Good evening twifties!
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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.
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!
Imagine this. You are at the racetrack and two horses come out. Both look exactly the same. Same size same gait same everything. For the sake of argument lets say that they are genetically modified clones of each other. The announcer comes up and labels the first as Bandit’s creed and the second as Slow and Steady. This announcer tells you nothing else but his name but you’re already building conclusions. You will be one of two camps. You will either go for Bandit’s creed assuming that he is the fastest thing since overnight express mail or you will remember the old story of the tortoise and the hare and give Slow and Steady a chance. Without knowing anything about them you have formed a judgement on them. Now in reality horse racing is far more sophisticated but none the less a great deal of betting revolves around the name.
This is an asset that can be used to give your reader an immediate gut feeling about the character. Think about star wars. Say Jabba the hut and my mind thinks large, bubbly, and gross. Hear the name Han Solo and I think about a guy who is an individual who always follows his own way (at least initially).
You could use this phenomenon to your advantage in the opposite way. You could reverse it you it as a way to trick the reader. Remember in Buffy when we were introduced to a vampire called Angel? The reader wonders is this guy a good guy or a bad guy and you immediately have them hooked.
But names alsp clue the reader into so much more, ethnicity age, date of birth, or surprise the readers when they learn their actual data. It’s all about hooking people and getting them to think that a character will behave a certain way before ripping up their preconceptions and keeping them riveted the whole way through.
Now far be it for me to tell you that a name will be the be all or end all for a book. But next time you go through your manuscript looking at your characters names ask yourself are you using the names pre-conceptions to its greatest advantage.
So Twfities and loyal readers… How do you choose names for your characters??
When it comes to the Young Adult genre, language is important. In a book, you can’t have a teen talking like a 30-old-year-old woman, just like you can’t have a 30-year-old woman talking like a teen. It’s weird. So you have to use the right teen wordage – otherwise, it doesn’t sound authentic. As an example:
What? Oh, my god. Seriously? Crap. Yeah, I’m pretty much screwed. Life is, like… lame.
Let’s see how these words can transform a piece of literature into a truly great piece of YA literature.
It was pretty much the worst time ever and, yeah, the best time ever, it was like an age of wisdom, but everyone was stupid, it was the epoch of belief, but it didn’t make any sense, life was great, life was lame, everything was totally perfect, everything was made of crap, and oh my God, it was seriously screwed up.
True, I’m exaggerating here. Do teens really talk like that in everyday life? Most of us skew towards the more adult side of the spectrum. Ever-hyper narration can get annoying.
Nonetheless, experiment with inserting some verbiage like this into your writing if you don’t already. Especially with contemporary, a casual phrasing here or there (or everywhere, if that’s your style) is great. As long as you don’t overdose, yeah – it helps with nailing down the teenage voice, an area in which even teenage writers sometimes encounter problems.
Pretty much, you gotta like, get this lame thing. Seriously, right? What do you think?
Tags: typing, Writing
We’re living in the technological age, where everything is computerised and everything pretty much grinds to a halt if that technology fails or there’s a power cut. It seems technology has become a big part of the publishing world, too: e-books, agent blogs, facebook and twitter, writing forums. But when it comes to the actual writing – BIC (Butt In Chair), pounding out the words – time, what do you prefer? Typing your masterpiece, or sitting down old-style with a pad of paper and pen?
I’m really interested. Are teens more likely to use the computer, or does it depend on personal preference? Personally, I think it’s all about what works best for you. For me, typing is almost always my preference. I type faster than I handwrite most of the time, and I can barely read my own handwriting at the best of times. I also find the words flow much better when I sit in front of my laptop. Sure, the temptation to self-edit is always there, but I just have to make sure I don’t angrily delete any words when it feels like it’s all going wrong. There’s also the plus that it’s easier to edit once you’re done if it’s typed, and easier to print or email to betas/agents/publishers/random friends who bug you for excerpts etc.
