an unknown writer who was querying it as his first book, it would’ve been rejected tons of times as well.
If you’re querying, you will get rejections. If you send your book to 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 have to relinquish control and not let the rejection get to you. But even with all that negativity, the beautiful thing about art is that the reverse is also true:
If you’re querying, you will get full requests and agents who believe in your book. If you’re sending your book to friends, you’ll get plenty of people who love every bit of it. If you publish your book, you’ll get gushing reviews from fans.
It’s that annoyingly simple.
So how do you apply all this?
First, don’t let a few rejections get to you. I know, people say that all the time, but if writing is an art and everyone’s experience is different, then obviously some people won’t like what you’ve written, while others feel indifferent, while others absolutely LOVE it. You should take the time to consider the rejection and see if there’s something in your story that needs to be improved, yes, but you should keep writing until you find those people who absolutely LOVE it. As I said before: sometimes, you just have to relinquish control. If you believe in your book and you have people behind you who believe in it, that’s all that counts. Keep at it.
Similarly, when you get rejected on your full or partial manuscripts, a lot of time agents will give feedback. I think this is incredibly generous of the agent and it’s important to take the time to consider their feedback and how it would fit into the story. However, remember that they might not get your story, and their opinions could hurt more than it helps it. So, mull over their thoughts. Tell some of your critique partners and beta readers to see if they agree. But ultimately, do what YOU think. Don’t make changes to your book or blog ever just because someone suggested you do it; make changes because they resonate with you.
Another reason to remember the “it’s not you, it’s me” phrase? It shows up everywhere. Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to like your book, your blog, and as frustrating as that is to hear, it’s just one of those things you can’t control. The sooner you face it, the better, because for every person who doesn’t like your book or blog? There will be five more who absolutely adore it. Write to those people. Write for your fans.
To summarize: rejection happens. It’s a part of everything, but don’t let it get to you. Instead of feeling down, go reread that email from the beta who loved your book. Yes, sometimes, rejection is as simple as the book not being there yet, but that is far from always the case. Don’t automatically assume it’s your book; think about it, ask your critique partners, and remember that sometimes, it isn’t you.
It isn’t always black-and-white.
P.S. I’m really sorry I’ve been so behind on blogging lately, guys! I keep trying to get back into it—I miss you all—but I can never seem to sit down and write a whole post anymore. I have several unfinished drafts, but I haven’t had the drive to write a whole one until now. Hopefully after this post I’ll start to get back into it, though, because I really want to blog more. However, if you have certain topics you want me to talk about, ideas might help get me started.