Good evening twifties!
This site is now closed, but don’t worry! We haven’t left the internet completely, we’ve just moved to a new site.
Visit us at http://www.teenswritingforteens.co.nr ! Our new blog is teenswritingforteens.blogspot.com.
Tags: intrinsic motivation
As teenage writers, we have to deal with another obligation other writers don’t have to deal with as much: college. And our futures. How can one possibly find time to write when there are other issues like having a life, getting straight A’s, and completing activities that boost one’s impressiveness to admissions counselors?
Hey, don’t give up on writing just yet. The simple fact of it all is: colleges want to see your passion. If writing is your passion, stick with it! And besides, it can help your academic standing as well. I’ve listed some practical, real-life examples that could also further your acumen as a writer.
- Milk the CR/Writing portions of the SAT. These two sections were my biggest point-getters; math was my downfall. Still, you have that smug sense of superiority when you see the brainy math children struggle with the nuances of the English language. These reading and writing sections count for 2/3 of the test, after all!
- Self-study for the AP Lang/Lit tests. Your school doesn’t offer the class? Take matters into your own hands. Buy a few study guides, look them over during winter break, and talk to your counselor about ordering the tests in January, once you get back. The tests themselves are not hard if you’re naturally a good writer and voracious reader; AP English isn’t a class that needs to be taught as much as, say, AP Chemistry. It does cost money to take the test (some schools offer it for free—I know mine did), but getting a 5 and letting colleges see your intrinsic motivation is priceless.
- Become a leader and a writer. Does your school have a newspaper? A literary magazine? A yearbook? Get involved! If it’s too late in the year, ask about writing freelance. There’s always next year to apply for a staff position, and by then, the adviser will have built a good impression of you. You have a definite advantage over your peers when cranking it up for deadlines, soliciting businesses for ads (hey, you’ve been selling yourself in query letters, haven’t you?), and writing tight, informative articles. You’re already ahead of the learning curve, so it’s time to shine. Oh—and if your leadership helps your publication win competitions, all the more power to you.
- Look for writing-related internships or jobs. Some papers hire teens to do freelance reporting. Others print a mini-newspaper written by teens, for teens. A few even look for contributors to neighborhood-themed blogs. Thanks to the convenience of technology, you can often update a blog from the comfort of your own home. When you take the ten or fifteen hours a week that you once devoted to mindlessly scrolling on Facebook and put it towards something useful, you can see results that’ll help you get into college.
- Don’t give up! Colleges like to see you stick with a hobby—so even if agents didn’t like your first manuscript, don’t give up on writing entirely. Do what you can to build up your resume while staying involved, even if that means writing short stories or poems. Who knows? Winning a prestigious award would be a great way to demonstrate your skill. And if all else fails, self-publishing doesn’t hurt either; I know a girl who self-published a book and put that on her resume. Hey, though it might not count for anything in the literary world, it’s still something.
I recently got to interview Kaleb Nation, author of BRAN HAMBRIC: THE FARFIELD CURSE. Synopsis: Bran Hambric was found locked in a bank vault at six years old, with no memory of his past. For years, he has lived with one of the bankers, wondering why he was left behind — until one night, when he is fourteen, he is suddenly confronted by a maddened creature, speaking of Bran’s true past and trying to kidnap him.
Bran finds that he is at the center of a plot which started years before he was even born: the plot of a deadly curse his mother created…and one that her former masters are hunting for him to complete.
Haunted by the spirit of his mother’s master and living in a city where magic is illegal, Bran must undo the crimes of his past…before it is too late.
TWFT: BRAN HAMBRIC started out as an idea you came up with on March 3rd, 2003 as a teen. Did you ever think that in 6 years the book would be on the shelves of actual bookstores?
I had absolutely no clue all of this would happen! I think back then I was writing in the hopes of being published, but it seemed so far-fetched that it was just my big dream at the time. I’m still in a bit of shock that my story will be a real book.
TWFT: When you told your family that your book was going to be published, how did they react? (Did you hug your mother for making you write a page a week as a child?)
I remember calling my family on the phone about one minute before my next class was going to start. I had to whisper because the professor was already walking up to the mic. My parents and siblings were really excited for sure, because they’d already read parts of the book many times!
TWFT: Your younger brother Jaden is also doing some writing—have you two ever thought of a Nation Brothers collaboration?
Jaden and I literally grew up in the same room, shared bunk beds, and would write nearly every day with our desks each facing opposite walls. Still, we never collaborated on any writing projects! We bounced plenty of ideas off of each other, and after I moved out for college, we did a bit of an email-chain story, but that was it. So it would be great to work with him somehow in the future (or, go on tour together?).
TWFT: How has your Twilight Guy website affected your publication process? Has it made it more difficult to juggle your book and the Twilight fandom, or have the Twilight fans really gotten behind Bran Hambric?
