Monday, December 18, 2017

Highlights from 2017

Stephanie here. I can hardly believe this is the last post for 2017! Go Teen Writers will be back on Monday, January 8th, 2018.

Thank you everyone who filled out the survey! Jill, Shannon, and I will look over and talk about all the feedback while we discuss our plan for 2018. And I'll send out an email to the critique winners later today!

In case you missed them, here are some highlights from 2017, and we look forward to writing with you next year!

How To Write Characters Who Are Different From Each Other

Too Long, Too Short: A Closer Look At Getting Your Manuscript To The Right Length

What To Do When You Can't Let Go Of The Story Of Your Heart

Sibling Relationships

How To Make Your Setting Come Alive in Edits

Two Ways To Tackle a Major Rewrite

Dealing with Genre Expectations

How to Respect Your Reader

How Do You Know When Your Book Is Done?

When To Start Marketing When You're Unpublished

The Power of Routine

How To Deal With Hard Seasons As A Writer

10 Ways To Increase Your Productivity

Endings As Beginnings

Writing Goals and the Clarity That Comes From Having Them

Books in the Public Domain (that writers can play with!)

Starting Where Tolkein Started

Creating More Than Just A Story

2 Ways to Be Sure Your Scene Really Matters

Scene Transitions

Why You Need to Step Away from Your Manuscript

The Three Rules For Creating Art That Matters

Thanks for a great year! See y'all in January!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Writing Exercise #21: Winning in 2017

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes novels. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and an affinity for mentoring teen writers. Since 2013, Shannon has taught mentoring tracks at a local school where she provides junior high and high school students with an introduction to writing and the publishing industry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Next month, many of us will set goals for 2018. We'll use fancy words like 'resolution' to show our friends and family just how serious we are about losing five pounds or finishing a book or taking down the Christmas lights.

In truth, I'm not overly big on resolutions. I set goals, but I'm kind to myself and I let things slide if life happens and things of higher priority need to be addressed. But something I try to do every December is remember.

When the end of the year rolls around, I like to look back and take stock of where I've been and what I've done. The moments that surprised me. The days that went just as they should have. The weeks that, well, didn't. And though I like to think back on every area of my life--I've found these December reminiscing sessions can be particularly helpful where my writing career is concerned.

It's far too easy to reach the end of the year and despair of all you didn't get done. To wish you'd made it farther down the road. To mourn a rejection or a failed project. The negative feelings about all the things that didn't happen this year can overwhelm the truth of what you DID accomplish. And despair is no way to close one season and open another.

So today, for your final writing exercise of 2017, I want you to make a list. Only this one won't be for Santa. It will be for you. To remind you that you did stuff that mattered this year. You grew yourself and your writing. You filled your head with stories that will forever change your voice. You embarked on adventures and are all the wiser for it. You closeted yourself away when necessary, to think, to be, to write.

Whatever it is you've done that has furthered your writing career/hobby/experiment--add it to the list. Every positive moment. Every win. Jot it down. Use the comments section here, okay? So we can all celebrate with you. And then come back throughout the weekend to cheer on your friends. 2017 was a difficult year for many of us. We need one another. Never forget how important your encouragement is to other writers.

Why don't I start? I'll leave my list here for you all. Perhaps it will remind you of some accomplishment you've forgotten.

Finished and edited and polished a manuscript.
Wrote nearly 50 blog posts.
Taught a ten-week mentoring class for jr high and high school students.
Taught my first teen track at a writing conference.
Took my first solo road trip in over a decade.
Met with my agent in person.
Attended five book signings.
Deepened relationships with my local writer friends.
Explored the Lost Coast.
Got better at writing outside my own office.
Grew my Instagram following.
Recorded my first video blogs for Go Teen Writers.
Go Teen Writers was listed as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writers Digest.
Expanded my podcast listening repertoire.
Coordinated a couple Go Teen Writers Instagram challenges.
Had new headshots taken.
Built a new author website.
Learned that the rights to my second book, Broken Wings, sold in Poland.
Upped my book purchasing game--one way I support authors and the industry.
AND, I read more books this year than I did last year--which is saying something because the first quarter of 2017 was murder on my reading life.

 Now, it's your turn! Make a list and check it twice. It'd be a bummer to leave off a win.

REMEMBER! When you participate in our writing exercises you can enter to win an opportunity to ask Jill, Steph and me a question for one of our upcoming writing panels. Once you leave your response to the writing prompt in the comments section, use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Next week, Rafflecopter will select one winner and we'll contact you for your question via email. Happy writing, friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The "Meet Cute" aka Boy Meets Girl--My Top Five YA Fiction Moments

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She had a podcast/vlog at You can also find Jill on InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

The meet cute. This is a Hollywood term for when a future romantic couple meets for the first time. It can apply to friendships as well, but this is a must-have moment in the romantic comedy genre and in any romance story. My new WIP has a romance thread, so I've spent the last few days working hard on that meet cute moment, trying to get it just right.

