It’s here! The January 2014 blog chain is here! (See here for more info on what this whole thing is about.) As always, I’ll post a schedule on the blog chain page on January 3rd. The chain itself will begin January 5th.
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?”
FWIW, as far as “what would the book be about?” is concerned, it can be as vague or as specific as you like. You don’t need to write out a whole blurb (but you’re welcome to if you’d like!), or if you don’t feel like coming up with an idea for what the book is about at all, feel free to talk about why you’d choose that author instead. Really, this is a prompt you can be flexible with.
If you want to join in, comment below with a link to your blog and any dates you’d like to post on. Thanks!
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.
Ladies, gentlemen, and all variations thereupon, we are delighted to announce that the Teens Can Write Too! blog chain is back for December 2013!
After granting me posting privileges, John told me that I was free to do whatever I wanted – a statement he may regret in the future. In the meantime, however, I shall temporarily curtail my plans for world domination (teen writers are a crucial part in this particular strategy, but I can’t go into details or somebody will try and stop me), and restrict myself to organising the blog chain for December.
For those who don’t know me, my name is Miriam Joy. I blog at Miriam Joy Writes; I also took over from John as Iron Man over at YAvengers, suggesting that slowly but surely I am turning into him*; I’m the co-author of a book called St Mallory’s Forever; and I have a slight obsession with mythology and dead languages. It’s delightful to meet you. I hope you’re all well, and ready for a new prompt.
We all wish we could enter fictional worlds sometimes. For some of us, we’re still waiting for our Hogwarts letter, or we’re not sure why we haven’t been recruited by SHIELD to join the Avengers Initiative. Others are convinced they have what it takes to win the Hunger Games or get through their faction training. When I was nine or ten, I tried repeatedly to read myself into a book like Meggie from Inkheart.
And so your prompt is this:
Which fictional world would you most like to be a part of, and what role do you think you would fulfil within it?
How would you make your living? Would you even survive? Don’t feel that you have to stick to jobs outlined canonically in the books – use your imagination about who else might exist in this society.
To sign up for the blog chain, leave your name / blog URL in the comments below and let us know which dates you prefer. The blog chain will start in the first week of December, though if we have too many participants, some may have to double up on days.
I look forward to reading your responses to this prompt!
*I just received a Facebook message from John:
maybe I am secretly becoming you too
you just don’t know it yet
I am now slightly concerned.
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.