The Twilight fandom has been a HUGE help with Bran Hambric. The book wouldn’t be nearly as well-known if not for all the great people who run the Twilight fansites and help spread the word about what I do. It’s been difficult juggling two fandoms, to be sure, but Twilighters have been awesome friends throughout the whole process.
TWFT: On top of Twilight Guy, the Kaleb Nation site, and the Bran Hambric site, you also post regular YouTube videos and BlogTV shows and tweet daily. What do you do in your free time?
I think my free time IS YouTube and BlogTV! I have a lot of fun with those. I also love doing photography and making music, so that’s something I’ll for sure be doing more of in the coming months.
TWFT: Speaking of BlogTV, let’s just throw this out there: there’s a she-wolf in your closet; what do you do?
Let it out so it can BREATHE!
TWFT: What’s your best advice for teens who dream of publishing a book?
Keep writing, and write a story that you enjoy reading! I can’t even count how many dreary days I went through while writing this book. When you’re 14 or 15 you have very little hope of being published one day, because there are thousands of other hopeful writers out there competing with you, most of whom are professional adults who know far more than you do about the business of publishing. This is why you really need to write a story that you love so much, you don’t even think about all the odds against you. Loving what you write is very important!
TWFT: Now, in closing of this interview, the traditional TWFT question! This may feel like choosing between your favorite gnomes, but what is your favorite flavor of jellybeans?
You can read the first four chapters of BRAN HAMBRIC: THE FARFIELD CURSE here at Kaleb’s site, and check for updates via Kaleb’s Twitter, Youtube channel, or BranHambric.com
How does someone write a post like this? There are a million ways to try to convey the excitement. But I guess in the end the only way is the simple way, to just type out the words:
I am now represented by a literary agent. Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.
Now the above was my pathetic attempt to sound professional. I will now just tell you guys the story without any kind of pretense because you’ve known me too long to think I actually think like that.
I started my writing career with a story about a princess, locked away in a tower, waiting to be rescued. I was in second grade, and I added a few illustrations, folded the pieces of paper to open like a book, and proudly presented my novel to be read to everyone I could wrangle into listening. I never did get around to writing the “sequel” I had planned.
The Virginity Thief came after a few more attempts, some of which came with query attempts, as well. I brought characters to life, killed some, weaved some good plots and some bad; all until I got Mari Abdo’s voice in my head and I just couldn’t get it out. I knew I needed a plot worthy of Mari, and VT was born when I was 18 years old.
I started querying VT mid-January. I got a lot of rejections and a few requests, but in the end it wasn’t a query that got me an agent. Special thanks goes to Karla Calalang for this. Natalie Fischer joined AbsoluteWrite just as my novel was in the end of revision stages and I was to start querying. She was interested in Karla’s work and also in the work of any friends whose names Karla thought to pass on. At the same time, I got Karla in on an interview with Natalie for TWFT (read the interview here). It was a great interview and I learned a lot about the woman who would eventually be my agent.
Natalie found herself at my blog. She read VT’s description and asked me for the first 50 pages. I was ecstatic, and even more ecstatic when she sent me an e-mail a week later asking for the full. A week more and she told me she loved my novel (what wonderful words!) but needed a second opinion from a fellow Sandra Dijkstra agent to fulfill the agency’s check and balance requirements. Those were the toughest 2 days in my writing history. If anyone knows me, they know I am the most impatient writer alive. But then she sent me editing suggestions and told me if all went well, she’d love to represent me. Within a week I sent in my edited version and, today, officially signed with the agency.
I want to thank all my amazing Twifty and Oldies friends. Without you guys I would never have made it this far. To those of you reading this post who have yet to join AW, do so. It really is a fabulous site where you’ll get to meet people that will be an immense help to your writing.
And also, put yourself out there. I would never have gotten interest from Natalie if I hadn’t approached her for an interview and made sure I had a manuscript “blurb” on my blog. Don’t be afraid to share your story idea at the query stage!
And with that I’ll end this post.
Just one more… SQUEE.
Tags: new ideas, random, Writing
Many people like to write a plan before starting a novel. This has its many benefits, like you have less chance of ending up with untied ends and confusion in plot muddling. There are, however, some more rebellious subjects among the writing nation (including moi) who are either too impatient (me), work better without a plan, or just like to ‘go with the flow’. Many who have gone without a plan know that it most probably will take more drafts to create a flawless draft this way.
However, there are more extreme aspects than just ‘winging it’ altogether. How about if you went through a whole novel never knowing what the ending would be, what would happen in the middle or who the person in question would meet along their journey? I know – it sounds über-scary to me, too, but wouldn’t it just be darn awesome to see what it would end up like?