The options are pretty much endless for how you can engineer this first encounter. Some common tropes involve:

-A mistaken identity like in the movie Ever After when Danielle thinks the prince is a horse thief and pelts him with apples and a tongue lashing.

-Incorrect assumptions of character like with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

-A bad first impression like in Bringing Up Baby when Katherine Hepburn's character continually annoys and eventually begins to stalk Carey Grant's character until he can't help but love her. Or how Buddy annoys Jovie in Elf. She says, "Go away," and he just keeps talking.

-Making the attraction obvious like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Toula can't stop staring at Ian. This scene always makes me laugh, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Here are my top five meet cute scenes from the YA books on my shelves:

5. Prince Haegan and Thiel from Ronie Kendig's Embers. After crippled Haegan's sister makes a pact to switch places with him, he flees the castle with working legs. As guards are chasing him through tunnels beneath the castle, he collides with someone. This person helps him up and propels him along with a small group of others, all running from the guards chasing Haegan. This person turns out to be Thiel, the leader of a ragtag group of commoners and a girl and . . . so much more. (But I can't say. Because spoilers.)

4. Princess Alia and Prince Wron from The Piano Girl by Sherri Schoenborn Murray. Princess Alia has been trying to reach the kingdom of her betrothed, but on her journey, she catches the swamp pox, which makes her face hideous. To make matters worse, she gets put into prison for hunting on the king's land. While she is in the dungeon, Prince Wron comes down to question her about her about another prisoner. They have their first conversation, and Prince Wron has no idea that he is speaking to his betrothed.

3. Marty and Abby from Replication. This is my book, but I can't help it. I've always loved this scene. Marty, a clone, has escaped from Jason Farms in the back of one of the doctor's pick-up trucks. This story takes place in Alaska in winter, and it's very cold outside. Marty sneaks into the house and into one of the rooms upstairs. Abby's room. She later comes in and finds him, and starts yelling at him. She thinks he is JD, a boy from her high school, and thinks that JD is playing a joke on her. Until JD calls her on her cell. Marty is not JD, but they do look identical.

2. Eleanor and Park from the book of the same name. Eleanor meets Park when she can't find a seat on school bus and everyone is waiting for her to sit down. The other students are so mean! And Park finally scoots in and tells her to sit with him. At the time, he thinks she's a total loser, but it's an "Awww" moment for Park as his compassion overrides his cool.

1. Katie Parker and Charlie Benson from In Between by Jenny B. Jones. They don't meet until the end of book one (their romance carries through the trilogy), but this is just about the best meet cute ever. Katie has been dragged along on another one of Mad Maxine's crazy adventures. (Mad Maxine is Katie's foster grandmother.) This time, Maxine has Katie up a tree, looking through the window of Trudy Marple's house, trying to find out if her boyfriend Sam is cheating with Trudy. Katie tells her Maxine that she sees Sam dancing . . . with a guy. Before the situation is fully understood, the tree branch Katie is perched on cracks, and she falls into the swimming pool. Maxine vanishes. Sam comes out and rescues Katie, drags her inside, where she finds out that Sam was here getting a dancing lesson from Trudy's grandson Charlie, a boy who attends Katie's high school. Ahh... So fun.

How about you? Do you have a favorite meet cute from a book or a movie? And if you're not into romance stories, how about a best friends meet cute, like how Harry and Ron met on the train or how Achan and Shung met while competing against each other in a short sword and shield match at tournament? Share your favorite in the comments. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Three Rules For Creating Art That Matters

Stephanie Morrill is the creator of and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink/HarperCollins). Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Instagram, and sign up for free books on her author website.

I don't often talk about my personal life on Go Teen Writers. Our focus here is always writing, and yet today is one of those days that I can't deny that my personal life and writing life are woven together. This fall, due to circumstances outside of writing, I've often felt drained and uninspired

Last week, when I confessed to my friend Roseanna that I was struggling to stay focused, she did that lovely thing that good friends do and validated how I was feeling. She told me, "That makes sense, considering..." And then began to list the circumstances that have surrounded me the last few months. My father has an aggressive and rare form of cancer that he's currently battling. I've been deeply disappointed by a close friend of mine. I've had a conflict with extended family that has kept me awake and crying at night. I have a two-year-old who's the size of a one-year-old, which has led to an appointment with a specialist in the next few days. And I have a book that's due to my editor in a few weeks. With all of the above sitting on my shoulders, it's been the hardest book I've ever written.

As Roseanna and I talked about our mutual lack of motivation right now, she said the old adage to both of us. "Butt in chair, and all that."

Rule One: Show up

Yes, I thought when she said that, I'm at least doing that. 

All semester long, when my family has been hit by one stressful situation after another, I have maintained my butt-in-chair discipline that's so crucial to creating. I have shown up.

Even when you don't feel like it. Even when it truly feels like your life is crashing around you, as mine has often felt these last few months, the discipline of just showing up every day will help you, as Shannon so beautiful put it, to create an author and not just a story.

But my bigger issue has come after I put my butt in the chair.