I can see the benefits to handwriting novels too, though – although if you handwrite the whole novel you’re almost definitely going to have to type it all up at some point, which adds time onto the whole process. Handwriting is great for focused, no-distractions writing – the problem with using a computer is that old evil The Internet. It’s ever-so-tempting to just check up on facebook/twitter/absolute write/wordpress etc – I’m definitely living proof of that. With a pen and paper it’s much harder to be distracted. It’s also often more versatile – it’s easier to take a pen and paper on a train, to write on it during your lunch break, to take it on long car journeys (those where you’re a passenger, not the driver, of course.)
So, those are generally the two options for those who are crazy enough to decide to write a novel. (I’m going to class using a typewriter as being typed…although it’s kind of like handwriting since the temptation of the internet isn’t there.) But which do you prefer – and what are your reasons? I’m sure I haven’t covered them all in this rambling post – which, for the record, I typed rather than handwrote – so maybe comment and let us all know. You never know, you might persuade someone to try the other method!
Now, I know some of you have been looking forward to a review of We All Fall Down for this month’s book club post. Perhaps a Twifty will post one in the review section of this site soon. But for this post I thought we should instead take a moment to remember the author.
Robert Cormier, born in Leominster, Mass., once described himself as “a skinny kid living in a ghetto-type neighborhood wanting the world to know that I existed.” For writers like us, getting the world to know we exist is pretty darn important, but I don’t think anyone should take Cormier’s quote and think that is all writers desire. There is power in the story that is stuck in your head, stories like We All Fall Down, an edgy read that leaves nothing out in pursuit of telling the story Cormier imagined. Sometimes, there is nothing we can do but let that out on the page. And very few of us do it as well as Cormier.
As to why he tunneled this energy into young adult fiction? He wanted to show us the “strength of young adults—their resilience, their ability to absorb the blows teenage life delivers.”
Mr. Cormier died on November 2, 2000, but he’ll be forever remembered by young adult writers everywhere.
On the lighter side, some things you might not know:
He wrote a book called “I Am The Cheese” and thus wins Race’s award for most fantabulous book title.
The Chocolate War, one of his most beloved books, has a sequel, called Beyond the Chocolate War.
When you try to Google his name and first start to type “Ro…” Google Chrome immediately assumes you want to search for rotten tomatoes.
Now, this is a book club post and when you end your moment of silence for Robert Cormier take a look at this book down here. I know for a fact is it a popular read and I hope you all have fun with it. Look for the next book club post near the beginning of March!
The Book Thief.
Quotes and info taken from: site.
I have been there, done that and have a horrible book as proof.
Purple Prose: a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes-entire literary works, written in prose as overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to it.
Experimenting, and dare I say it, having fun with prose is fun. We all love the good metaphor, simile, and those random sprinkles of pathetic fallacy.
Sometimes it can truly make a book stand out. The words are so beautiful, the sentences are so amazingly crafted that it stays with you long after your read the last page. The words have made an impact on you.
But, there is a line. A very fine line that can be easily crossed. A line that separates effective prose from purple prose.
When you crossed the lines, the words begin to fail you.
Here is an example from the winner of of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which honors bad writing:
Nigel lifted his Mont Blanc pen and held it in brief repose as he gazed past the conflagrative crackling of the fire in the hearth, through the triple-plate bay window, watching the incandescence of the twinkling stars like the detonation of a million flashbulbs, and the preponderance of frothy snowflakes blanketing the earth as creamily as marshmallow fluff, then, refreshed and inspired, he began to compose his annual Christmas form letter
I’m swimming in a sea of clichés, adverbs, adjectives, and awful similes. That whole paragraph, describing a character about to write a Christmas Letter. Nothing else actually happened! This just drags on, and most of the description is so unnecessary.
Flex your writing fingers and dabble in some prose fun. But, don’t get carried away, or try to show off. You are a storyteller; prose helps you tell your story in an interesting way.
Don’t ruin that.