That is why I propose an idea for the whole concept of novel writing altogether, or just as a writing excercise: forget the page-by-page-plan, forget the random musings you thought would be a good idea earlier, forget that you have an urge to give a character a shiny new Mini Cooper. Start not knowing anything at all.
What I think would be a good idea is that, before writing a novel, you get so many people to write down characters/plot points, or just even single nouns on their own. If everyone writes an idea down on a slip of paper, you can pick a piece out one-by-one, and include each point as they are chosen.
The outcome? Well, it could go either way:you could end up with a best-selling, most unique novel of all time, or you could end up with a load of garbage. The main point is that it breaks you out of a routine – it makes you broaden your horizons to new ideas.
So, bloggers – are you ready for the Spontaneous Novel challenge?
So my schedule this semester rocks. I’m taking two English classes – Myths of Britain and Intermediate Fiction I – an Arabic class that is turning out to be way cooler than I thought it was going to be, and my very last general curriculum requirements. It makes me ecstatic. Because after this semester (or so the hope goes) the only classes that I will be taking are classes that I want to take and am not required to take. I will be filling up my mind with all these lovely things that I want to fill my mind up with. Like I said – it makes me ecstatic.
But something about my creative writing class hasn’t been sitting well with me for the last couple of classes. I couldn’t figure it out, not for the life of me. My professor is pretty kick ass, my classmates are pretty amazing. There is nothing wrong with this class.
Except, you know, writers are snobs.
Now, before you all jump on me with all kinds of indignant shouts and protests, let me finish! Or correct myself. Writers have a reputation of being absolute snobs. When a person who is not a writer thinks of a writer, they imagine the starving artist, the person who has a superior insight into the human condition, the person who has been gifted by some divine light to put life on a page for all (or some) people to view with a renewed sense of being.
But I’m a writer, and I certainly am not any of those things. I have a talent (maybe) but I practice, a lot. I read, a lot. And I don’t think I have a superior insight into anything. I write what I know, what I feel and what I learn. I write what I imagine, what I fantasize and what I imagine other people fantasize. And I don’t like being put into a category that is elitist and snobby.
And that’s what bothers me most about this class. Because, accidentally (or purposely), the professor and my classmates have put themselves up on a pedestal. They have decreed (yes, it is a strong word) that they and their writing colleagues and better, in some form or another, than the common man. And that doesn’t sit well with me.
Do you guys ever feel that way? Am I weird to feel this way? Please – do tell!
Posted by Sumayyah (Cross posted to The Raven Desk)
Today we are happy to have the fantastic Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency with us to answer a few questions! Enjoy the interview, guys.
TWFT: What factors played into your decision to be a literary agent? Had it always been an interest of yours?
NF: I’d originally set out to be a writer! I started writing middle grade novels when I was eleven, bought Jeff Herman’s Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents, and started sending off (horrible) queries. By the time I was fourteen, I had my first contract with a Literary Agency(which didn’t pan out, but was great experience!), and had decided that there was no other world for me than the publishing one. So, if I couldn’t write…I would sell!
Starting so young, and receiving so many rejections of my own, has given me such wonderful insight to the entire process writers go through. When I see a submission, I see it not just through my eyes, but through the writer’s as well. Because of this, I will always hold a soft spot for new authors, and will always want to be as helpful as possible no matter what my final decision may be!
TWFT: How important is a perfect query in the publishing industry? How often do you personally read “perfect” queries?
NF: I don’t think this “perfect query” exists. There are certainly better ways to write one (our Facebook site gives a solid template), but no matter how well it is written, if the agent reading isn’t looking for something in that genre, it’ll be a pass. The reverse is also true; I’ve requested manuscripts from some horribly butchered queries if I saw promise in them.
I’d say I get a good query every 60 submissions. But I’ve requested up to fifteen from those 60. In short, the perfect query isn’t the most important part; doing your homework on agents (finding which are really a perfect fit), and having good writing and a solid story are. (Our agency requests the first 50 pages for this very reason. If we see even one line we like in a query, we’ll see if the writing hooks us.)
TWFT: There is a debate about mentioning one’s age in a query. Do you prefer to see the age of prospective clients in a query letter, especially if they are teenagers?
NF: Absolutely. This is a personal preference, however; as I mentioned above, I started querying on my own at such a young age, that whenever I see a teenager writing me, it makes me WANT to love their work!
Interesting to know your opinion!
TWFT: Do you look for anything specific in projects you may choose to represent?
NF: I look for what I’m interested in (I’m very specific in my bio on AW!). But past that, it’s really if the story “clicks” with me, which is impossible to predict. Romantic, historic, and more fantastical projects do have a tendency to “click” with me the most…
TWFT: Why would you choose a young adult project? What attraction do you have for teen fiction?