Rule Two: Be Authentic

I recently had the chance to visit  the Georgia O'Keefe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Georgia O'Keefe is famous for her paintings of large flowers and skullssometimes painted togetherbut I was surprised by many of her other subjects. Skylines of New York City, where she lived for a long time. Mount Fuji. Churches in the southwest. Views from airplanes. The inside of a tent, looking out.

Something struck me as I was there at the museum, and then again as I sat here at my computer thinking, "I'm too run down to put a blog post together." Georgia O'Keefe did not try to divorce her art from her life. Rather, her life informed her art. The art was created from the riches and trials of her life, not separate from it. When she was in the southwest or reminiscing about it, that was reflected in her art. Same as when she was in New York, or anywhere else.

Yet I have tried so hard to keep my messy, stressed-out self off the page, off the blog, and off social media.
I wanted to leave all that stuff outside my office door and create worlds that were independent of what I'm currently going through. Today I wanted to bring you neat, easy-to-follow, pinnable writing advice, but all I feel capable of right now is shrugging at you and saying, "I don't know either."

Last summer, a darling young writer put her copy of The Scorpio Races into my hands. "I would like your signature and your number one piece of writing advice."

I kinda froze, to be honest. Many other Big Deal writers had already signed the book, including Stiefvater herself. I wanted to write something really good, especially because I know and like this young writer, and she'd asked me to put my thoughts on the page there with other YA authors I love and admire. If I remember right, I wrote something about, "Follow your curiosity" which is advice from Elizabeth Gilbert.

I knew it was the wrong choice even as I wrote it, and I've thought about that moment many times since then. "Follow your curiosity" is fine writing advice, but it's not my number one. I mean, I hadn't heard it until this spring, and somehow I had managed to be a happy writer for over a decade, so how could it be number one?

If I could have that moment to do over again, I would write this in her book:

Show up.

Be authentic.

Repeat daily.

That's a recipe for creating art—for creating a lifethat matters. Not just showing up sometimes, or occasionally being authentic. But showing up faithfully, being authentic always, and repeating the process every stinking day.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Gift of Empathy

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes novels. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and an affinity for mentoring teen writers. Since 2013, Shannon has taught mentoring tracks at a local school where she provides junior high and high school students with an introduction to writing and the publishing industry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Writing accomplishes considerably more for authors than simply putting money in their pockets. In truth, for most writers, the money is more sporadic than you'd think and little more than icing on the cake. We write for more reasons that I can enumerate, but it boils down to this: we write because we can't not.

We'd love the hours spent at our computers to be more career and less hobby, but long before storytelling resembles a dependable money-making endeavor, dedicated writers are receiving gifts. Gifts that the writing itself imparts to the author.

No wrappings, no bows, nothing tangible to slip under the tree, but if you're working with any sort of consistency you might notice certain invisible attributes cropping up in your creative soul.

You begin to master things like people-watching, problem solving, impatience, procrastination, working when you don't feel like it, finishing what you start. I could go on and on--the disciplines that develop out of the daily grind are many and, strangely enough, they're treasures you dig out of your own chest.

Of all these hard-earned gems, the one I value most is empathy.

Reading has a way of developing this in us as well, but the act of creating a character, giving her a mind and a will, insecurities and faults, regrets and talents, a family history and a place in the world to inhabit--the time spent poring over and pouring into this creature can grow you.

The trick is to do it honestly.

Give your character dilemmas to solve, unsettled relationships, mountains to climb. In my own writing I've found that once I have the semblance of a character sculpted, certain things make sense for this character to do as she navigates her life and certain actions wouldn't make any sense at all.

On occasion, I'll get an email from a writer pal and it'll look like this (usually with a hint of panic attached):

So. I need my main character to poison her brother. But she loves her brother! Still, it has to happen. Only, why would she do that? Help! I need a reason.

And so we get to work. We begin to develop a motivation. Most likely this reason will change the character in fundamental ways. An adjustment that can be both difficult and helpful to the writer.  The lesson is this: there must be a reason for everything a character does.

Because there is certainly a reason for everything you and I do.

It's not always an intelligent reason or a moral reason. Often it's flawed and desperate. I find that most of my characters do things out of fear. That says a lot about me, I think, but it also helps me slide into the shoes of real-life human beings making decisions because they're afraid. I can empathize because in so many ways my characters are showing me what it's like to go, to do, to act, and to hurt out of a dark, terrified place.

It's a gift, friends. The ability to empathize.

And if you make it a habit to write honestly, the penning of a story will compel you to search out empathy--not just for your characters, but for those around you making choices you don't understand.

And right now, if there's anything this world needs more of, it's empathy. A willingness to climb out of our worn-in, cozy sneakers and into another's. We might be uncomfortable there. We might not like the roads those shoes take us down, but if we practice writing honestly, perhaps we'll remember to live honestly. In that way, the gift of empathy can lead us to build bridges. Not just in our stories. But in this great wide world.

A world that is sometimes very hard to understand.

Can you think of a gift your writing has given to you? We'd love to hear it.