NF: I love to read it. I find it largely underestimated by many adults, which is a shame, because the young adult genre is just as dynamic and engaging as the adult. YA books have the potential to inspire, haunt, and influence more than any book I’ve read as an adult, and I love this aspect. I want to help bring the current generation the books they’ll remember so lovingly later in life.
Also, the people in the Children’s Lit side of publishing are just so friendly…
TWFT: What would you tell a teenager who asked you for advice on how to break into the industry?
NF: It would depend if the teenager wanted to write or go into publishing.
For writing, I would tell them to read as much as they can in their writing genre, read all the tips they can get their hands on on grammar, style, and how to format submissions, and get as much feedback from RELIABLE readers as possible — moms just don’t count – and NEVER GIVE UP. No matter how many rejections pour in, keep writing books, keep perfecting your style and talent, and you WILL succeed.
For publishing, the best way to break in is to intern. Start with editing a school (or college) newspaper or magazine, then see if there are any literary agencies or small presses in your area that would be willing to have an intern around. Most publishing internships are unpaid, but this is definitely not a get-rich-quick kind of business. It takes years to build the kind of connections and knowledge you’ll need, so start where you can!
Great advice! Listen to her, guys!
TWFT: Are there any authors not represented by your agency that you wish you could work with?
NF: None come to mind. There are many, many authors I love (far too many to even try to list), but the first thing that really comes to mind for this question is: new, talented authors incredibly open to suggestion and willing to keep working with me, no matter how long it takes…
TWFT: On your AbsoluteWrite profile, you say that “most people don’t know” you are a writer yourself. Did you ever have thoughts of writing a novel of your own?
NF: I think I answered this one above…yes! But I’m so incredibly dedicated to my clients, I just don’t see how I would find the time…I suppose I satisfy my writing urges by being so involved with the projects I take on.
Can’t argue with that, but let us just say the industry is missing a fantastic addition.
And TWFT’s official interview question: What is your favorite jelly bean flavor?
NF: Oh man…can I have two? Tutti Fruti and Bubble Gum. And Rootbeer. And Cinnamon. And yes, Black Licorice.
Thanks a bunch for the interview, Natalie!
It happens to me all the time.
I’ll be writing away, happy as a clam, and all of a sudden Character A, who’s really only a minor character, will waltz in and dump enough backstory on me to write a book.
Which, of course, is exactly what I’m doing. I’m just not writing that book.
Even though that book sounds pretty darn interesting.
And that thing they just told me does sort of relate to something in the current story, and it is really a cool tidbit of information, and it wouldn’t be too hard to just mention – STOP.
Step away from the keyboard.
Is that really relevant? Does the reader really need to know that Minor Character A had a pet rock named Angus?
No, they probably don’t.
Maybe this is just me, but I constantly have to remind myself that certain scenes and/or conversations may be superfluous. They add to my already-astronomical word count and no matter how interesting they may be, they don’t really do much to advance the plot.
Of course, backstory is all well and good when presented properly. When dealing with an MC or another major character (like the LI), revealing a bit of the character’s backstory can be good for the book. But when minor characters start inundating us with their life stories, things get bogged down. And when things get bogged down, readers get bored.
So, I have developed a list of rules to keep myself from plumping up my word count any more than I already do.
- I shall have two* and only two major characters**. If the character who is telling me about the time they stuck a bead up their nose in preschool is not one of those two characters, then what they are telling me should probably not be included in the story. Even if the bead-in-nose story had a really funny ending.
- If the bead-in-nose story does belong to one of my major characters I will still think carefully before including it because it may so happen that it is still irrelevant and not entertaining enough to warrant the page space. Signs that it is relevant include the event providing some explanation as to why something in the current story is the way it is, and/or having had a longstanding effect and thereby contributing to the character’s current mental state/personality/character traits. (i.e. character’s severe phobia of things entering his/her nasal region)
- The only time a minor character’s backstory may be mentioned is when it directly relates to and/or affects the course of the plot. (i.e. When Minor Character D can ever-so-conveniently pick the lock on the dungeon door at a crucial point in time*** because her parents were locksmiths, it is acceptable and even advisable to have mentioned this previously via some witty anecdote or amusing scenario.)
- If the backstory is irresistibly interesting and the character it belongs to absolutely will not shut up, I will write it down in a separate document and save it there. This way my character(s) will hopefully be happy and I will have their backstories stashed away in case I ever need to refer to them.
* Adjust this number to suit each individual book
** Major characters are characters who are present and active for at least 75%**** of the story.
*** Disclaimer: having a minor character save the day at a crucial point in time may not be the best way to go about things, plot-wise.
**** I made that number up.
And that’s it. Hopefully I’m not the only one who ever has this problem. :)
– Becca Cooper (AKA Elusive)